Political Animals (miniseries)
Promotional poster for the series with the tagline "Power runs in the family."
|Opening theme||"Future Starts Slow" by The Kills|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||6 (List of episodes)|
|Original channel||USA Network|
|Original run||July 15 – August 19, 2012|
Political Animals is a six-episode American miniseries created by Greg Berlanti. The series aired in the United States on USA Network from July 15 through August 19, 2012. Sigourney Weaver portrays Elaine Barrish, a divorced former First Lady and Governor of Illinois, as well as the current Secretary of State. While Weaver and the show's production team admit that the lead character has some similarities to Hillary Clinton, these have been justified and otherwise dismissed by the premise of the show which is "very much about all families who have been in the White House, the price they've paid for being there and the fact that those same families will often try or continue to try to get back into the White House again."
While it was speculated that the miniseries would lead into a full season, on November 2, 2012, USA Network announced that they have decided to stick with their initial plan of having the show be a miniseries.
Elaine Barrish's husband Bud was a popular President of the United States during the 1990s despite his extramarital affairs. After leaving the White House, Elaine Barrish was elected Governor of Illinois and ran for the Democratic nomination for President, but lost to Paul Garcetti. The night Barrish conceded the nomination, she asked her husband for a divorce. Two years later, as Garcetti's Secretary of State, Barrish deals with State Department issues while trying to keep her family together.
- Sigourney Weaver as Elaine Barrish, the recently divorced Secretary of State and former First Lady and Governor of Illinois who fights various political opponents.
- Carla Gugino as Susan Berg, a reporter who has spent much time trying to undermine Elaine, but eventually becomes an unlikely ally.
- James Wolk as Douglas Hammond, Elaine's son, Chief of Staff, and T.J.'s twin brother.
- Sebastian Stan as Thomas "T.J." Hammond, Elaine's openly gay son, and Douglas' twin brother.
- Brittany Ishibashi as Anne Ogami, Doug's fiancée.
- Ellen Burstyn as Margaret Barrish, Elaine's mother and a former showgirl in Las Vegas.
- Ciarán Hinds as Donald "Bud" Hammond, the former President and Governor of North Carolina, and Elaine's ex-husband.
- Adrian Pasdar as Paul Garcetti, the current president who defeated Elaine in the presidential primaries but later appointed her Secretary of State. He is described as "a smart man who uses every resource at his disposal to his advantage".
- Dylan Baker as Fred Collier, the two-faced Vice President and former Director of Central Intelligence who is hiding some secrets.
- Roger Bart as Barry Harris, the White House Chief of Staff and Elaine's former campaign manager for her presidential campaign.
- Dan Futterman as Alex Davies, editor of the Washington Globe and Susan Berg's former boyfriend.
- Meghann Fahy as Georgia Gibbons, an ambitious young blogger who works with Susan Berg.
- LaMonica Garrett as Agent Clark, a Diplomatic Security Service agent charged with protecting Elaine.
- Linda Powell as Pauline Samson, the National Security Advisor to the President.
- Griffin Newman as Russ, Susan's personal assistant.
- Kristine Nielsen as Alice
- Igor Jijikine as Viktor Porchov, the Foreign Minister of Russia.
- Vanessa Redgrave as Justice Diane Nash, first openly gay Supreme Court Justice, personal friend, and mentor of Elaine.
- Blair Brown as Mrs. Berg, a former doctor and the mother of Susan Berg.
Development and production
On January 30, 2012, USA Network announced the development of a six-hour series to focus on a former First Family. They simultaneously announced that the pilot would be written and directed by Greg Berlanti, who would executive produce the series with Laurence Mark. Sarah Caplan was later announced to be executive producing as well. Ann Roth served as Weaver's costume designer for the first episode.
James Wolk was the first actor to be cast; it was announced on February 10, 2012, that he would be portraying Douglas Hammond, the son of Elaine Barrish. Three days later, it was revealed that Brittany Ishibashi would be playing Doug's fiancée, Anne Ogami. On March 6, 2012, Sigourney Weaver was cast in the lead role of Elaine Barrish. On March 9, 2012, it was announced that Carla Gugino had joined the cast as Susan Berg, a reporter who becomes one of Elaine's closest allies. Sebastian Stan joined the series on March 15, 2012, as T. J. Hammond, the other son of Elaine Barrish, and Doug's brother. One week later, it was announced that Ciarán Hinds would play the former president and Elaine's ex-husband, Bud Hammond. By April 14, 2012, Ellen Burstyn had joined the series as Margaret Barrish, Elaine's mother and a former Vegas showgirl. On May 2, 2012, it was announced that Adrian Pasdar would appear in a recurring role in all six episodes as the current president, Paul Garcetti. The casting of Dylan Baker in the recurring role of Vice President Fred Collier was announced on May 7, 2012.
