Review: USA's 'Political Animals'

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USA Network executives are touting
Political Animals, the network’s new six-episode
limited series, as a departure from such usual bluesky
drama series like Burn Notice and Suits.

The political drama stars Sigourney Weaver as
former first lady Elaine Barrish Hammond, who
begins the pilot making her concession speech after
losing the Democratic Party’s nomination for
president to a young, idealist rival candidate, Paul
Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar). Throughout her campaign,
she was overshadowed by her philandering
husband, the former president Bud Hammond
(Ciaran Hinds).

Barrish decides to support Garcetti’s successful
campaign for president and eventually is given
a cabinet position, as secretary of state. (Any of
this sound familiar? Shades of the Clinton political

From here, the pilot has the makings of an interesting
political drama, but it quickly devolves into a
pseudo-soap opera that tests the limits of credulity.

Immediately after her loss to Garcetti, Barrish divorces
Hammond, who eventually turns from political
hero to a shamed political outcast. But Barrish
— now secretary of state — is reunited with Hammond
several years later for the engagement dinner
for their son and her chief of staff, Douglas Hammond
(James Wolk), and fiancée Anne Ogami (Brittany

In the background is Barrish’s openly gay son,
Thomas “T.J.” Hammond (Sebastian Stan), who is
battling drug and alcohol addictions and tried to
kill himself several months prior — an incident that
was kept quiet until unearthed by investigative reporter
Susan Berg (Carla Gugino).

For the most part, the series follows the personal
dramas within the Hammond family household
more closely than the political happenings in the
White House.