Political Animals (USA) “Pilot” Advance Review


Tonight, USA premieres its limited series event, Political Animals. Political Animals stars Sigourney Weaver as Elaine Barrish, a former first lady, who, after losing the presidential primary, becomes the Secretary of State under her former adversary and winning opponent, President Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar). Elaine is known as an ambitious, career driven, cold politician who will stop at nothing to get ahead. Sound like any female politicans in real life? Naturally, this provides her with many adversaries including one particular journalist (Carla Guigino) who went after Elaine and her family when her son TJ was outed for his homosexuality at a young age in the White House and when Elaine’s former husband, Bud Hammond, who also happens to be a former president, spent most of his career cheating on her. Again, remind you of someone in politics?

In the beginning scenes of Political Animals, the series seemed too cliched, both in act and in words. Perhaps it was based too much on real life characters. I thought of Sarah Palin when Elaine started rallying for her opponent. I thought of Hilary Clinton when we were informed that Bud, with the southern accent, was inexplicably a playboy. In fact, some of the comments of the journalist were almost spot on to that scenario. There even seemed to be scenes that reminded me of other movies. For example, when Sigourney Weaver spoke Russian, I thought of her role in Heartbreakers with Jennifer Love Hewitt. When the family sat down for dinner and the discussion about TJ’s sexuality was broached, I thought of the almost exact scene in The Family Stone.

Yet, in the hour plus that I watched Political Animals’ pilot episode, it became better and more original. Like any political family, this family has secrets. Even those coming into the family have secrets. TJ’s scandalous life did not end with his outing. Most of this pilot episode is spent alluding to his latest scandal, however, not revealing it until the end. In a way, the reveal was a relief as it seems many of the characters were held hostage throughout this first part of the series by the secret.

USA touts Political Animals as a show that pulls back the curtain to reveal the inside and behind-the-scenes of the first family. I would agree that it does offer a fresh look at the White House and its occupants. It also takes a different look. We are not following the President such as in The West Wing, but the Secretary of State, someone also high up, but not exactly running the show. We get to see her struggle with family versus career, being a woman in a mostly male arena, and the everyday struggles of life. I was also a fan of how Political Animals caught the audience up with past stories throught super fast clips or photos that punctuated the story, rather than dragging it out. In this way, the writers were able to cover quite a lot of background, yet the viewer did not feel all that interrupted unlike the usual long flashbacks.

I love Sigourney Weaver and I think this series was written for her. Although some of the lines are over the top cliched or groan worthy, I am hopeful that as the series continues, we will have less of those and more concentration on the stories, as compelling as they are. The series grew on me with each passing minute. As of now, I am hooked and plan on watching it for the next six weeks.

You should definitely tune in tonight to Political Animals on USA at 10 pm ET and then come back here and tell me if you liked it as much as I did.