New Show Recap

New Show Recap: “Political Animals” Pilot

Every once in a while, a new show comes along that, after you watch it, just makes you want to call everyone you know and ask them if they’ve seen it because you just have to talk to someone about it. My dearest readers, Political Animals is one of those shows. To quote our esteemed leader, Selena, “It’s delicious.” The chemistry of the cast is incredible, and the dialogue between Sigourney Weaver’s Elaine Barrish Hammond (EBH) and Carla Gugino’s Susan Berg is some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. The show is smart, funny, and sexy. It’s a show some of us have been waiting a while for.

The show follows the lives of the Hammond family – Bud, a former US president, sons TJ and Doug, and ex-wife Elaine, former presidential candidate and current Secretary of State, and all-around HIBC – the public faces, the private moments, and the mess that happens when the two intersect.

The show opens with Elaine’s concession speech, a moving message to the girls and young women in her audience: “…because I stand here, one day, one of you will become the President of the United States of America, and that is a day this woman plans on living to see.” Back in the quiet room, her husband rambles and makes her loss all about him. She tells him to shut up and says she wants a divorce.

Two years later, Elaine Barrish Hammond is the Secretary of State, kicking ass and taking names. When a Putin look-a-like grabs her ass when giving a speech, this is her response :

Elaine Barrish Hammond doesn’t take shit from anyone.

The engagement of her younger son and political adviser brings around a reporter, Susan Berg, who earned a Pulitzer covering Preisdent Hammond’s numerous extramarital affairs. She has information about her older son’s suicide attempt the previous year and is using that information to gain access to Elaine. They understandably have an adversarial relationship.

The pre-engagement dinner is an excellent insight into darker parts of the characters’ lives. TJ attempts to hustle his parents into fronting the money for a nightclub investment, and his past (present?) struggles with sobriety are thrown back at him.

Bud is a charismatic and incredibly charming man not too unlike a recent former President. And like President Clinton, he is a “bit of a ladies’ man.” He also still has the hots for his ex-wife, calling her “the foxiest piece of ass he’s ever laid eyes on.”

Doug is the perfect child, now with the perfect fiance. He also seems to cater to his mother’s every whim. Their engagment party with 60 people at a club turns into a party for 300 at the zoo because EBH likes elephants.

Elaine’s mom, played by Ellyn Bursten, is the comedy relief, there with a snarky reply or an inappropriately personal comment whenever the situation calls for it.

After the party, Susan rehashes her evening with her boyfriend, who also happens to be her editor. She muses about what happened to the woman who brought down the house with her college valedictorian speech and how she ended up staying with a jerk who constantly cheated on her. He asks how she got access to EBH, and she tells him about the ace in her back pocket, the medical report from TJ’s attempted suicide.

In the midst of all of this, EBH is negotiating for the release of journalists held hostage in Iran, making secret visits with Iranian ambassadors, and calling the President on his bullshit. She leaves him with, “Someday, sir, I’d like to be working for the man who beat me.”

Then the story breaks. Douglas calls TJ, who says he’s with his sponsor and is obviously lying, as he’s in the process of buying what looks like coke from a guy named Omar, who asks for an autographed picture of EBH. EBH makes a cryptic phone call to “the only person who can make her feel better.” Turns out, that person is her ex-husband. They were both using each other. He wants to get back in the game and knows she can do that, and she admits to being the world’s most powerful co-dependent. When she gets outside, she agrees to speak to Susan.

Susan is horrified that her story broke and confronts both her boyfriend/editor and Georgia, the reporter to whom he gave the story. His response to her is that he’s not sure if she’s more upset that he’s cheating on her or that he gave the story to someone else. “Oh, trust me, I’m way more upset that you’ve stuck your dick in someone else.”

When EBH and Susan meet, in front of the elephants at the zoo, Susan tells EBH how she wrote about EBH being an affront to women for staying with her husband through his affairs, but that tonight, packing her stuff was one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. Their exchange is heartfelt and you could sense the mutual respect. EBH gives Susan a headline that should take the heat from her son: President Hammond is going to Iran to negotiate the release of the hostages. (The current President doesn’t know it yet, but he’s getting two choices: Bud Hammond goes to Iran, or EBH is resigning.) Susan tells EBH that she wants to be on that plane. If it goes awry, it’s background on her profile of EBH, and if it works, she wants that story.

EBH leaves her with some thoughts on elephants:

They’re a matriarchal society. And when the males reach their mating age, the females kick them the hell out.

When she gets in the car, she confides in her driver, “I’m going to run for President again. And this time, I’m going to win.”



By [E]queSarahSarah

Part-time artist, full-time crankypants who dabbles in knitting, running, and burpees.

12 replies on “New Show Recap: “Political Animals” Pilot”

I haven’t been watching ths show, but the promos looked good.  I just missed whenever the premiere was.  Then last night I finished up something on the DVR and when it went off this scene was happening:

“I am sick to death of the bull$h!t, and the egos, and of the men. I am sick of the men. Just one time – just once – I would like to accomplish something in this city without having to spend all of my energy navigating the short-sighted, selfish, self-involved, and oh so fragile male egos that suck up all the oxygen in this town.

It makes me SO sick, Douglas. So sick – I could puke for days.

(deep breath) I’m running for president.” (EBH/Sigourney Weaver)

Probably one of the best quotes I’ve ever seen on tv. So now, I’ve got to find a way to catch up and get on board.

This show is absolutely a love letter to Hilary Clinton. They aren’t even trying to hide it. But I’m finding myself enjoying this show. Weaver kicks ass.

Also, it  boggles my mind that women think Hilary somehow owed it to them to divorce her husband. Its HER marriage! I actually knew a self-proclaimed moderate who said she lost all respect for Hilary when she stayed with Bill…but couldn’t care less that the Republicans she was voting for that year (’08) had voted down the Equal Pay Act (I’m pretty sure I fudged the name). Priorities, people.

Hillary can’t win for losing in some (too many) circles, if she’d left Bill there’d be another faction of pissed-off people yelling about the destruction of traditional marriage.

I saw Sigourney interviewed on The Daily Show (I think…) and she mentioned that it was hard not to draw parallels between her character and Hillz. She tried to imply there were bits of Jackie Kennedy and other first ladies, too. I don’t know if I buy that. I’m sure very few of America’s First Ladies were as demure and proper as we insist they appear to be, but Hillz was one of very few to refuse to conform to the narrow parameters of the office.

@[M] freckle

I’ve liked Sebastian Stan since he played, you guessed it, the gay son of a monarch in Kings. I loved that show. Still sad it got cancelled. Ian McShane was the king. Curious to see where this show goes. For some reason, the fact that its a miniseries (at least, that’s what I interpreted from “limited series engagement”) makes me more interested in watching.


That’s where I know him from! Kings was incredible, I miss it too.

I think Political Animals has a lot of potential. I’ve still only seen the pilot, and I like to give new shows at least three episodes before I get judgy. I see some elements of soapiness around the edges, but I enjoy a good soapy family drama as much as the next person. Plus, Sigourney Weaver is awesome. I’d watch her in anything.

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