Political Animals: Does It Get Your Vote?

On Sunday night, USA Network set the Political Animals loose, premiering its six-episode limited series starring Sigourney Weaver — and even upon my third time watching the first episode, it left the biggest smile on my face.

“I am the meat in the Big Mac of this party!”

“No Pulitzers to speak of since then?”

Elaine Barrish’s curt warning to the Russian ambassador, in Russian.

Every single stinging, zinging syllable of Margaret Barrish’s dress-down of reporter Susan Berg.

“It’s not supposed to be easy!”

And of course the very final moment, leading with: “Can you keep a secret, Clark…?”

PHOTO GALLERY | Meet the Political Animals — and Find Out What Secrets They Each May Be Hiding

You met Elaine Barrish (Weaver), who is trying to sidestep her philandering ex-husband’s White House legacy to make a name for herself as a Secretary of State. There’s her son Doug (James Wolk), who is on top of State Department issues but seemingly oblivious to his fiancée’s foibles; his twin TJ (Sebastian Stan) meanwhile is putting on the best face possible even as he succumbs to assorted vices and has a dark secret splashed across the Internet. And family patriarch Margaret (Ellen Burstyn) is the truth-teller and highball-tipper.

The aforementioned Susan Berg (Carla Gugino) wants to do the right thing and stay out of the newsreporting muck, only to have her dumb, dumb, dumb boyfriend boss leak her hot tip to the nubile blogger he’s shtupping (dumb!) on the side.

And you also have ex-POTUS Bud Hammond (Ciaryn Hinds), who’s so full of himself he can’t detect the wrongest time (i.e. post-coital) to toot his own horn, while NuPOTUS Paul Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar) thus far has done nothing to court favor and land on our ballot. (Other than being Flying Man, of course.)

What did you think of the buzzy drama’s opening hour (or, actually, 70+ minutes)? Was it what you expected? Lighter? Whose performance are you most enjoying? Can we forgive them that political rally dancing scene? And did that final moment of bonding between Elaine and Susan cinch your vote? (Fun fact: that’s how TVLine gets a lot of our exclusives — on a park bench, outside a zoo, from Sigourney Weaver).

Vote in the poll and share your review in Comments. (And if you need to get to your DVR recording first, Breaking Bad fans, we can wait.)

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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66 Comments
  1. Chris says:

    I liked it. Writing could be sharper, but the cast is mostly top notch. More Ellen Burstyn, please.

    • Dan says:

      I agree about the writing. I wanted it to be better, more West Wing and less … hmmm 26 year old voices flowing through every character. I think the rush to define every character and their personal history made the conversations nonsensical. Also pet peeve, who would call his brothers girlfriend a “sweet ass girlfriend?” and “are you speaking as my boss or my boyfriend” Really? The show needs a female writer and someone who understands how folks above 50 years old really speak. Here is a suggestion… Only use nasty cursing when a character is alone with another, never when there is more than two people. Please make this show better.

  2. Adam says:

    Excellent premiere. I hope it holds well in the ratings even against Breaking Bad and that it has potential to become a full-fledged series. I think the best zinger in the episode was Elaine’s Russian-spoke line to the dignitary after he got a little too touchy-feely with her. Of course, that line not be suitable to print…

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Ah, good one — let me find a way to add that in….

    • James says:

      Breaking Bad, despite having lots of buzz, isn’t that big of a rating grabber. Maybe it has grown over the year but the season finale last year didn’t even crack 2m.

      • nyguy says:

        Loved the juxtaposition of the drama and the comedy. Would love to see more in the Oval office but I know they only had so much time.

        I thought Weaver, Burstyn, Gugino, Pasdar and Sebastian Stan were standouts. On the other hand, thought Ciaran Hinds was too Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, wonder if they will tone him down a bit.

    • Rod says:

      Does anyone know the actor’s name who played the Russian ambassador?

  3. Booger says:

    Loved it! EB was sooooo funny and SW and CG nailed it. I thought the supporting casting was weak, but for the roles that matter it worked. Wish it were more than a miniseries.

  4. Booger says:

    Oh, and much more believable than Scandal as much as I love the lead and Joshua Molina.

