Political Animals - The Complete Series
It is a testament to great acting and movie star charisma when you can watch a television series and never notice the sometimes silly and pulpy hokum until you've not only dipped your toes into the water, but also found yourself pretty much swimming. If you're not careful, that is the experience you may have with "Political Animals," the newly released DVD of the six-episode miniseries that first aired last year on the USA Network.
Sigourney Weaver plays Elaine Barrish, a former first lady and the current secretary of state, a role that seems in many ways inspired by the life of Hillary Clinton. After leaving the White House under her husband's administration, Barrish became the controversial Governor of Illinois and then the very popular secretary of state, due in part to the fact she divorced her husband. And though she lost the Democratic nomination for president, she maintains a quiet ambition to run for the office in the next election.
Though the series is about the way Barrish balances the roles of being a politician, a mother and a wife (despite the fact she divorces her husband in the first segment of the pilot episode), it is more generally about families who've been in the White House and have ambitions of returning there.
Carla Gugino plays Susan Berg, a journalist who closely follows the life and actions of Barrish and her family. Although her character is a good dramatic excuse for exposition, this actress makes her role enticingly fun to watch.
The other fun thing about this show is the way that sentimentality is balanced with not-so-subtle political ambition in a humorous back-and-forth of sincerity and self-interest.
The show's creator Greg Berlanti, who is best known for being the creator, executive producer, and showrunner of "Everwood," works best in broad brushstrokes. Long expository paragraphs are punctuated with pitch perfect dramatic moments. The male characters can be a bit too archetypical: Charming, philandering husband; promiscuous, gay, drug-addict son and conniving, smarmy vice president.
But the female characters are what this show is all about and because they are strong and also vulnerable, and they are played by wonderful actresses, these women make the show worth diving into.