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Review – Political Animals
Rating: 3. The critics are mostly in agreement that this is more soap opera than drama but are mixed as to whether that is a good or bad thing. All agree that Sigourney Weaver gives a great performance.
The New York Daily News says that the show “plunges into the complex relationship between politicians and the media, the corrupting dynamics of the political process” and that the “dialogue can be crisp, sharp and witty…” while the “dramas come fast, furious and sometimes soapy.”
The New York Times is impressed with Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal, calling it “subtle and believable as she channels Mrs. Clinton’s improbable biography and even some of her real-life dialogue.” They are less impressed, however, with Ciaran Hinds’ portrayal of the “make-believe version of former President Bill Clinton,” saying that he does so, “so broadly, and with such a cartoonish southern accent, that Bud barely seems qualified to be sheriff of Mayberry, let alone commander in chief.” The paper goes on to note that “it doesn’t help that the writers strain for Aaron Sorkinish wit and sometimes badly overreach.”
USA Today says that “what you’re getting is what we’ve come to expect from USA of late: an easy-to-watch light entertainment that goes down relatively painlessly but that is nowhere near as sharp or as on-point as it needs to be.” That said, the paper does note that “if you stick with the show past Sunday’s sluggish start, the plot does pick up some momentum in the second episode.”
The Hollywood Reporter says that what the show “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 letdown… Where you expect gravitas, you get little bubbles, which makes sense on blue-skies USA. But trying to make Animals significant by calling it a “highly anticipated Limited Series Event” doesn’t automatically make it All the President’s Men.”
The Huffington Post gave the show a positive review, saying, “”Political Animals’” forthrightness about examining the costs and exhilaration of political life is refreshing. It combines the sly wit of the viral hit Texts from Hillary with the old-fashioned pleasures of a night-time soap, and it’s anchored by terrific lead performances from Weaver and Carla Gugino, who plays theHammonds’ journalistic nemesis Susan Berg.”
The Washington Post says that “At its best, “Political Animals” delves deeply into the unknowable: Why would a first lady remain with her husband after his Lewinsky-like dalliances in the Oval Office lead to permanent shame?” and that Sigourney Weaver plays the role of former First Lady Elaine Barrish Hammond with “with delicious determination.”
The Los Angeles Times notes that the show “is a family drama, more “Dallas” than “The West Wing,” 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.
TV Guide calls the show a “raunchy fusion of Aaron Sorkin and Jackie Collins, merrily ensnaring its brainy power players in outrageously soapy scenarios and displays of bad behavior…” and says that the show “is high-minded, lowdown fun, way racier than the USA norm… [and] a fabulous showcase for Sigourney Weaver…”
New York Magazine says that Weaver’s performance “isn’t enough to save a likable but mostly mediocre program.” and that the show is “a domestically oriented, C+ version of The West Wing.”
Newsday did not like the show, writing, “Political Animals” is junk. Or, to elaborate, 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.”
Entertainment Weekly calls the show “a well-acted, entertainingly soapy drama that might not crack theClinton code definitively but still offers a fun and credible look at the complicated intersection of love, gender, and politics” and notes that “after watching the first two episodes, I found myself eager for more…”
The San Jose Mercury News says that “”Political Animals” becomes an intriguing, even occasionally humorous, family soap opera about the snake pit of national politics, the expectations of women in power and the corrosive effects of personal ambition.” The paper does point out that “not everything in “Political Animals” works. Hinds (as the president), in particular, feels wrong as a twangy-voiced, potty-mouthed narcissist who comes across like a cartoon… However, “Political Animals” makes amends by giving viewers other well-drawn characters and by whipping up an addictive batch of dark secrets and sudsy melodramatics that make for an entertaining diversion from the real-life soap opera of an election year.”
The Boston Globe calls the show “flawed but addictive” and says that “in the middle of our real-life presidential campaign, here is an entertaining summer escape.”
The Wall Street Journal says that the show “is among the most bizarre, if tasty, concoctions ever presented on mainstream television” and that “Sooner or later, every hint of real tension or emotion will be punctured by the dramatic equivalent of a whoopee cushion. The result is an often silly, lewd, crude, crazy and preposterous series that’s about as entertaining as a fat paperback on a hot beach—which is to say, impossible to look up from once you get into it. Part of the fun is never being sure whether the writers and producers intended to blow our minds quite this way or how many of the laughs come on purpose.”
Time Magazine says that “Political Animals, an inconsistent, sometimes ludicrous, but also juicily fun political soap, is about something that ultimately makes for better TV: the idea of Hillary Clinton” and that “The show is well-cast top to bottom. Weaver in particular is excellent…”
Variety says that the “conceit was to take lots of political stories with which we’re all familiar — philandering husband, suffering political wife, troubled kids of the rich and famous — and use them as a high-profile jumping-off point. Yet while Aaron Sorkin brings a similar approach to “The Newsroom,” where that show becomes a surrogate for the writer’s ideal worldview, “Political Animals” employs hostage crises involvingIran as little more than a showy backdrop for salacious family drama.” The paper goes on to note that “No one associated with “Political Animals” needs to hide under the covers, exactly, but nothing here qualifies as a game-changer, either.”
