Political Animals coming to an end with no big fireworks as hyped on USA Network

Dave Masko's picture

Given poor ratings and scathingly bad reviews, the “Political Animals” miniseries on the USA Network ends later this month in the same way as many real-life political careers often do - with a whimper!

The fact that “Political Animals” is doing poorly; even while Sigourney Weaver seems to be doing a good job playing a former First Lady who is now the current secretary of state; one would think Weaver (who plays Elaine Barrish) would be getting a ratings boost from the real life person she plays, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, by all accounts, is doing a smashing job at keeping the media interested. For instance, it was just this past Tuesday, Aug. 7, that Secretary Clinton laughed and then danced to African music at a gala dinner at the presidential guest house in Pretoria, South Africa. In turn, the New York Daily News dubbed Clinton “the Secretary Rhythm,” for “letting her hair down” and then getting on the dance floor where “Clinton broke out with some hip shaking and shoulder shimmying;” while even “grinding up – in a semi-raunchy move – with singer Judith Sephuma.” Now, ask many of today’s TV critics - who’ve panned “Political Animals” – why can’t Weaver’s Elaine Barrish do the same as the “fictional” secretary of state on television?

Political Animals continues with lukewarm reviews

“Political Animals” has received some very poor to lukewarm reviews since this limited TV series first aired last month. For instance, Linda Stasi of the New York Post simply stated: “The actors are great, but the show isn’t.”

Also, Tim Goodman with the Hollywood Reporter writes that “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 letdown.”

At the same time, Verne Gay of Newsday is one of “Political Animals” most harsh critics, stating how the series is "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 clichéd that the only question worth posing is why someone of Weaver's stature would be caught anywhere near a turkey like this."

Episode 5 of “Political Animals” on Sunday

“Political Animals” airs its 5th episode – of this six episode series – on the USA Network this Sunday, Aug. 12, at 10/9c with this episode focusing on the aftermath of T.J.’s overdose; while Elaine finds herself “torn between staying by her son’s side and handling the rescue of a Chinese submarine, or dealing with her husband who discovers the truth behind T.J.’s suicide attempt.

At the same time, there’s yet more yawns as “Susan keeps quiet on T.J.’s overdose;” while Elaine grants her unlimited access to the submarine rescue mission. In turn, this leaves Douglas alone to “cross a boundary that could jeopardize his future.”

Thankfully, say some TV critics, the “Political Animals” miniseries comes to an end on Sunday, Aug. 19 when episode 6 “Resignation Day,” formally concludes the show with no word yet from the USA Network if it’s being picked up for a second season.

Moreover, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette blasted “Political Animals” in a scathing review of this TV show last month that seemed to inspire other TV critics to also say this show is “let’s say, for the birds.”

Bad reviews sinking “Political Animals”

The notion of a summer soap inspired by real-life politicians has merit, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month, and then noted how the USA Network's "Political Animals" gets bogged down “in exposition throughout. The problem is not the concept; it's the execution.”

Created by Greg Berlanti ("Everwood," "Brothers & Sisters"), the newspaper explained how "Political Animals" tracks the career of Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver, "Aliens"), wife of former U.S. President Bud Hammond (Ciaran Hinds). A Democrat, Elaine ran unsuccessfully for president and later accepted the job as secretary of state. If that makes her sound a lot like Hillary Rodham Clinton, well, that's intentional.”

In turn, the review noted how “many of the characters, situations and events in ‘Political Animals’ are clearly inspired by real politicos, with enough fabricated elements tossed in to give Berlanti grist for the drama mill. But there are a whole lot of characters to meet, and each one seems to have motivations that have to be spelled out in neon letters.”

While the review stated how “you can see bits of Elaine's sense of humor and toughness in her mother, former first mother-in-law Margaret Barrish (Ellen Burstyn), who complains, ‘They never let me talk on the record. I'm either too drunk or too honest.”

Cutting edge drama becomes a soap opera

Overall, “Political Animals” has become a sort of soap opera, add many TV critics.

Thus, last week’s episode was not only lukewarm, says the few fans commenting about the younger cast members who seem somewhat “dazed and confused,” but the overall feel of the show seems to lack any real “political buzz” or excitement.

For instance, it’s now old news that Elaine's son T.J. (Sebastian Stan, "Gossip Girl"), is openly gay and a drug addict; when one TV critics quipped “who’s not on TV today?” While T.J’s politically savvy brother, Douglas (James Wolk, "Lonestar"), seems bored as Elaine's chief of staff; with who cares is Douglas is preparing to marry Anne (Brittany Ishibashi), with whom he has a pretty graphic sexual interlude” that critics note “hasn’t seemed to save the show.”

The USA Network describes "Political Animals" as a "limited series television event" that airs on Sundays. And while TV critics once said they had high hopes for this television show that spotlights real life politics – it’s more or less fizzled after the first four episodes. Thus, TV critics say Political Animals has just not panned out to be water-cooler conversation or even something to look forward to on Sunday night.