  5. Sarah says:

    awesome

  6. Kiki says:

    It was amazing!! Cannot wait until next week!

  7. Clea says:

    I think it was really good! Even though I would not give a strung out drug addict a dime, it kinda broke my heart to see TJ be shot down and then hear he tried to kill himself and his dad call it a stunt…He is definitely going to more than likely keep me watching. A train wreak with a soul.

  8. Jeannette says:

    I definitely enjoyed it. The parallels to today’s politics are a bit much, but the cast is awesome and the story interested so far.

  9. Stephanie says:

    Seriously? Completely horrible. If I could give a grade lower than an F I would. The story is unoriginal; it’s Hilary Clinton accept for Weaver’s character was smart enough to get a divorce. Yes, the mother was pithy and a smartass but all the other characters were stereotypes of the worst kind: the good straight son, the bad gay son, the airhead slut of an actress, the cheating boyfriend/boss. And throw on top of that all the unnecessary sex scenes and cussing just because we can after ten, don’t get me wrong I love me some HBO style dirtiness, but this was just pointless. Probably the biggest disappointment of the summer for me.

    • Cash says:

      I’m with you, Steph. It was about as unoriginal in setup as “The Good Wife.”
      That, plus I’m just so damned sick of liberal politics taking center stage in shows and movies these days. If conservatives are featured, it’s in a negative or mocking tone. Enough already. Can’t we have some decent conservative characters that are treated like real people for a change?
      Sigourney and Carla were both great, but that’s not exactly a shocker, but all the supporting roles were boring/unoriginal. Want to see a devious gay character done right? Go watch Gabriel Mann on Revenge. He’s like the second coming of David Spade at his absolute smarmiest, and it’s a joy to watch.
      It would have been nice if the writers could have found a way to make Weaver’s character seem intelligent besides just making everyone else around her dumber than a sack of hammers. And speaking of dumb, I was so mad at the boyfriend/boss that I was literally yelling at the TV, and not in a good way. Stupid moves like that are literally so dumb that they pull me right out of the story, and I spend the next few minutes contemplating A) who writes this garbage, B) who hires writers who write this garbage, and C) why do I bust my but at my 9 to 5 when I could scribble out a better storyline in crayons than this bunch of chuckleheads?
      F, big strong F.

      • Pat Graney says:

        Agree with you and with Steph. I had high hopes, based on the previews, and even encouraged friends of mine across the country to watch. Well, I – and they – were greatly disappointed. Just sound bytes, sensastionalism, and yes, Sigourney and Carla about the only good things in it. And even though I greatly like Ciaran Hinds in various roles, I don’t know why they had to have a Brit – well, Irish, actually – actor doing the role of a Southern president! There aren’t ANY American actors who could have done that part???? Hinds did a pretty good job with the accent, but not really authentic. And Cash makes an excellent point – why not have a tv show that focuses on (at least some) Conservative characters? Color me disappointed.

      • AJ says:

        Yeah, I can agree on the points you make. I have thought the same about The Newsroom. They just bash and bash on conservatives and then this week have the main character say he is a Republican. There is nothing about that character that even suggests he is Republican. In this weeks episode he attacked Republican after Republican and then did a story about Obama failing on guns. The only reason that was in the show is because liberals, not conservatives, are mad that Obama hasn’t banned guns. It’s a farce. He was just written that way to make the assault on the Tea Party, and the GOP in general, look a little less biased, which no sane person would buy. You have to wonder why Hollywood writes shows that alienate about half the population just to get their political jabs in, and then seem confused when ratings are not what they expected. It’s pretty simple, I know a lot of conservatives that turn off the TV as soon as the bashing starts. Me on the other hand, I just see it as fiction and watch if the story is entertaining. I gave the show a B because the story isn’t original, at all.

        • Gretchen says:

          What you call conservative “bashing,” I call “holding up the mirror to the conservatives.” If you don’t like how conservatives are portrayed, work on changing your laughingstock of a hatemongering party.

        • Gretchen says:

          By the way, I know few liberals mad that Obama hasn’t banned guns. But I do know a number of conservatives promoting the myth that he wants to ban guns. And the far right TEA Party isn’t half the country, it is a fraction of a fraction.

