NPR clearly likes the new USA miniseries Political Animals, since it is obviously based on Hillary Clinton. NPR's Fresh Air reviewed the series, and Morning Edition interviewed Sigourney Weaver, who plays the Hillary clone. Then, on Friday morning, listeners heard another plug for the show -- an actual paid underwriting announcement from USA. Isn't that a nice back-scratch? Do we pay for news play?
On Fresh Air, TV critic John Powers said "even a Martian would realize" it's based on Hillary, "whose reputation has never been higher. She's finally escaped her husband's shadow...she's now the center of a mash note of a TV series." And NPR offered mash notes to both:
POWERS: "The Newsroom" may wave its liberal politics like an Adlai Stevenson banner, but most political movies and shows pointedly do not. "Veep," for instance, is cynical not ideological, while "Game Change" focused on everything about Palin except what she actually believes or why she connects to millions. Even the news coverage of this year's election has spent less time on Obama's and Romney's ideas than on the tiniest tactical details of their campaigns.
Now, it can't be denied that basing a show so clearly on Hillary and Bill betrays a certain failure of imagination. But this, too, is the American way. Our best political novels tend to be based on real people -- just think of "All the King's Men" -- and few political pairings could be more tempting than the messy Clintons. They turned the White House into a reality show, which Berlanti has now turned into a fictionalized potboiler. Only time will tell whether that's an upgrade.
At the moment, it looks like one for Hillary Clinton, whose reputation has never been higher. She's finally escaped her husband's shadow. If he became the flawed hero of "Primary Colors," she's now the center of a mash note of a TV series, one that gives her surrogate most of the good lines.
At one point, Elaine is talking to President Garcetti who it's clear has been a bit of a wuss. Before she leaves the Oval Office, she says calmly but crushingly: Someday, sir, it would be nice to working for the man who beat me. I don't believe Secretary of State Clinton has ever said anything remotely like that to President Obama, but it's interesting, don't you think, that in this election year, a new TV show implies that she'd be entitled to do so.
Powers did find the series "thin but naive" compared to Robert Caro's biographies of Lyndon Johnson, but that's often what a miniseries looks like next to 800-page door stops.
On Morning Edition, NPR surprisingly played the tabloidish dialogue, with Weaver's character spouting: "Never call a bitch a bitch. Us bitches hate that." Anchor Renee Montagne asked Signourney Weaver about political culture, and Weaver unloaded the feminist palaver on how women are better than men, a common line in her interview tour:
MONTAGNE: Does anything ring true to your personally about this world that Elaine Barrish inhabits? Or is it all like, whoa, that's really another culture?
WEAVER: Well, it probably is another culture, which I - and I don't realize it. But I think one of the reasons I was attracted to playing Elaine was that she comes in with a different spirit in Washington. She's going to make things better for people and she's not going to get bogged down with party politics and all these other games that the men who are in power are still playing.
MONTAGNE: I want to turn just for a moment to you and your story. Unless I've missed something, you really have never played what might be called a damsel in distress. Your reputation for playing strong women is pretty well earned.
WEAVER: Well, I guess I always feel that, you know, when I look around the world I don't see too many damsels in distress. If they are a damsel in distress they are manipulating some guy to help them. (Laughter) I feel that we are incredibly resourceful and strong and, you know, keep our heads. And so all I'm doing is reflecting women to me as they are because the women I know are strong. My God, they hold this world together. And so it's not that I'm avoiding playing damsels in distress. I don't really buy them.
MONTAGNE: Sigourney Weaver's latest turn as a powerful woman can be seen in the new show "Political Animals," which premieres this Sunday on the USA Network.