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16 September 2014 @ 10:15 pm
TV Review (sort of): Political Animals  
Okay, I feel a little bad about writing this review (if you can even call it that) because technically I didn't finish this miniseries. I made it through 3 out of 6 episodes before my one month free membership on Netflix ended. And I won't pretend I wasn't ever so slightly relieved that I had a concrete reason why I couldn't keep watching. So quite possibly, some really incredible things could have happened in the last three episodes that would perhaps completely change my take on the show but most likely not.


Political Animals follows the Secretary of State, divorced former First Lady, Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver). Two years ago, Barrish ran for the Democratic presidential nomination but lost out to Paul Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar) who is now the president. The night Barrish lost to Garcetti, she asked her husband, Bud Hammond (Ciaran Hinds) for a divorce, his string of extramarital affairs no doubt contributing to her decision. The show mainly follows Barrish dealing with State Department issues while also trying to keep her family functioning. A family which includes Douglas Hammond (James Wolk), Elaine's son and Chief of Staff and T.J. Hammond (Sebastian Stan), the openly gay twin brother of Douglas. As a brief side note, there is no doubt in my mind that Sebastian Stan got this role in large part due to his role in Kings. T.J.'s story was a little different from Jack Benjamin's but what was required of Stan as an actor felt identical.

I'm not entirely sure what went wrong. Maybe it's because I went into this show expecting something like season 1 of The West Wing and instead got season 6 of The West Wing. Maybe it's because the cast is so good that I pretty much expected this show to be equal to the talent. Seriously, from the main cast all the way down to the minor reoccurring cast members, I think I genuinely like every actor in this. Which is why I was rather dismayed at how much I didn't like the actual show. Everyone's acting is fairly consistently solid. Sure, everyone gets the odd line that they can't quite sell but it's really small blemishes and certainly not enough to tank the entire show for me. It might be the pacing or maybe just the kinds of character arcs and stories the writers chose to tell. It's clear that Barrish is based at least somewhat on Hillary Clinton and I thought a lot could be mined from Barrish wanting to carve out her own political career separate from her husband but being stymied by just the reality of the way politics and public image works. And yet something didn't quite gel.

There was a kind of soapy quality to the show which is fine but felt a bit too soapy for the serious "realistic" drama the show seemed to be aiming for. It's not to say that good TV shows make me forget I'm watching fiction but good writing makes me invested enough in the story and/or characters where it doesn't matter to me if the people involved are real or not. In the case of Political Animals, the soap opera quality kept reminding me that all of this couldn't possibly be real or even realistic to the point where I kind of couldn't connect with anyone or anything happening on screen.

So as I say only got through half but I did wikipedia the rest of the episodes to see how individual character arcs tied off. I can't say I read anything that made me want to go back and finish the series.
 
 
 
aelfgyfu_mead: Winter Soldieraelfgyfu_mead on September 17th, 2014 02:18 pm (UTC)
the cast is so good that I pretty much expected this show to be equal to the talent
Yes! The writing ranged from 'meh' to downright terrible; almost every character had to do things that didn't seem consistent with other things in the mini-series, and it wasn't anywhere near long enough to justify forgetting—or expect the audience to forget! I was totally watching for the cast. I wanted to stop but couldn't because I had to know what happened to the characters. I managed to connect despite the writing, but I can totally see how that could stop you.

You're not missing anything by not finishing the series, which seemed to be going downhill at a pretty fast clip when it came to an end. I was relieved that it wasn't renewed; it's really not wrapped up, and I thought it might get a second season, but pretty much the whole cast was doing other things very shortly after they finished the first season.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on September 17th, 2014 03:19 pm (UTC)
You're not missing anything by not finishing the series, which seemed to be going downhill at a pretty fast clip when it came to an end.

Given how soapy this show was getting, I was half expecting to read that it turned out Douglas and TJ were only half brothers and they were told they were twins because Bud got Elaine and another woman pregnant at the same time. Also because physically I could see how James Wolk could be Ciaran Hinds' son but not Sigourney Weaver's.

I was a little surprised to read that Douglas and Anne did get married. I really thought the series would end with Douglas' personal life in a mess. But I wasn't so surprised that having decided to go ahead with it they tried to elope, only to have the family crash the wedding. Were they...okay with that? I mean, it felt like a bid for freedom only to have the family suck you back in.
aelfgyfu_mead: Joan Watsonaelfgyfu_mead on September 17th, 2014 03:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, gosh—I don't remember this bit awfully well! I think they were okay with it. I think they just wanted to avoid the family drama, and Douglas's parents did make some attempt to minimize the drama in their presence.

I am just slightly tempted to write a fanfic where Joan Watson, in her pre-Sherlock days as a sober companion, is hired by the family to be TJ's companion! I liked TJ, but I got very frustrated with him too, and with most of the others' interactions with him. He really needed someone who would consistently support him but just as consistently call him on his nonsense, and she would totally have done that. The main thing stopping me is that I'd have to rewatch Political Animals to write it, and I'm just not going to do that.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on September 17th, 2014 03:40 pm (UTC)
I am just slightly tempted to write a fanfic where Joan Watson, in her pre-Sherlock days as a sober companion, is hired by the family to be TJ's companion!

This fic idea alone might make it all worth while that Political Animals even existed! I'm so on board this because Joan would be perfect at not letting the weight of the Barrish-Hammond family drama come down on her job. She'd not only call TJ out on his shit but also be an effective barrier between him and the family drama. Jesus, now I'm imagining her having conversations with Elaine and I didn't even get to the part in the miniseries where you really saw TJ spiral down with his addiction.

The main thing stopping me is that I'd have to rewatch Political Animals to write it, and I'm just not going to do that.

...I want this fic to exist very, very badly. Crossovers are my Achilles Heel and I can easily see how there can even be a straight out Political Animals/Elementary crossover fic where Joan and Sherlock solve a crime for the Barrish-Hammond family.

Man, maybe when I have even the slightest bit of time I'll sort of...skim through the rest of the miniseries to see if I can give it a go.
aelfgyfu_mead: Joan Watsonaelfgyfu_mead on September 17th, 2014 04:40 pm (UTC)
Man, maybe when I have even the slightest bit of time I'll sort of...skim through the rest of the miniseries to see if I can give it a go.
If you did this, I would love you even more than I already do!
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on September 17th, 2014 05:23 pm (UTC)
It looks like the USA Network has all the episodes available to stream. Hopefully that will still be the case a couple of months from now when I'll have some time to browse through the rest of the season.

If Joan can handle a family like TJ's then she was more than ready to handle someone like Sherlock. Sure, he was more personal in his attacks during the early days of their partnership but can you imagine the level of boundary crossings that family would have tried to yank Joan into given that their lives are a complete PR show half the time?

Joan would do a good job of creating some sort of mental haven for TJ that wouldn't get barged in on by all of that where he can feel supported...thus allowing her to expect him to now use that safe space to stop pulling the garbage he does.

Oh, look at that. I've already started...
aelfgyfu_mead: Winter Soldieraelfgyfu_mead on September 17th, 2014 05:44 pm (UTC)
Yes, you have—and I like it!
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on September 17th, 2014 08:11 pm (UTC)
The combo of crossovers and sort-of-therapy-based fic ideas is too tempting!