In Political Animals, Dysfunctional Family, Media Relations, but Well Behaved Secret Service Agents

Complex media relations and family sagas are among the key story lines in Political Animals, a mini-series that debuted last night on USA Network. PRNewser covered the the star-studded premiere party late last month at the Morgan Library in New York.

While much has been written about how Political Animals’ plot draws directly from the Clinton era, there are also passing references to the Kennedy, Bush and Cheney families. The show features Sigourney Weaver as Elaine Barrish Hammond, the former first lady and unsuccessful presidential candidate who now serves as Secretary of State, Ellen Burstyn (right) as her tough-talking mother, and Ciaran Hinds as a philandering ex-President and yes, now Elaine’s ex-husband.

Carla Gugino plays a Washington reporter who uncovers the secrets of the Hammonds, a familiar former first family.

The new series continues a season of fresh comedy, drama and melodrama centered on the media business and politics that started with Veep and The Newsroom. Common elements include dynamic roles and snappy dialogue (and in the case of Veep, profanity) for the leading female characters.

Reviews for the USA series pilot have ranged from “zippy, surprisingly fun” (The New York Times) and “compelling” (Entertainment Tonight) to “soap opera” (Hollywood Reporter) and “silly” (am New York). In any case, it’s lively, entertaining fare that’s well suited for summer. Ironically, with all the plot turns, the only well-behaved characters are the secret service agents.

At the Political Animals premiere party and screening, timely quotations about politics were displayed overhead, such as “politics makes sexy bedfellows.” We also compiled a few time-worn media industry and general career reminders based on the pilot episode:

  • Even tightly guarded news eventually surfaces
  • Beware making deals with reporters regarding exclusive access
  • Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, especially at work

Finally, as we’ve learned from the real Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Elaine, her TV character, there are second and even third acts in politics. We’ll have to tune in to the rest of the six-part series to see if Elaine follows through on her plan to run again for President. As for Hillary, while few pundits believe she’ll retire from politics, it may take longer to find out her next move.

Premiere Party for USA's Political Animals at the Morgan Library in New York City.
Carla Gugino plays a Washington reporter in USA's Political Animals.