Star-studded cast stands out in ‘Political Animals’ miniseries

The end of summer also marked the end of USA Network’s miniseries “Political Animals,” a program about the lives of Secretary of State Elaine Barrish, played by Sigourney Weaver, and her family.

Walking a line between soap opera and procedural drama, “Political Animals” seemed to draw polarized responses; some critics loved it, and some hated it, like Verne Gay from Newsday, who described it as, “a clanking, clattering collection of collagenous clinkers.”

With a cast like this one, though, it seems impossible that it could really have been that bad. In fact, the greatest fault of the miniseries was that it was too short, which was easy to overlook whenever Weaver and Ciaran Hinds were on screen together. The actresses find support in James Wolk and Sebastian Stan, who play the sons to Barrish and former President Bud Hammond (Hinds), who don’t have a single thing in common. Two twins that don’t see eye to eye? Imagine that.

It was when the writers managed to cram a sampler of every textbook-conflict that could arise on television — addiction, homosexuality, suicide, eating disorders, familial pressures, terrorism and infidelity — into one episode that the plot seemed to sputter a little. Still, the producers managed something that many shows seem to lack: there was a reason for everything.

The drama in Political Animals is not force-fed to its viewers. It is served slowly, in between bites of character history, making it impossible not to be left thinking, “Oh, of course!” In the end, viewers develop a strong adoration for the cast.

For those who followed the “Political Animals” run and enjoyed it, a second season is a possibility. The producers have expressed interest in an extension of the series, with Greg Berlanti confirming that the cast is “contracted for multiple seasons if we get picked up for multiple seasons,” and going on to say that more comprehensive plot lines have been written for the characters. However, nothing has been confirmed yet by neither USA Network nor its parent company NBC Universal.

Political Animals is a lot sharper and takes greater risks than most of the other shows on its network. The cinematography is darker, the plot more thorough, and there is a palpable sense of continuity in the writing — components of great television that are not seen too often.

 

Reach the reporter at svhabib@asu.edu