R.I.P: An Ode to ‘Political Animals’
It is with sadness and regret that I announce the cancellation of USA’s Political Animals.
The news, delivered last week, shouldn’t have come as a complete shock for those involved…or for those who tuned in during those six short-but-splendid weeks over the summer. After all, the cable network insisted on touting it as a “limited series event.” How wise of them, covering their asses should the show tank or triumph (they probably learned their lesson with the less-than-stellar “second season” of The Starter Wife). The programming exec who came up with that trendy term for “miniseries” deserves a pat on the back and an extra-large fruit basket come December.
I am sad to see it go, because it was the only thing that kept me tuned into USA. It stood out from the rest of the network’s trademark shows and formulas because it wasn’t strictly protagonist-driven. No spies. No double agents. No ridiculously handsome con artists.
Equal parts semi-campy family soap and Sorkinesque political potboiler, Animals was a highly watchable drama, created by Greg Berlanti, who’s now busy producing The CW’s successful Arrow. It nicely balanced itself between domestic strife and international intrigue. Sigourney Weaver, who played former Democratic First Lady and Secretary of State Elaine Barrish, has said in interviews that the show was “very much about families who have been in the White House and the price they’ve paid for being in the White House and the fact that families who have been in the White House often try to get back in the White House or continue to try and get in the White House.”
Then there was the impressive roster of on-screen talent attached to this project. Not only did it star the fantastically fierce Weaver in a role that was practically tailor-made for her — the veteran powerhouse actress can still command as a lioness of a leader and be a vulnerable mother — it featured a delicious ensemble. James Wolk played golden boy Douglas Hammond, engaged to be married to a beautiful Japanese-American (Brittany Ishibashi) who has an eating disorder (the only subplot worth yawning over). The charismatic Sebastian Stan played TJ, Doug’s twin and the black sheep of the family, not because he’s openly gay — he’s a drug addict and alcoholic. Playing Elaine’s womanizing ex-husband of a President was Ciarán Hinds, a lovable slimeball of a sleaze who was given nifty character arc (he and Elaine rekindle the flames and hook up at an isolated motel). The incomparable Ellen Burstyn chewed her scenes as Margaret, Elaine’s mother who never met an afternoon cocktail she didn’t like. And the sexy-smart Carla Gugino played reporter Susan Berg, an ambitious writer who becomes an unlikely ally for the Secretary of State during more than one crisis.
Supporting such heavyhitters was an equally impressive secondary cast: Adrian Pasdar as the Commander in Chief, Paul Garcetti (what’s behind those squinty eyes?), Dan Futterman as Susan’s editor (and part-time lover), Dylan Baker as a two-faced Vice President, Roger Bart as the White House Chief of Staff (and Elaine’s former campaign manager), and Meghann Fahy as an annoying blogger who claws her way up the corporate ladder at The Washington Globe.
Rest in peace, Political Animals. You will be missed.
May you live forever in reruns and Blu-ray sales.
- Hiko Mitsuzuka (@TheFirstEcho)