The Remote: “Political Animals” too stupid to be tamed

Ryan Pait

What if Hillary Clinton ran for president and became secretary of state instead?

That’s the jumping-off point for USA’s Emmy-nominated “Political Animals.”

It’s an interesting premise — a fictionalized version of what happened with Clinton in real life.

But “Political Animals” does nothing remotely interesting with it.

The six-episode miniseries centers on Elaine Barrish, a former first lady that becomes secretary of state when she loses the presidential race. Barrish is portrayed by Sigourney Weaver.

Weaver’s a great talent, and she’s done fine work over the years in films such as “Alien,” “Gorillas in the Mist” and “Avatar.”

But there’s no opportunity for her to put that talent to use in “Political Animals.” Weaver is given a terrible character to play, and she does what she can with it.

In a series full of dim performances and even dimmer characters, Weaver is the only slightly bright spot.

Other legitimate actors, such as Carla Gugino, Ellen Burstyn, and Ciarán Hinds are also criminally misused.

That’s probably my biggest problem with “Political Animals.” There’s a lot of talent involved, and all of it is put to distasteful, often offensive waste.

The tone of the show is incomprehensible. It wants to be dramatic, and it wants to be funny.

But most of the time it’s neither.

Over the course of the miniseries’ 287 minutes, I was surprised zero times and laughed once.

That one time was at myself, laughing over the fact that I was trying to take actual notes on this show.

“Political Animals” is also much too aware of what it wants to say, but too dumb to say it eloquently.

It wants to skewer politics, but its broadness and half-baked focus prevents it from doing so.

Much of its obtuseness can largely be attributed to the writing.

The characters are extremely unlikeable, but they don’t reach that treasured “love-to-hate” territory.

The overarching plot of the show is beyond transparent — if you’ve watched any TV before, you’ve seen some elements of this show.

And the dialogue is some of the most inane I’ve heard in a long time.

 At one point, Anne (Brittany Ishibashi), Elaine’s soon-to-be daughter in law, says to her fiancé, “We wanted 60 people at a club, and we’re having 300 people at the zoo because your mother likes elephants!”

That’s the kind of material I’m talking about. It’s supposed to be two characters talking about their engagement party — but it’s singularly nonsensical.

Much of “Political Animals” seems eye roll worthy, but it’s not even worth that effort.

Being a cable miniseries also gives “Political Animals” room to be edgier than something on network TV.

Sadly, that opportunity is wasted as well.

The edge of “Political Animals” comes mostly from its frequent cursing and sloppy sex scenes that feel shoehorned in purely because they can be.

It adds nothing to the show, but it’s not like there’s much to add to in the first place.

Some may find “Political Animals” entertaining. It’s soapy and simple, and turning your brain off definitely helps.

It didn’t for me.

It’s so soapy that it ends up slipping all over the place.

There’s also the fact that there’s so much better politically-centered TV out there.

Want great political intrigue? Watch “House of Cards.”

Want side-splittingly hilarious political satire? Watch “Veep.”

Or take it old school and watch “The West Wing.”

“Political Animals” is nominated for 3 Emmys in the miniseries categories this year. That’s an accomplishment, but the show is not.

Completely tone deaf and so eager to be crowd pleasing that it ends up being anything but, “Political Animals” is a massive misfire.

Enter the cage at your own risk.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Other Emmy-nominated miniseries/movies (2013):

– “American Horror Story: Asylum” (FX)

– “Behind the Candelabra” (HBO)

– “The Bible” (History)

– “Phil Spector” (HBO)

– “Political Animals” (USA Network)

– “Top of the Lake” (Sundance Channel)