Anyone looking forward to scathing wit or incisive drama from a program touted as a “Limited Series Event” — one rich with Oscar and Emmy winners in its pedigree, no less — had better dial down their expectations before watching “Political Animals.” However, this dishy, inside-the-Beltway USA summer soap with Sigourney Weaver as a Hillary Clintonesque former First Lady-turned-Secretary of State just might hook you in spite of its occasional attacks of cringe-worthy dialogue and other flaws. Premiering tonight, “Political Animals” has me hooked.
Weaver is the Ferrari engine inside a Kia, delivering memorable moments and making this lightweight vehicle go further than a lesser actress could have. She’s wrenching as she orders Carla Gugino’s reporter character out of her office, nearly losing it emotionally over a situation involving her troubled younger son. She made me believe she could bend a Putin-esque Russian leader to do her a life-and-death favor by threatening to tattle on him to his wife. She even completely convinced me she was still ridiculously in love with her ex-husband, the ex-President — no mean feat given that Ciaran Hinds is no Bill Clinton. In fact, creators Craig Berlanti and Laurence Mark give us a caricature with none of the former President’s charm, complexity or intellect — an offensive, corn pone oaf who is one of the aforementioned other flaws of this show. Maybe he gets better after a couple of episodes. Here’s hoping.
The former First Couple’s twin sons — mama’s staffer Douglas (James Wolk) and coke snorting gay ne’er-do-well T.J. (Sebastian Stan) show up with their story points — but it’s the females who make “Political Animals” worth watching. Weaver and Gugino are terrific together, as their unlikely alliance begins to grow. Burstyn is delicious whenever she is seen, which is not enough. It’s Grownup girl power, a fun ride if you don’t think about how much better it could have been.