Linda Powell, the daughter of former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, appeared in the first episode as the national security advisor to the president. Roger Bart, Dan Futterman, and Vanessa Redgrave also made appearances in the series. David Monahan appeared in the fourth episode, while Blair Brown appeared in the fifth as Barbara Berg, the mother of Susan.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers
|1||"Pilot"||Greg Berlanti||Greg Berlanti||July 15, 2012||2.62|
|After losing the Democratic primary race to Paul Garcetti, candidate Elaine Hammond asks her husband, Bud, a former President, for a divorce. Two years later, Elaine, now going by her maiden name Barrish, is the Secretary of State for Garcetti. When an enterprising reporter, Susan Berg, tries to reveal that her son TJ attempted suicide due to personal problems, Elaine allows Berg to follow her for a week to silence the story. During that time, three journalists are taken hostage in Iran, disrupting her son Douglas's engagement party. Elaine tells Bud she plans to send him to Oman to negotiate. At the end of the episode, she tells Berg this, and then reveals to her security guard she plans to run for President again.|
|2||"Second Time Around"||Bethany Rooney||Greg Berlanti & Molly Newman||July 22, 2012||2.28|
|Elaine convinces the President to send Bud to Oman, but Vice President Collier remains unsure. Douglas discovers TJ has begun drugs again. The Vice President announces on television that something will happen in Oman relating to the hostage crisis, causing Oman to pull out. Elaine makes a last-minute deal with the Turkish ambassador to hold the talks in Istanbul. Bud is successful and frees the hostages. Back home, TJ attempts to steal money from his grandmother for his new nightclub after being denied money by her and his parents, but is unable to go through with it. His brother Douglas ends up giving him the money. After Douglas's engagement party is finally held, he leaks to Berg that his mother will run for President again.|
|3||"The Woman Problem"||Michael Morris||Phil Klemmer & Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders||July 29, 2012||1.73|
|In an attempt to stop Elaine from running against him, Garcetti asks Barrish's longtime mentor, Justice Diane Nash (Vanessa Redgrave), to retire from the Supreme Court so he can appoint Barrish to take Nash's place. Nash considers taking the offer as her longtime partner is dying. However, someone in the White House leaks the details to The Washington Globe, allowing Susan to tip off Elaine about it. Meanwhile, Elaine announces her candidacy to her family, drawing negative reactions from her mother. Bud, Douglas, and TJ take a fishing trip and stay at the home of a pollster. The pollster predicts Elaine will win in the primary, but only if Bud remains out of the spotlight. Barrish convinces Nash not to accept Garcetti's offer and Susan holds off her story on Elaine running for President on the condition that Douglas tell her everything that led up to it.|
|4||"Lost Boys"||David Petrarca||Speed Weed & Geoffrey Nauffts||August 5, 2012||1.80|
|In a flashback the reason behind TJ's suicide attempt is revealed. TJ was having an affair with a married, closeted, Republican Congressman. The White House learned of the affair and used it to blackmail the Congressman into supporting a bill he had opposed. His breaking off the relationship led TJ to try to kill himself. Present day, when President Garcetti refuses to aid a Chinese submarine sunk off the West Coast, Elaine approaches the Chinese directly but is rebuffed. She returns to Garcetti, confirming that she will announce her presidential bid in 48 hours but only after he acts to rescue the Chinese submariners. Georgia tricks Anne into confirming Elaine's presidential plans and leverages that knowledge into sharing a byline on the breaking story with Susan. TJ opens his club despite the refusal of his parents to attend the opening as previously planned. TJ's dealer gives him cocaine at the club. Bud arrives at the opening after all and discovers TJ, unconscious following an overdose.|
|5||"16 Hours"||Tucker Gates||Phil Klemmer & Nicholas Wootton||August 12, 2012||1.98|
|The episode opens with T.J. in the hospital, after over-dosing, still asleep. In order to keep the story under wraps, Elaine tells Douglas to contact Susan Berg, he is skeptical, but she insists. Susan meets the pair at the house, and Elaine tells her a fake story to keep T.J. from getting bad publicity. Berg however, does not believe her, and refuses to write the fake story, not wanting to risk her integrity. Elaine then tells her that if she writes the fake story about T.J. she will let her go with Douglas to San Diego, and be the only reporter to be there when the U.S. attempts to rescue the Chinese from the submarine. Douglas and Susan then depart on the plane to San Diego, where they spend the flight talking, and then drinking wine, which leads them to get drunk, and divulge extremely personal and sensitive information, which leads Douglas to kiss Susan. Meanwhile, Douglas' fiance and his grandmother found cocaine and other drugs hidden in a couch cushion by T.J. The pair flush everything except a small portion of marijuana, which they then proceed to smoke. After drinking a lot of alcohol, Douglas' grandmother then reveals to Ann that she knows that she is bulimic. Also, T.J. wakes up with Elaine lying next to him in a chair; he apologizes profusely and falls back asleep. Bud arrives, and Elaine leaves to speak with the President. Back on the plane, Douglas reveals that he thinks Susan is "sexy" and he kisses her and they proceed to have sex. Elaine speaks with the President, who recently found out that the Chinese plan on scuttling the submarine, with a catastrophic release of radiation, if the U.S. tries to save them. The President, highly influenced by Elaine, makes the Chinese threat public and rebuffs it. The rescue is successful.|