        • pat says:

          so if you are republican you can’t point out when other republicans in the media are lying to you? that makes sense. so either you’re part of a brain washing regime, or you must be liberal? It is opinions like that, thinking all republicans believe and act one way, that make the majority of their depictions in the media so radical. Which is precisely what the show has been point out. Not all republicans are crazy, but to deny that the party was radicalized tea party candidates 2 years ago is foolish. Plenty of noted republicans have expressed concern for their party for this reason, it isn’t a liberal stance.

      • Zak says:

        I can see why you don’t like the show. Not a single statement you made is anywhere close to being true. If you believe any of what you just said, you must have one giant sized ego.

        I watched the same episode and I can’t think of one thing that dealt with Republicans aside from the one comment from the President who said he couldn’t get anything passed in the house which mirror’s real life. The Democrats also seemed to be pretty inept in this which again is taking a page from real life.

        The guy with the drug issues makes sense if you at least think about it. Being outed as the first gay son of the President and the spotlight that brings when your not built to handle that type of thing leads to a self destructive path. Could they go a different route? Yes, but at least the route they went makes sense.

        When it comes to the boy/boss thing I honestly don’t get the rant. He works for a dying business that has stopped making moral decisions because these days they can’t afford too. Add in a younger girl whose using her sex appeal to advance through life rather than talent and most guys would probably do the same thing.

        There’s only so many ways that you can tell a story, or have characters act. If you find fault in the way they do it at least think about why they did it. The writing wasn’t the best in the world I will give you that, but it was good.

        Also thanks for the laugh about being able to write better. Do everyone a favor and try it, then post it.

    • Dani says:

      Yeah, they were too heavy on the stereotypes with some of the characters. That bugged me too. But the cast was awesome. I’ll give it another shot.

      • AJ says:

        Ehhhh, that’s just TV I guess. Do you watch the new Dallas? Or did you watch GCB? From those two shows you would think every man in Dallas, or Texas for that matter, wears a cowboy hat, boots, wranglers, and some western looking shirt everywhere they go. I live in Dallas and I cannot remember the last time I even saw someone wearing a cowboy hat lol. Maybe if you go to Billy Bob’s on the weekend or to Fort Worth to the Stockyards. And the ridiculous Southern accents are nowhere to be found either.

    • Amy says:

      I agree Stephanie…especially about the unnecessary sex scenes and language. It detracted from the program IMO. Just because you can get away with something doesn’t mean you should. It was, as you said, pointless. The show would have been better without it.

  10. Ram510 says:

    BEST DRAMA PILOT SINCE American Horror Story!!!!! People need to watch this show! I do wish it was on HBO or Showtime so they could really get “dirty”. But it was still an excellent premiere and I hope the ratings are high so it can become a regular series

  11. James says:

    No doubt USA would extend this show if its a hit, of course they would have to end one of their current shows (cough: Common Law or Fairly legal cough)

  12. tim says:

    James Wolk should be in more stuff.

  13. CLEAN TUBE says:

    CRAP…NO NEED FOR THIS STUFF!If any other race starred in a show like that, crys of morals or no sponsors would be reasons to pull the show…oh snap it wouldn’t make it to production.Is “DIRT” the only way to get “RATINGS”!!! CLEAN IT UP

    • James says:

      Shut up

    • AJ says:

      I tend to be fairly conservative, but get a grip. The show is on CABLE. You know the easiest way to clean up your “tube” is to cancel your cable subscription right? No one is making you pay for this stuff. And of course several things from the show would not make it on network TV, but that is why it’s on cable. Personally, even being conservative, I am glad that not every channel has to be like the Disney channel. If you can’t handle adult words or situations, then just flip over to another channel.

  14. Ana says:

    Excellent in every way. The only flaws I detected had to do with direction and photography. What a cast! This would obviously be outrageously expensive to produce for a longer season because the cast are worth their pay. Yes, the parallels with Hillary are glaring. It only makes me wish she would run for office. And yes, there are a lot of stereotypes. But there’s a reason they become stereotypes, because they are not an uncommon occurrence. All I can say is: bravo!!! It was worth waiting for.

