Skip to main content

Political Animals: A Review

Until they advertised Political Animals, the TV mini-series or six episode special drama as they are calling it, I hadn’t even heard of the USA Network. But once I learnt about this show I had to see it.

So I scrolled around and found channel 65 on my Comcast dial and made plans to spend Sunday night at 10:00 pm ensconced in front of my TV. While I thought it would be a fun show to watch I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it and how good the acting was.

Over coffee this morning as I was raving about the show my friends kidded me that it was only because of my love for Hillary Clinton that I liked it. After all the show is about a Secretary of State who lost a presidential primary to the man who is now President and in whose Administration she serves. She is a former First Lady who was married to a womanizing ex-President. Sound at all familiar? So they figured that was the only reason I could enjoy the show. But as it happens, Sigourney Weaver who plays the lead role of Madame Secretary, Elaine Hammond, is great in her own right and exciting to watch.

Greg Berlanti who wrote the show admits he is a Hillary Clinton fan and like me supported her in the primaries in 2008. Rather than being a Senator Elaine is the Illinois Governor and instead of one well brought up quiet and charming daughter like Chelsea, Elaine has two sons, one who is gay and has attempted suicide and the other who works for her and is getting engaged to a young woman with bulimia. As if Hillary didn’t have enough issues to deal with in her own right.

Berlanti says the characters are an amalgam of those he has met and those he has read about. Bud Hammond the former President is more like Lyndon Johnson, big loudmouthed and crude a portrait drawn from the Robert Caro biographies of Johnson. Like some of its predecessors such as West Wing, whose Oval Office set they borrowed, this show is based on some reality but is still great entertainment. But then some think that is what Washington is. Ellen Burstyn is great as Elaine Hammond’s boozy sharp tongued mother and so is Carla Gugino who plays Susan Berg, who the Washington Post critic called that “pesky Washington Globe reporter” and someone else likened to Maureen Dowd.

There are some great lines in the script and a lot of women calling other women bitches in a complimentary sort of way. Her son’s fiancé can’t figure out why Elaine wants to do their engagement party at the Zoo as a fundraiser for the elephants. This gets solved later when Elaine meets Susan Berg, the reporter, in front of the Elephant enclosure for an off the record conversation and says she admires elephants because they are both strong and gentle and their families are a Matriarchal society.

The show opened with Elaine giving her concession speech in the primary she lost to the man in whose administration she now serves. It ends with her asking her Secret Service driver if he can keep a secret and tells him she intends to run for President again. Go Hillary, uh I mean Elaine!