Sunday, July 29, 2012

TV: Eating off his what?

"I'm just sick of it all," declares Sigourney Weaver on Political Animals.  "That's what's going on.  I'm sick to death of the bulls**t and the egos and of the men.  I am sick of the men.  Just one time, just once, I would like to accomplish something in this city without having to spend all of my energy  navigating the short sighted, seflish, self-involved and oh-so fragile male egos that suck up all the oxygen in this town."

 political animals

It's in those a-ha moments, when Weaver's Elaine Barrish vocalizes what so many have felt, that the six episode mini-series is at its strongest.  A blend of political/social commentary, humor and soap, the focus is on Secretary of State Barrish. She was First Lady Hammond in the 90s but she divorced her husband, former-President Bud Hummand (Ciaran Hinds) following the 2008 election.

After the 2008 election?  If you're not already thinking "Hillary Clinton," Elaine ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and lost to Paul Garcetti.

Following the loss, she campaigns with Garcetti in a scene which finds Adrian Pasdar dancing across the stage, leaving Elaine to say, "With that fine, round butt, I'd grab on to his 'campaign' too."  Oh, wait, that was us.  We're guessing it was also us, and not Elaine Barrish, saying, "Damn that Natalie Maines is so lucky." 

But Elaine does say a great deal and with much more than words.  The biggest message from the character is life isn't fair but you keep moving.

In that regard, you can consider it The Hillary Clinton Story.  And this mini-series, produced by Greg Berlanti, Laurence Mark and Sarah Caplan, goes a long way towards explaining how someone like Hillary Clinton could overlook the worst attacks in a campaign and go to work for her rival's administration.

As the one who shouldn't have won but did, Pasdar plays Garcetti as frivolous and fun except when Elaine's eyes fall on him.  In those moments, the spirit and life seems to leave Garcetti, as though he's been found out yet again as a poser.  Bud repeatedly notes that Elaine should be president and the lack of balance or integrity in the media, noting that Garcetti "had the press eating off his nut sack."

That sort of favoritism is all around, isn't it?

It was to be found on NPR's All Things Considered last week.  Audie Cornish apparently doesn't understand what it means to be objective.

If you missed it, US President Barack Obama spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday.  GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke to the VFW on Tuesday.  Don Guyia attended both events and spoke to Cornish about them.  On Monday's broadcast all Audie wanted to know about was Barack and what he saidOn Tuesday, she played a different role.  She suddenly wanted to talk about "accusation"s and "accusing" done by Romney.  She wanted to try to fact check Romney and she wanted, at the end of the segment (as she knew) when there was no time (ibid), to suddenly ask if he had a plan?

Gonyea was curious as well.  Has the White House been leaking, as Romney stated?  Gonyea could only use the term "he states."  If you're going to go there, if you're going to determine the truth, then do your damn job.  Online at NPR, Frank James was able to in a blog post.

But can someone explain why two people giving campaign speeches -- that's what they were -- to the VFW get treated differently by the same talk show host (Audie Cornish)?  Why with one she has no desire to question claims or to offer anything negative, not even negative verbs, but with the other she seems to think a simple speech requires her to go bat s**t crazy?

It's very rare that you're ever provided with such a clear case of bias.

Both men gave speeches.  Both men spoke to the same group of people.  Both men were treated differently by Audie Cornish.

Some apologists for NPR might rush in to say, "But Mitt Romney attacked Barack Obama in his speech!"

It was a campaign speech.  That's what happens.  It's what Barack did as well.

You could have listened to All Things Considered from start to finish Monday and Tuesday and never heard that Barack attacked Romney.  Audie made sure you knew that Romney attacked Barack.  But what she refused to notice others did. Think Progress is nothing but a Democratic Party Organ.  It is not the press.  On Monday, its web site was trumpeting "National Security Brief: Obama Attacks Romney On Foreign Policy" which opened with, "President Obama attacked Mitt Romney for his lack of foreign policy credentials yesterday during a speech to the VFW."

But Audie wasn't interested in that and, again, All Things Considered listeners never heard about it.  If you're going to say Romney attacked Barack, might you need to note that he was responding to an attack issued by Barack the day prior?

You would need to if you cared about journalism.  You would if you gave a damn about the way you were seen.  But when you're "eating off his nut sack" -- like Audie Cornish does -- it never occurs to you.