  15. Polly says:

    Emmy to Sigourney Weaver. NOW!

    • AJ says:

      I wish people would stop the nonsense of throwing Emmy’s at any movie star that comes down off their perch to bless us with a show on TV. Nor do I understand how you can decide she is Emmy worthy after the pilot of the show. Her performance wasn’t better than a few of the other women on the show.

      • Polly says:

        Personally I don’t care if she’s a movie star or not. If an unknown actress was in her role and put up a performance like hers, I would’ve called an emmy for her too.

        How can I judge? She was on the screen 80% of the pilot and basically stole the show. To me her performance in bringing this character to life, was extraordinary. As far as mini-series goes, she’s given out the best performance I’ve seen in quite a while.

        Plus to be completely honest I thought that Carla Gugino would be the leading woman of the show, or at least I got that from the promos, and tune in to see her but I was completely blown away from Sigourney’s performance.

      • Susan says:

        Sigourney Weaver is just fantastic and deserves whatever recognition she can get. She portrays her character’s emotions in such a way that you don’t even know she’s acting.

  16. Every episode´s gonna be that long?

  17. DJ Doena says:

    I found it rather boring. I had to force myself several times to even watch the pilot completely.

    Sorry, but I’m not going to stick around.

  18. Aidan says:

    i found the brothers relationship to be the most intriguing part, which im excited to see further explored.

  19. mick says:

    Loved this show! Hope this will be turned into a regular series. Sigourney Weaver is great with future characters having a strong development.

  20. Amy says:

    Maybe my problem is that I went into it with too high of hopes, but I wasn’t all that impressed. The cast is great but I didn’t feel like anyone truly had any outstanding moments/material (other than a few one liners). Maybe it was just a little too slow paced for me. They have one more week to impress me or I’m out.

  21. anoletta says:

    I thought it was a hoot. It was great to see stage actor Ciaran Hinds in this kind of a role and he was obviously enjoying every minute. His lines were hilarious. Signourney Weaver: no surprise, excellent and real. Carla Gugino: pretty dumb for a smart reporter to not immediately get that her boyfriend was sleeping with the blogger once the suicide story broke, but that’s a writing issue. Contrary to what critics have been saying, I thought the writing overall was superior. Much less convoluted than “West Wing”, not as cutesie-cloying and self-aware. The opening rally, especially the reporter’s monologue, was cringe-inducing, yikes. The rest was utterly enjoyable and I was also grinning like crazy when I went to bed. Looking forward to the next episodes!!!!

  22. Craig says:

    It was excellent. Stop crying about it being liberal or not conservative enough and just enjoy the fun of the performances and the plot changes. Maybe if conservatives weren’t so stuffy you could enjoy a good show and not worry about your image. Oh, and whoever said that the Good Wife isn’t good should be disqualified from watching TV…

  23. RachelA says:

    As other people have said, I felt at times that the show was *trying* to be edgy with the excess sex and the swearing just for the sake of it. I’m not at all against those things; I just don’t think it added to the plot in any substantial way…most of the time. It was often more distracting than it was engaging. That said, Sigourney Weaver was fantastic as was Ellen Burstyn and I loved the complex relationship between Elaine and Susan. By far the best part of the show. And while I agree that the portrayal of TJ (the gay son) was a little stereotypical (the drugs, the anonymous sex, the ‘stylist’ routine) I also found much of it believable, given his character’s circumstances. And I felt there was a real humanity to his pain, which made it forgivable. He was actually the character I found most compelling, besides Elaine and Susan. All in all, it wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely worth watching, and I will be tuning in next week for sure.

  24. amy pond says:

    Great show! I really liked it. Sure it is stereotype, but, it is a weekly night drama… the actors and actresses only have so much time to learn the lines and film the scenes. This isn’t a movie. It is a soap opera based on politics. So, yes, I liked it.

    But, I do agree with the excess sex scenes. Come on producers, lets get real….. We are all adults, we get it…from the 80s, 90s, and now…. sex is all out in the open… people have sex. I have sex, you have sex, we all have sex! Yes, we all admit we love sex. Now, can we go back to normal TV where we didn’t have uneeded sex scenes. DON’T ruin it with wasted crap just because you can. I love the show. I would love to see it again next year.

