Monday, July 23, 2012
The pilot episode of "Political Animals" was pretty bad, made all the more disappointing by the wonderful cast mired in that awfulness. Based pretty strongly on the Clintons as far as framework is concerned--failed presidential bid by former wife of philandering president leads to job as Secretary of State--the show pushed forth an odd mix of weighty dialogue, blunt humor, and in-your-face sex scenes.
Sigourney Weaver, as "bitchy" politician turned America's sweetheart Elaine Barrish, sadly came off the worst in the pilot. As she traded barbs with her ex (Ciaran Hinds) and a critical reporter (Carla Gugino), and laid down words of wisdom to her sons (James Wolk and Sebastian Stan), it felt like an overwrought performance in community theater. I love Weaver and have tremendous respect for her as an actress, so it was very hard to accept as the hour wore on that I was finding her performance the weakest on "Political Animals."
To be fair, the writing has to shoulder some of the blame. There's too much of an effort to be slick, ballsy, and smarter than everyone in the room. The same could be said of someone like Aaron Sorkin, but the difference is that he pulls it off with rapid-fire, clever dialogue. "Political Animals" just comes off as cliche, and perhaps due to the "limited series" constraints, tries to load in too many issues-of-the-week like "woman in man's world" and "gay son thrust into spotlight." Then there's sibling rivalry and an alcoholic mother (Ellen Burstyn). One son has a bulimic fiancee, the other a drug problem.
Stan played the troubled, rebellious gay son to heartbreaking perfection in the short-lived series "Kings," but despite the striking similarity in roles, he seems merely reduced to a succession of bad choices here. At no point in "Political Animals" do you get the sense that anyone is an actual person. It's just a series of fiction tropes paraded on screen.
The show has two female lead characters and a cast with an excellent pedigree, and a few lines of humor actually hit the mark, so I tuned in again for the episode "Second Time Around." As I watched this episode, I started to realize that this is a series on USA, a network that prides itself on taking serious topics and lightening them up with humor and silliness. The tone of the show, including Hinds' scenery chewing caricature of Bill Clinton's easy charm and bravado, started to make a little more sense.
Once I let go of my expectations of a serious drama, and accepted scenes like the dorky "Words with Friends" competition between the former president and Gugino's cynical journalist, "Political Animals" became more enjoyable. The one-liners and insults landed better in "Second Time Around," and we viewers started to get a better feel for Barrish and her ex-husband's relationship.
Weaver got a better handle on her character and relaxed into her flirtations and political machinations more. But thinking back on her roles in films like "Working Girl" and "Ghostbusters," she's never been a natural at comedy. "Political Animals" isn't quite a comedy, which makes it even tougher. You feel a certain lack of conviction when she announces these "tough political lady" speeches in a melodramatic hands-on-hips pose. Gugino's more sly, understated delivery is better-suited to the wink-wink vibe this show seems to be going for.
After its second episode, "Political Animals" ends up being a decent bit of Sunday evening fluff, but it's sadly not yet what I would have hoped for from a story so rich with possibilities. I'm guessing Weaver and Hinds wouldn't have signed up for a long-terms series, but it's a shame because the material might have been stronger if these plot lines had been allowed a more natural timeline to develop. Following the same story from the point of view of the political figures involved as well as through the eyes of a journalist is an intriguing prospect, and could have filled up at least a few seasons worth of episodes.
Have you been watching "Political Animals"? What do you think about the series?
PHOTOS: Sigourney Weaver and Ciaran Hinds as Elaine Barrish and Bud Hammond.
Friday, July 20, 2012
The freedom of cable TV allows creators to come up with edgier, more adult material, and that's just the sort of thing Emmy voters are going to be checking boxes for. Popularity of a given show doesn't always translate to awards, but it definitely helps a series to get noticed. In thinking about how a stuffy upstairs/downstairs PBS drama like "Downton Abbey" got to be so popular, I came to the conclusion that viewers are appreciating these shows for the same reason I always have--the variety of human experience.
Britain hasn't exactly been untouched by tabloid journalism and obsessions with thinness and physical perfection. Fortunately, this hasn't transferred completely into their films and TV, where less-than-perfect people are still allowed lead roles and romantic storylines. I think a lot of viewers don't even realize why they are so attracted to a British series. But that emphasis on building a character, someone with flaws and virtues and yes, even a big nose or freckles, gives us people we care much more deeply about. Physical perfection is nice to look at, but hard to identify with, and rarely sucks us in the way a truly unique character does.
Want to read more about the British actors and series nominated for Emmys? Head over to my Yahoo! omg! piece: "Britain is the New Sexy--Dramatic UK Actors Scoop Up Emmy Award Nominations."
PHOTO: Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Season 2 of "Downton Abbey," screencap c2011 Carnival Films, ITV, PBS. Fair use.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
There's good news if you're looking for an awesome 'Dark Knight Rises' action figure to add to your collection. The bad boy pictured above is $17.99, but for a limited time, he's FREE if you load up your cart with $99 worth of other Batman goodies from our sponsors over at Entertainment Earth.
Scroll through for some highlights of "The Dark Knight Rises" and Batman collectibles available:
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Dark Knight Rises CATWOMAN Pop! Heroes Vinyl Figure:Modeled after Anne Hathaway's Catwoman from The Dark Knight Rises, this stylized Dark Knight Rises Catwoman Pop! Heroes Vinyl Figure stands 3 3/4-inches tall. Keeping the collector in mind, the Catwoman Pop! Vinyl figure comes in a displayable window box. When you see just how cool this little vinyl figure looks, you're going to want to add Batman and Bane to your collection, too! Ages 5 and up. CLICK to Order $9.99 Dark Knight Rises Catwoman Pop! Heroes Vinyl Figure from Entertainment Earth!
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Dark Knight Rises Batman ArtFX Statue:
*Breathtaking ArtFx statue based on "The Dark Knight Rises."
*Over 15-inches tall on a rocky display base that includes a light-up Bat symbol!
*Display him with either a grapple gun or his EMP rifle!
Behold the Dark Knight! Kotobukiya presents this breathtaking ArtFx statue based on The Dark Knight Rises. Sculpted by Mic, Batman The Dark Knight Rises towers over 15-inches tall (1:6 scale) on a rocky display base that includes a hidden light-up Bat symbol! Perfect for both longtime Batman collectors and fans of the movie, this Caped Crusader looks fantastic on his own or next to other dynamic Kotobukiya Batman statues (sold separately).
With interchangeable parts, you can display him with either a grapple gun or his EMP rifle!
Featuring a beautifully detailed sculpt recreating Batman's specific appearance in the The Dark Knight Rises film, this version of the Caped Crusader faithfully renders the hero's intricate armored Bat-suit with cape and cowl. Standing ready for action, the world's greatest detective oversees Gotham City from the top of a rocky landscape. Staring down his enemies with his trademark scowl, Batman holds his flowing cape in front of him with his left hand while his right wields one of his wonderful toys.
The Bat was reinvented with 2005's Batman Begins, and its two sequels have further evolved the Dark Knight. The third part of a trilogy by Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises pits Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne against both Bane and Catwoman. To celebrate that movie release, you can acquire a unique incarnation of the big-screen hero for your shelf with the Batman Dark Knight Rises Statue!
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If you have any questions about the Batman and "The Dark Knight Rises" collectibles you see here, or Entertainment Earth, leave a comment or tweet me @ValerieDavid and I'll help you out!