Political Animals- A Washington Drama Worth Watching
USA Network's new drama,
, is the best political drama on TV since The West Wing. The show centers around Elaine Barrish Hammond (played superbly by Sigourney Weaver), a former first lady with her own political career. Her ex-husband, and former President, Bud Hammond, (played by the always great Ciaran Hinds) is infamous for his sexual indiscretions. After a failed run for the presidency, she's asked to become Secretary of State. I'll avoid the comparisons to Hillary Clinton because many have written about them and it really isn't relevant.
Barrish's family is an integral part of the story. She has twin sons. The first, Douglas (played by James Wolk), is the golden boy. He is her second-in-command and her campaign manager, and he is engaged to marry Ann (played by Brittany Ishibashi). Douglas becomes central to the plot when he gets involved with an ambitious journalist, Susan Berg (played by Carla Gugino), whose career is intertwined with Elaine's. Berg won a Pulitzer for exposing Bud's sexual indiscretions while in the White House. In an unlikely turn of events, Elaine decides to allow Berg access to her inner sanctum. But Berg is an enigma; does she want to sabotage Elaine's run for Presidency or does she really respect Elaine and want to help her?
Her second son, TJ (Sebastian Stan), is a very troubled young man dealing with a very serious drug addiction which leads to multiple overdoses. He is also gay and makes terrible decisions when it comes to the people he decides to sleep with, including a married politician.
Her mother, Margaret (played by Ellen Burstyn), lives with her. As with most mothers and daughters, there are lingering resentments from Elaine's childhood. Even though Elaine is the most powerful woman in the world, she can still be reduced to a young girl when discussing how her mother made her wear a padded bra when she was an adolescent. Margaret also has problems with alcohol that appear to be escalating.
The President is Paul Garcetti (played by Adrian Pasdar). Unlike his unethical Vice-President, Fred Collier (played by Dylan Baker), Garcetti genuinely seems concerned with doing the right thing. He respects Elaine and supports her.
The scenes between Sigourney Weaver and Ciaran Hinds are riveting. These are two of the best actors working today, and they do not disappoint. Hinds, an Irish actor, is believable as a southern lothario who still loves his ex-wife. He's honest about his short-comings as a husband, but there is no denying his political prowess. There is a tense moment when he is called in to negotiate the return of three American journalists from Iran. It is also apparent that even though he has cheated on her, his heart belongs only to Elaine.
Political Animals is worth watching. It is well-written with some of the best one-liners I've ever heard on TV. It's refreshing to see a lead female character with integrity, ambition, and strength. When she decides on a second run for the presidency, we can really feel that she is doing it for all of the right reasons. We've seen her moral compass as she fights for the lives of men trapped in a Chinese sub who are abandoned by their own country and for the release of 3 innocent Americans sentenced to death for spying on Iran. And it makes us believe that maybe, somewhere, there really is a politician with the right agenda and the courage to stand up for it.
The season finale is quite emotional. A disastrous turn of events leaves the nation in turmoil and the future of all of the characters in question. I can't wait to see what will happen next.
You can watch the first four episodes online at
. You won't be disappointed.
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