TV

Netflix's "The Politician" Is Completely Insufferable

Ben Platt's golden vocals can't redeem this show from the pits of its own self-absorption.

This review contains spoilers.

What happens when you combine Glee's high school drama, American Horror Story's propensity for random acts of violence, and an already absurd 2020 electoral cycle?

You wind up with Ryan Murphy's The Politician, and it's just as pretentious, exhausting, and addictive as you'd expect.

The Politician has a lot going for it. It has the lovable, golden-voiced Ben Platt and the sweet Zoey Deusch as its stars, as well as Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, and a host of other Hollywood staples. It's extremely timely and very visually pleasing.

But here's the thing: The Politician is, for the most part, totally obnoxious.

Hollywood Reporter

The show tells the story of Payton Hobart, a high school senior whose sole objective in life is to become President of the United States. It doesn't seem that he wants to achieve anything in particular with this platform, and party politics are rarely mentioned except in passing. But Payton will stop at nothing to achieve this goal, and the first step to becoming President of the United States, according to his research, is being elected president of his high school.

Like most characters on the show, Payton is exorbitantly wealthy. Though shunned by his billionaire father, he's the beloved adopted child of Georgina Hobart (Paltrow). The Hobarts might be the show's wealthiest family, but almost all the characters are part of the upper-upper class, and their lives are defined by excess and entitlement. Even one of the "low-income" students—a subject of interest because he's an undecided voter—lives in a nice house with a pool.

Hollywood Reporter

Of course, all this wealth never translates to happiness, and the characters continually try to run away from their families, from emptiness, fakeness, and the looming terror of failing to live up to their potential. One of the characters runs away from home to New York City, and after seeing homeless people on the subway, she returns with a newfound perspective on what the "real world" is like.

Certainly Murphy and his team were trying to satirize the wealth and disconnect at the heart of modern politics; after all, billions of dollars are spent each election cycle, much of it funneled through major corporate establishments. In some way, the show succeeds in doing this, highlighting the prominence of scammers and our growing frustration with them, while also commenting on the pitfalls of authenticity. Still, any message that could've been communicated effectively here is damaged by the show's many plot holes.

Then there's the fact that its characters are extremely difficult to empathize with. No one on the show seems to actually care for each other, even in the smallest way. There's endless, convoluted backstabbing, and everyone uses each other to get something else.

Perhaps the most loving, genuine relationship on the show is between Payton and his mother. Though she clearly loves her son, Georgina's love is mostly communicated through mystical, quasi-deep asides. She's his biggest champion but also the kind of mom who encourages her son's selfishness by corroborating his already inflated sense of self-worth. (Fun fact: She's married to the show's co-creator, Brad Falchuk, who said he based Georgina on Paltrow herself).

VitalThrills.com

In the midst of all the relentless, pointless political competition (what school in this world has such intense elections?), there are moments of blinding tragedy. In the first few episodes, it's revealed that Payton once had a love affair with River, a sensitive, beautiful, Adonis-like lacrosse player who is running against him in the election. In an emotional speech during a debate, River speaks candidly about his prior suicide attempt and about his own feelings of crushing loneliness. An episode later, he shoots himself right in front of Payton, after saying, "I really did love you."

After that, River disappears for several episodes with few mentions, and politics as usual continues. (He eventually reappears as a ghostly manifestation of Payton's own suppressed emotions).

After River dies, his girlfriend, Astrid, decides to run in his place, and she picks one of the school's few black students as her running mate. The VP, Skye, later tries to assassinate Payton so she can take power—and while the show definitely critiques this kind of blunt, tasteless tokenization, it still takes part in it, giving its few cast members who are people of color precious little characterization and screen time.

Newsweek.com

This is just one of the many ways that the show feels removed from the modern era. It's supposed to be about Gen Z, but social media is remarkably absent from the show; political statistics are broadcast on slideshows and votes are counted with slips of paper. As many reviews have pointed out, the show feels firmly rooted in the perspective of someone in Gen X or even earlier.

The only character who seems remotely conscious is the late River, who says he feels like the world is ending in his tell-all speech. Aside from that, the show is simply a muddled approximation of teen life in 2019; it lacks any frank discussion of insecurity, fear, ennui, irony, and bitter humor that defines so much of the conversation among Gen Z, millennials, and most political discourse today. It's about politics, but its politicians stand for nothing. They protest issues like gun violence to get attention but have little to no actual connection to these things. While not all teens are politically active today, the ones that are—the Greta Thunbergs and Emma Gonzalezes—are checked in, to say the least. Everyone in this show is checked out and, other than Platt, excised of an inner life. Each character is a different kind of anxiety, shallowness, and competitiveness personified, and it gets old very quickly.

Maybe that's the point. Maybe the show's plot is a mirror of Payton's convoluted state of mind, or of the incoherence of living in the modern world. But from a viewer's perspective, the show lacks the creative vision and humor to pull itself together. Ostensibly, the entire series is about fakeness and performance, but it does as little as possible to puncture its own ballooned sense of self-importance.