  25. Ally says:

    I’m glad I didn’t check this out.

  26. salim says:

    i loved it was great and for all those who didnt like it well its your loss, matt watched it 3 times and hes a critic and he liked it so keep your crap to your self

  27. patchouli says:

    Enjoyed it from the beginning to the end..Thought at fist so ok here is another Bill and Hillary saga, but whatever, they did worked for me,and the women have more coj-nes that the men!, except for the last part.

  28. Ram510 says:

    I’m confused on how people are complaining about 1 sex scene. It was short and showed very little. Yet True Blood has multiple very graphic sex scenes out of no where and everybody loves it and never give them any crap for it. Seriously people ONE sex scene get over it

    • Susan says:

      I don’t understand the complaint about the sex scene either. It wasn’t even that graphic and other shows have sex scenes so it’s not like this is new. I could understand the sudden uproar if it was as graphic as HBO’s sex scenes but it wasn’t. Have these people been living in a cave and this is the first sex scene they’ve ever seen?

  29. Julie says:

    It was okay. The best part was the interaction between Sigourney Weaver’s and Carla Gugino’s characters. The whole good son/bad son stuff is something we’ve seen thousands of times before in tv series and movies. TJ at least has some potential for interesting character development, but Douglas was a bore. Ciaran Hinds needs to tone it down a little…I think his role could be quite interesting with a little more shading to the character. For most of the show he came off as this egotistical bumbler, but then he would throw in a line that shows that he is actually pretty sharp when it comes to the ins and outs of politics (which, duh — since he is supposed to be an ex-POTUS). I’ve seen Ellen Bursyn’s character way too many times — the boozy, blunt-talking grandmother/mother-in-law/head of the family. Her acting was fine, but the role is another stereotype. Oh, and please dump the bland, bullemic fiancee. Her character really adds nothing.

    The sex scenes didn’t bother me. although the only one that really had any bearing on the storyline was the motel hook-up between Weaver and Hinds.

    As for conservative vs. democrat debate, seems to me that neither party comes off looking too good. They may bash conservatives, but they also show the liberal president and his advisers as not all that competent (aside from Weaver, anyway).

    I’ll give it another week, but if it doesn’t improve, I probably won’t watch after that.

  30. Terri Louviere says:

    Absolutely LUV this show. It’s Real Life in Stride. It’s entertaining, intellectual, and very realistically funny. I’m looking forward to more.

  31. Arno Boerner says:

    Great show, If Sigourney Weaver ran for President I’d vote her. One of these days their will be a woman President. I’m a man. If the right woman came along I’d vote for her.

  32. Danielle H says:

    I LOVED it. I was enraptured the whole hour. A little bit juvenile sometimes, but overall just great and fun to watch.

  33. LadyC says:

    I was going to check it out until the adveritised the life out of it! I was watching the NCIS Marathon over the weekend and they had one or sometimes two ads for it in EVERY break. Can you spell Overkill?……I will not be watching it

  34. RD says:

    I am loathe to say this but the show I am most reminded of with PA is ‘Smash’. Stereotypes abound,haphazard plotting and not very snappy dialogue,for the most part.Carla Gugino is the best thing in it.

  35. Shawn says:

    I think that we are going to see a lot more depth to these characters as the story progresses. her ex husband is portrayed as a bafoon at first but is actually politically saavy. I can see them taking her mother in a darker direction and with the fiancée they set it up quite well that she is striving for perfection since she’s in the lime light. I was a little annoyed with tj being a drug addicted gay who hooks up from online since it gives a bad name to those of us who arent like that but like the rest of the stereotypes on here they exist for a reason.

  36. Fall Sapphire says:

    Hooray! Music, clothes, cast. Ciaran reeks of testosterone–perfect compliment to real woman, Sigourney. Thank God, a middle aged couple. Ellen Burstyn, still a star. I don’t care if every word in the script sounds like they followed Hilary around. Love it!

  37. Peanut says:

    I love the show,always leaves you sitting on the edge of your’e seat,wanting more.

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