Image source of the USA Network poster for the current miniseries “Political Animals” that wraps on Sunday, Aug. 19 when episode 6 “Resignation Day.” Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_Animals_(miniseries)


Submitted by masko (not verified) on
I've personally enjoyed "Political Animals" and presented numerous good stories about this show with high hopes it would improve over time given the fine actors. However, this comment sounds more like a "marketing pitch" than a true fan offering an opinion? At the end of the day, there's more people in seems who are also disapointed with PA, than those who like it. This is business and not personal, and it seems all politics are local when receiving such a reply from an un-named person who just may be on the payroll for PA? Again, I personally enjoy the show, but many others do not. That's the story. thanks for your interest - DM

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
No marketing pitch here, just a true fan's opinion from Southern CA...haha, you assume anyone that replies to your column as "Anonymous" must be on the show's payroll?!? You're an odd one my friend

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Thank you for sharing the bad reviews, but it has gotten some very good remarks as well, but it is not te bad reviews that are turning viewers away, it is it's horrid timeslot, in all honesty up against Breaking Bad, Ttue Blood, and the newsroom, not to mention te Olympics for the majority of its run, it never stood a chance to get the amount of views that was expected. I personally enjoy the show. I hope USA gives it a chance but I doubt it. It was terrible timeslot to show a show with only 6 episodes, it should of been on Wednesday with less competition. Horribly written article, it has gotten many great reviews, and you should've mentioned them.

Submitted by Gwen Lebec (not verified) on
While occasionally clunky, this show is pretty realistic. In addition to being politicians, pols are also people. Sometimes with spotless home lives, but rarely. I know a lot of pols, and much of this rings true. Weaver's performance is wonderful! But the rest of the family drops off some as they tend to be too stereotypical, especially TJ and Bud. They need some nuance as are totally unlikeable as written. Doug and Anne are not a believable couple, there is just no chemistry happening. Other than Weaver, the other actors are stuck with one note each to play. If this were a series and had time to grow I think it could be really terrific. But still, I have enjoyed it.

Submitted by Janna (not verified) on
I do not know what all the critics are complaining about. Okay, so the show isn't a perfect political show, which somehow "the West Wing" has been dubbed. But Sorkin's other show "The Newsroom" is awful so why don't the critics jump on that one for awhile? Carla Gugino and Sigourney Weaver give stellar performances. I think Carla Gugino is the breakout star here. This woman needs her own show. She steals every scene she's in. The show is frothy and soapy at times and stretches believability. But, overall, its entertaining and captivating. The critics wouldn't be happy with anything when it comes to this kind of a show. Its like they expect it to follow the Clinton script without some soapy fun. Come on and lighten up. Its summer. And its fun. No need to take everything too seriously. But I will say I can't believe more people aren't watching this show. That is the unfair part.

Submitted by Janna (not verified) on
USA is known for its fun, stylish, but more light hearted scripted shows. Hence, "White Collar" and "Royal Pains" to name a few. I love all these shows. They are all great but "Political Animals" has an edge that could push USA into more of an HBO or Showtime type programming (maybe with slightly less graphic versions of their shows...that's not a bad thing). Its a nice change of pace. And I agree with other comments made that this show has gotten good reviews, they just weren't mentioned. And by very prominent persons. Keeping something like this going, maybe another 6 episode order, might give it a chance to really hit its stride. Switch up the time slot and see what happens. It needs a fair shot.

Submitted by Ty (not verified) on
Beyond the standard "DITTO" to the 99.9% of the opinions of support for PA on this blog, I would like to also add to a big SUCK IT. Obviously, we cant continue to fill the coaxial with the likes Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of everywhere from Beverly Hills to Bum F*** Egypt, the multiple franchises of Law & Order. I have found the characters to be dimensional, and relevant, not because of their surreal surroundings, but their familiar faults, flaws and foibles. While I can understand they can seem somewhat exaggerated, this is necessary, when collapsing a storyline or storylines this large. I do hope that USA will consider continuing my newest Sunday night guilty pleasure. Oh, since I'm wishing, I sure would like to see BEN & JERRY's "Makin Whoopi Pie" Ice Cream. Dang.....that what good.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
It is over the top - but some of the performances are so riveting: Sigourney, and Ellen Bursteyn especially. I just cannot miss an episode. It's the only TV series I do watch. So tired of police dramas. The confrontation with the Chinese... WOW!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
are you kidding me....bad reviews...oh come on...this is a GREAT show - always keeping you guessing - I hope this show gets picked up because it just SHOULD!!

Submitted by Donna Alford (not verified) on
I hope a lot of other viewers of Political Animals write to you about how much they enjoy the show. Quite a few new shows don't do great in there first run. Please give Political Animals more episodes to find it's audience. Those who say it is a soap opera as a negative are correct it is a soap opera, but what the hell was/is Dallas, Big country, and many other currecnt tv shows Weeds, Network, 24. common on keep Sigourney Weaver working on tv. The other actors are quite good and the depth of the show continues to improve each episode. This last episode on the 12th was very good. The writing has both drama and good humor. It is a fantasty show, not another tiring real life show. Please give us more episodes.


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