If the show had the acerbic self-critical edge that shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia possess or the irreverence and strong characters of The Office, then it could've made for better television. Still, the narrative's downfall is its jumbled, soap-opera-like flair for the dramatic, which might also be what makes it so difficult to turn off.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there will be more seasons of The Politician, as each season supposedly will follow Payton as he runs in a different campaign. Season Two looks like it might be much more promising, as it'll leave behind the bubble of the characters' small town, focusing on Payton's race for (spoiler alert) New York state senator. If the show can leave behind its fixation on high school drama and focus more on the state of politics at large, it might actually be able to spin its jumbled plotlines into a more fulfilling whole.

Still, it's kind of a shame that Netflix would greenlight a show like this one (and give Ryan Murphy a $300 million deal) while canceling shows like The OA that actually had relevant and sincere things to say. Sure, Ben Platt's cover of Joni Mitchell's "River" is uncannily moving. But a simple Google search will take you to a treasure trove of Platt performances, and you need only to search through Goop to get your fix of Gwyneth Paltrow's character's sanitized, spiritual homemaker aesthetic.

River - Ben Platt www.youtube.com

The show is fast-paced, attractively filmed, and difficult to look away from—Murphy makes sure of that, keeping the shock factor alive, and this review barely touches on half of the show's highlights (which include musical theatre duets, a major plotline involving a girl whose grandmother poisons her, and attempted assassinations involving rodent gallbladders). But ultimately, it's as incoherent as your average scroll through Twitter, without any of the spicy discourse or diversity of opinion.

TV

Ben Platt Looks Fantastic in Netflix Trailer for "The Politician"

Ben Platt fans have a lot to look forward to.

Netflix

The trailer just dropped for Ryan Murphy's (Glee and American Horror Story, Pose) new Netflix series, The Politician, and one thing is certain: Ben Platt's going to kill it in the leading role.

Fans of Ben Platt have been looking forward to The Politician trailer for a while now. To movie-goers, Platt may be most recognizable as Benji Applebaum, the dweeby, magic-loving acappella singer from the Pitch Perfect series. But for Broadway enthusiasts, Platt is much better known for his Tony Award-winning performance in Dear Evan Hansen, for which he originated the titular role. On top of giving incredible vocal performances, Platt was lauded for imbuing an oftentimes unlikable character with deep humanity, playing Evan Hansen as neurotic and wholly sympathetic. He left the show in 2017, so the announcement that he was set to star in an upcoming Ryan Murphy-helmed Netflix series was incredibly exciting. You can finally check out the trailer here:

The Politician | Official Trailer | Netflix www.youtube.com

The Politician is set to follow Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), a wealthy kid from Santa Barbara with aspirations to become President of the United States. But if he wants to become the leader of the free world, first he needs to become president of his high school.

The show looks over-the-top and fraught with comedic drama, but even in the trailer Platt seems to bring a quiet sensitivity to his almost certainly morally ambiguous character. Platt has a proven knack for empathetically portraying quirky characters, so we're excited to see what he brings to this new role.

Platt will be starring alongside Jessica Lange (American Horror Story), Lucy Boynton (Bohemian Rhapsody), and Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop). The Politician premieres September 27 on Netflix.

TV

"American Horror Story's" 1984 Trailer Looks Like a "Stranger Things" Ripoff

AHS 9 seems to be taking a summery, nostalgic, cliché-filled turn.

AHS's 9th season will be called 1984—the year that's also the title of George Orwell's very famous and disturbingly prescient dystopian novel—and it'll take place at a lakeside oasis called Camp Redwood.

It seems that Ryan Murphy's going for a slightly sunnier depiction of the 1980s than Orwell's surveillance-heavy, totalitarian dystopia, though certainly there will be plenty of blood and gore to sate viewers' hunger for the uncanny in the new AHS season.

Image via AltPress

Some fans already have mixed feelings about this season, as it won't feature many of American Horror Story's most beloved cast members. Sarah Paulson will "not have a significant role," according to Variety, though she may have a cameo or two. Evan Peters and Billy Eichner also won't return. However, the Emma Roberts will be back, almost certainly playing a stuck-up character as always, along with Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy. (Perhaps it's for the best that Peters and Roberts won't have to be on set together, because after a seven-year relationship, the two broke up in March 2019). The show will also feature Billie Lourd, Cody Fern, John Carroll Lynch, Leslie Grossman, and Matthew Morrison (of Glee notoriety), as well as a bunch of overzealous teenagers who are impossible to tell apart, at least judging by the trailer's first few frames.

Considering all this, it looks like AHS is either getting desperate or going fully meta. With 1984, they're capitalizing on some of the oldest horror tropes in the book—ripping off Anna Wintour, Friday the 13th, and Orwell's titlebut the trailer doesn't suggest a resurgence of any of the elegance or intelligence that made the show's first few seasons so bone-chillingly good. While Murder House, Asylum, and Coven were incredibly timely, due to the way they deftly threaded topics like school shooters, mental illness, queerness, and feminism into hackneyed horror tropes, it's hard to see how 1984 will replicate the raw ambition and timely acuity of those seasons.