|6||"Resignation Day"||David Petrarca||Molly Newman & Speed Weed||August 19, 2012||2.34|
|Elaine offers her resignation to President Garcetti. He refuses it and asks her to run in the next election as his Vice President. Douglas comes clean about his betrayal to his mother after leaking out family secrets, including Elaine's resignation letter, to Susan Berg. Air Force One crashes on the way to France with President Garcetti aboard. Elaine helps avert a potential constitutional crisis by convincing Vice President Collier to invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment to become Acting President, rather than taking the Presidential oath of office. Douglas and his fiancée Ann elope but the Hammonds crash the wedding after TJ figures out where they have gone. Bud tries to persuade Elaine to run against Collier.|
In South Africa, the series was meant to be broadcast on M-Net starting January 7, 2013, however because of the popularity of Revenge, the show was put off and the second season of revenge was premiered instead
Political Animals received "generally favorable" reviews based on an aggregate score of 64/100 from 31 critics on Metacritic. Rob Brunner of Entertainment Weekly called the series a "well-acted, entertainingly soapy drama" that "offers a fun and credible look at the complicated intersection of love, gender, and politics." The Los Angeles Times' Robert Lloyd called the series "a high-class, relatively naturalistic, behind-closed-doors soap opera that plays in fairly obvious yet also fairly affecting ways with the space between public face and private pain and is made highly watchable by an excellent cast that finds the human among the hokum." Alan Sepinwall of HitFix stated: "with a cast this good, and with so many potentially juicy conflicts already in play, I'm going to take a more optimistic point of view than Elaine Barrish might."
However, there were some detractors. Linda Stasi of the New York Post simply stated: "The actors are great, but the show isn't." The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman commented: "what Animals is trying to do is take The West Wing and turn it into Dallas. And if you don't like Dallas, that can be a real let down [sic]." Verne Gay of Newsday was the harshest critic, calling the series "stupendously silly," adding "it's a clanking, clattering collection of collagenous clinkers—of dialogue so inept, of acting performances so preposterous, of plot points so cliched that the only question worth posing is why someone of Weaver's stature would be caught anywhere near a turkey like this."
In 2012, the series was honored, along with four others, with the Critics' Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series.
At the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, the series was honored with nominations for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Weaver, and Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Burstyn, who won in her category. It was also nominated for a variety of creative arts awards.
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- Bibel, Sara (July 31, 2012). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'True Blood' Wins Night, 'Breaking Bad', 'Falling Skies', 'Army Wives', 'The Newsroom', 'Longmire' & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
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- "Political Animals - Season 1 Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- Brunner, Rob (July 11, 2012). "TV Review - Political Animals". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Lloyd, Robert (July 13, 2012). "Review: 'Political Animals' is a biting family drama". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Sepinwall, Alan (July 11, 2012). "Review: USA's 'Political Animals' takes compelling look at an alternate Clinton family". HitFix. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Stasi, Linda (July 13, 2012). "Over the Hill: Laughable ‘Political Animals’ channels the Clintons". New York Post. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Goodman, Tim (July 11, 2012). "Political Animals: TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Gay, Verne (July 11, 2012). "'Political Animals' review: Stupendously silly". Newsday. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- O'Connell, Sean (June 12, 2012). BTJA Announces Most Exciting New Series Honorees to be Celebrated at the Critics' Choice Television Awards, criticschoice.com. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
- "Ellen Burstyn Emmys: 'Political Animals' Star Wins Supporting Actress In A Miniseries/Movie". Huffington Post. September 22, 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.