The bias was never clearer on NPR then when Audie opened her mouth on Tuesday.  And never one to pass up a meal served on a nut sack, NPR's Ari Shapiro raised the VFW speeches on the first hour of Friday's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) and mentioned Mitt Romney "accused" Barack but failed to mention the attacks from Barack.  It's a curious but telling way NPR has repeatedly attempted to 'interpret.'

 It's curious the way some of the Water Cooler Set have received Political Animals.  When we read garbage by Verne Gay of Newsday, we tend to wonder if Sigourney were Stan and he was making similar observations, wouldn't Verne be a lot more comfortable and hasn't he been in the past?  In other words, isn't his real problem with the mini-series the fact that a woman's at the center of it?   Gay should consider himself lucky that the Water Cooler Set is so deeply uninformed -- meaning whenever you think you've touched bottom, there's still lower to go.  For example, David Hiltbrand of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

We're not sure if Hiltbrand watched the mini-series he's reviewing or if he's just that much of an idiot.  Maybe you can help us?  He wrote this:  "But from the opening seconds, when a fake TV news anchor identifies her as a 'feminist liberal icon,' the plot and the script draw inescapable parallels."

Do you see the problem?

That anchor was played by . . . Andrea Mitchell.  As most Americans know, she is a journalist for NBC and the anchor of Andrea Mitchell Reports.

How do you write about TV and not recognize Andrea Mitchell?  How do you write about TV and not recognize Andrea Mitchell when, as Andrea's onscreen in Political Animals, it says at the bottom left corner "Andrea Mitchell Reports"?

When you can't get that fact correct, it sort of discredits all that you write.

Journalists get discredited in Political Animals.  There's Carla Gugino's Susan Berg who's seen by some as Maureen Dowd; however, Susan has a very active sex life and a few brain cells which appears to put her far ahead of Dowd.

Berg also has a major case of Kill Mommy.  In the 90s, she wrote about Bud's affairs and many pieces then and since slamming Elaine.  And then, she's dealt a blow similar to what she first attacked Elaine for and the two seem to reach an understanding.  Elaine gives her a big break by putting her on a plane with Bud who's going to negotiate with the President of Iran.

But the Kill Mommy urge isn't gone.  The ride back home finds Susan dismayed that Bud is taking a young woman into the plane's private quarters.  And you might excuse it as concern for Elaine's feelings and dismiss the sexual dynamics between Bud and Susan except, immediately after that, Susan is grabbing a male reporter she's repeatedly blown off, hauling him into the airplane's bathroom and having sex with him.

And Susan does have her Dowd moments.  For example, given a sit-down with Bud right before the former president meets with the Iranian president and needing to prove herself since she's ended her affair with her editor, Susan blows it by kicking things off with a question about his affairs.  It's an accurate portrayal of a press that, for example, repeatedly refused to inform the American people that last Sunday the Islamic State of Iraq released a recording which promised attacks on the United States within US borders.  "Dowd moments" probably characterizes the press better than any other term these days.  Maybe Susan's editor is having them too? After all, he's not only living with her when he supervises her work, he also cheats on her with another woman who blogs for the paper, a woman whose work he also supervises.  Best of all, Berg won a the big journalism award for her trashy prose written in a faux detached and jaded manner.  We're hard pressed to think of a more accurate critique of the Pulitzers.

Accurate includes the notes that Ellen Burstyn hits as Elaine's mother Margaret.  For the last 12 years, the Academy Award winning actress has surprised with each role and Margaret Barrish is another strong credit on her resume.  She's part of a very strong supporting cast which also includes Sebastian Stan and James Wolk as Weaver's two sons TJ and Douglas.


This is the second time Wolk (above) has worked with Weaver.  The two previously appeared in the film You Again.  That may be part of the reason for the easy, relaxed relationship between Elaine and Douglas.  It's far different from the relationship with troubled son TJ (who has a drug addiction, has attempted suicide and cannot be trusted with money).

Political Animals airs and on the USA Network -- and streams at its website and you can also stream it at Hulu.  The strong acting and writing should call you to it anytime but, tonight. if you watch it on TV, you'll see an outstanding performance from Vanessa Redgrave.  Yet as amazing as Redgrave is, the third episode is another where Sigourney Weaver gets to shine.  Very few roles have given her the chance to demonstrate the range she does here.  Very few roles ever give any actress this kind of opportunity.  Whether you watch TV or catch programs via the internet, make a point to check out Political Animals

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