The New York Post sums it up by saying, “The actors are great, but the show isn’t.”
The Boston Herald writes, “It’s not a Comedy Central spoof, but it skews ridiculously close to one.”
The Philadelphia Daily News notes that “this is more soap opera than satire, an intermittently entertaining but not exactly subtle look at the private and public lives of one extremely colorful family.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that “”Political Animals” gets bogged down in exposition throughout its 75-minute premiere … The problem is not the concept, it’s the execution.”
The San Francisco Chronicle calls “Political Animals” “an unsavory and silly miniseries… [that] can’t make up its mind whether it’s a satire on American politics, an occasional dramatic riff on the marriage and political partnership of our current secretary of state and her husband, or a third-rate soap opera in the mode of a “Dynasty” knockoff with one preposterous situation after another.” The paper goes on to note that “Weaver is convincing and even appealing in the role. She’s good enough, in fact, to make you think about how much potential Berlanti has squandered here.”
The Orlando Sentinel says that Political Animals “is trashy fun. This TV equivalent of a big beach book meanders and begs credulity. Yet a first-rate cast helps sell creator Greg Berlanti’s melodrama” and notes that “The cast has more depth than the writing.”
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When not busy performing stand-up or taping his new TV show, Saint George, here's what George Lopez like to watch on TV:
For more insights from the actor/writer/comedian, check-out our interview with George Lopez.
Jim Jefferies is the co-creator and star (and writer) of FX's Legit. When not busy working (which is rarely), here's what he's watching:
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New on VOD
Here are the new VOD films for the week of March 4, 2014. Click on a movie title for more information, trailers and reviews.
12 Years a Slave. Rating: 5 (out of 5). Solomon Northup, a free black man living in upstate New York, is abducted and sold to slavery in the 1800s. This year's Oscar Winner for Best Picture (amongst other awards) comes to VOD on March 4. Critics loved this movie, New York Post calls it “The "Schindler's List" of slavery films.” Reviews, video and more.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Rating: 4 (out of 5). Katniss Everdeen is back on the big screen in this second installment of the Hunger Games series. She returns home safe with fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark, but their reunion with their families and friends is cut short when they learn that they have to compete in the Hunger Games for the second time. The film premieres on VOD on Friday, March 7, and has been positively received by critics. The Boston Globe thinks, “Book’s good. Movie’s better.” Reviews, video and more.
After The Dark. Rating: 3 (out of 5). A philosophy teacher challenges his class of twenty students with a thought experiment: faced with a nuclear apocalypse, they must determine which ten of them would take shelter underground and reboot the human race. The experiment turns deadly as everyone in the group turns against each other in a fight for survival. The film comes to VOD on Tuesday, March 4. It has received mixed reviews from the critics, but Los Angeles Times thinks, “While the story's conceit brims with metaphor and symbolism, it rarely comes off as didactic or heavy-handed. Instead, it's smart and provocative. The movie's late-breaking twist also feels about right.” Reviews, video and more.
Oldboy. Rating: 3 (out of 5). Joe Doucette, an advertising executive, was kidnapped and held in solitary confinement for 20 years. When he is released without any explanation, he begins to search for answers as to who and why he captured, only to find out that the bigger question is to why he was released. The film will be available on VOD starting Tuesday, March 4. The critics gave Spike Lee’s remake of a South Korean film mixed reviews, with inevitable comparisons to the original Oldboy. But according to Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s generally a respectful homage that has every bit as much stylishness and visual flair.” Reviews, video and more.
The Bag Man. Rating: 1 (out of 5). Jack is hired by Dragna, a legendary crime boss, to complete a simple but unusual task, and is made to wait for the latter’s arrival in a remote location. While waiting for the crime boss, Jack meets Rivka, a stunningly beautiful woman who becomes emotionally and physically entangled with Jack. When Dragna finally makes it to the location, there are sudden and extreme consequences for all involved. The film will be premiering on VOD on Tuesday, March 4. Most critics were not pleased with the film, and Los Angeles Times thinks, “"The Bag Man," starring John Cusack, Robert De Niro and Rebecca Da Costa, is a brutally violent, misogynistic mind game gone wrong.” Reviews, video and more.
Perfect Sisters. No Rating. Tired of their mother’s dependence on alcohol and abusive boyfriends, two sisters devise a plot to kill her. The film premires on VOD on Monday, March 10. No critic reviews are available as of writing.
Missing William. No Rating. A 30-something artist based in Rhode Island, Abby, is caring for her husband, William, who got injured in a bar fight. While nursing her husband back to health, her childhood sweetheart, James, tries to show her that life can be enjoyable again. The movie will be available on VOD starting Friday, March 7. No critic reviews available as of writing. Video and more.