Monday, July 16, 2012

Political Animals

I was really disappointed in Political Animals on the USA network. I had been looking forward to it, and then... pfffft. Awful. Did someone fall asleep while writing the script or what? (How do you get hired to write that stuff, anyway? Maybe I should send them a resume; apparently, they are hiring entry-level screenwriters at USA.) Sigourney Weaver, usually very good at sarcasm and power-tripping games, was a tremendous letdown. She seems to have phoned in her lines. I could do as well, and so could you.

The story is a juicy one. It's all about an ambitious, take-no-prisoners, ex-president's wife named Elaine Barrish, who is now the Secretary of State.

Gee, wonder who that's about?

And maybe that was the problem. They didn't know whether to "evoke" Hillary (see above link, wherein Weaver equivocates on the subject matter) or just "recreate" a Hillaryesque character. Is she a good witch or a bad witch? They don't seem to be able to make up their minds, and the screenplay veers indecisively back and forth. As a result, they can't really take any meaningful stand. It therefore turns into just another soap opera, this one set in Washington, D.C.

At one point, Weaver/Hillary/Elaine delivered what I think was supposed to be a heartfelt monologue about her convictions, and it just rang false. This savvy, cutthroat politician who craves power, suddenly cares all about the little people? Well, maybe so--that is the very definition of "complex"--isn't it? But Weaver failed to deliver on this emotional complexity and seemed to be reciting hackneyed lines that had just been given to her five minutes previously. Awful. Avoid, avoid. Do not be taken in by the commercials, which are pretty good. (In fact, whoever made the bang-up commercials should be assigned the overhaul of the whole series, but I doubt that will happen.)

Besides Weaver phoning it in, they have Ciarán Hinds, an Irish actor, playing the character based on Bill Clinton (here named Bud Hammond). They couldn't find a SINGLE SOUTHERN ACTOR? Because Hinds' southern accent is one of the worst I have heard since Jane Fonda in Otto Preminger's feverish Hurry Sundown. Are they kidding with that? It was atrocious, insulting and utterly cringe-inducing. Where exactly in the south is he supposed to be from? (Answer: North Carolina) More like Nowhere-in-the-Real-South, USA.

And it's also notable they turned Bud into Elaine's EX husband. Why? So she could make sardonic little jokes about his legendary "other women" without any moral discomfort from the audience. And then Bud and Elaine can meet each other in a motel room, post-divorce (as Secret Service agents wink knowingly at each other and at us) and it really isn't considered wrong. Or something. The fact is, the Clintons are NOT divorced, and showing reality the way it really is, would have been far more honest (and less like hedging your bets).

Further, the "scandal" of one of Elaine's sons being a suicidal druggie (borrowing from the Kennedys now) would be regarded as a scandal for a good feminist reason: one explosive, nasty charge often leveled against ambitious women (across the political and occupational spectrum) is that they are lousy/absent mothers. THIS is why such a story might be covered up by Hillary's people, as well as the stigma surrounding addicts and addiction in general. And yet, neither of these reasons was seriously addressed by the show--that would get too (haha) POLITICAL, and soap opera is obviously where they are going with this.

Too bad. They missed a great opportunity. I will stay with the series, just to see what happens (I like soaps as much as the next person), but I hope Weaver is given the script a whole week in advance next time and/or stops reading cue cards. And please, better scripts? Please? Witty banter and snappy comebacks doesn't seem like a lot to ask from writers accustomed to making six figures.

Or maybe its always risky to try to dramatize politics. SOMEBODY might get offended and networks seek as many viewers as possible. Again, that's too bad. Offending people means you have made an impact and actually matter.

Nobody can be too offended by a soap opera.


Danny said...

Sounds like they were trying to get right on the edge of pulling a Hilary Clinton but didn't want to make it too obvious. Could it be said that this was "ripped from the headlines" a la Law and Order?

I honestly forgot to watch it last night but I'm sure it will be in replayed soon and with it being a mini series I'm sure there will be an all day marathon of it after it finishes it's initial run.

JoJo said...

I watch the USA Channel a lot and haven't seen any promos for this that I can recall. Guess it didn't make that big of an impression on me to watch. That network's been going downhill for awhile.

D. said...

I had mercifully spaced the existence of Hurry Sundown.

I suspect that the writers (who probably wouldn't recognize witty if it walked up to them and bought them lunch) just don't know what to do with Sigourney Weaver.

Jim said...

"Offending people means you have made an impact and actually matter."

As Daniel Tosh is finding out now.

I am generally pretty dogmatic on free speech issues, but then it comes to insultingly stereotyped and inaccurate Southern accents, there just ought to be a law.

Daisy, come back to Genderratic. e miss you!

RosieP said...

"Nobody can be too offended by a soap opera."

Wow! How snobbish! I didn't realize that soap operas were supposed to be beneath us. If a TV or movie producer had done a story on the life of an actual person, chances are the elements of that person's experiences would also be described as a "soap opera". I suspect this is something that more elitist critics fail to consider.

I am generally pretty dogmatic on free speech issues, but then it comes to insultingly stereotyped and inaccurate Southern accents, there just ought to be a law.

I have to agree on that. Ciran Hinds' Southern accent sucked. They should have hired either a Southern-born actor or someone who knew how to use a genuine Southern accent.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Rosie, I think you win a prize. In five years of blogging, nobody has ever called me a snob or snobbish. In fact, this may be the first time anyone has said this about me in my WHOLE LIFE: 54 years!

I usually delete people who start off by insulting me (thereby breaking the only commenting rule I have), but since you have given me two firsts, I will let it slide.

I think I said I like soaps as much as the next person, didn't I? I certainly didn't say they were beneath me.

Reading comprehension = its a good thing.

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