Instead, the show seems to be going for a, well, campy approach, one that makes fun of poorly made '80s B-movies and their perpetually masked, knife-wielding killers. Knowing AHS, there will be some hyper-serious, dramatic undercurrent woven throughout the whole thing; it'll either all be a movie set a la Roanoke or a hyper-realistic hallucination, or perhaps another commentary on the state of American politics or the gleeful clichés of '80s horror; but it's hard to imagine that the entire season could be a parody. Still, in this day and age, sometimes parody feels like one of the most intelligent and realistic forms of media, for at least it's self-aware of its own bullshit. If it is all a parody, then 1984 could be a complete disaster or (by some miracle) AHS's best work in years.

AHS goes 80sImage via Screen Rant

One other thing we know about 1984 is that it won't be American Horror Story's last season. Maybe it should be; since Coven, none of the seasons have lived up to the expectations set by the first three. While many of the concepts have been creative and impressive, the show has favored excessive gore and absurd, unrealistic, and hollow characters, foregoing the nuanced, flawed complexity of characters like Murder House's Tate Langdon and Asylum's Sister Jude. With Peters and Lange not returning, hopefully some of the new cast members will be able to carry the show as these actors did, but that seems unlikely given the fact that the writers seem to be creating simpler (and more annoying) characters each season.

As far as 1984 goes, it seems that we'll be taking a deep dive down the nostalgic path paved by Stranger Things, with a bit of the sunny hysteria of Midsommar to boot, though with fewer neon lights and flowers and lots more blood. Most likely, there will be murders in cabins and by campfires, murders on a lake, and murderers on the loose in the pines. It's hard to know if AHS will be able to exchange some of its reliance on shock value and for its initially spellbinding, supernatural magic, but time will tell.

American Horror Story Season 9 "Camp" Teaser Promo (HD) AHS 1984 www.youtube.com


TV

Women Lead the Emmys Noms: Beyonce, "Fleabag," and "Russian Doll" Sweep the List

This year's Emmys nominations favored female-created shows.

This year's Emmys nominations list has made headlines because many of the selected shows are actually really high-quality television.

It's noteworthy for another reason: Women (whether female actors, writers, creators, or otherwise) are at the forefront of the majority of the shows under consideration.

Leading the pack is Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the writer and creator of not one but two Emmy nominated shows: Killing Eve and Fleabag. Another show in talks for a win is Russian Doll, the breakout Netflix hit created by and starring Natasha Lyonne. Naturally, Beyoncé also scored six nominations for her Netflix Homecoming special.

Image via The Ringer

Not only do all these shows have female creators: they also star women above the age of 30. Amidst a Hollywood crowd that notoriously snubs this demographic, or writes them into restrictive roles, it's refreshing to see women so well-represented in the nominations list (which could perhaps use more diversity in general).

Don't worry, though: Men were still represented in this year's nominations. Craig Mazin's disaster drama Chernobyl scored 19 nominations, and Game of Thrones scored an incredible 32, despite terrible reviews of its last season. On the other hand, Julia Roberts was snubbed for her role in Veep, while Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and (thankfully) The Big Bang Theory received almost no recognition.

Whatever happens, this means that more people will be prompted to bask in the glory of Russian Doll, Fleabag, and Homecoming, and that's a blessing for everyone.

Here's the full list of nominees, via CNN:

Outstanding lead actor in a limited series or TV movie

Mahershala Ali, "True Detective"

Benicio del Toro, "Escape at Dannemora"

Hugh Grant, "A Very English Scandal"

Jared Harris, "Chernobyl"

Jharrel Jerome, "When They See Us"

Sam Rockwell, "Fosse/Verdon"

Outstanding lead actress in a limited series or TV movie

Amy Adams, "Sharp Objects"

Patricia Arquette, "Escape at Dannemora"

Aunjanue Ellis, "When They See Us"

Joey King, "The Act"

Niecy Nash, "When They See Us"

Michelle Williams, "Fosse/Verdon"

Outstanding lead actor in a comedy series

Anthony Anderson, "Black-ish"

Don Cheadle, "Black Monday,"

Ted Danson, "The Good Place"

Michael Douglas, "The Kominksy Method"

Bill Hader, "Barry"

Eugene Levy, "Schitt's Creek"

Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series

Christina Applegate, "Dead to Me"

Rachel Brosnahan, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"

Julia-Louis Dreyfus, "Veep"

Natasha Lyonne, "Russian Doll"

Catherine O'Hara, "Schitt's Creek"

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, "Fleabag"

Outstanding lead actor in a drama series

Jason Bateman, "Ozark"

Sterling K. Brown, "This is Us"

Kit Harrington, "Game of Thrones"

Bob Odenkirk, "Better Call Saul"

Billy Porter, "Pose"

Milo Ventimiglia, "This Is Us"

Outstanding lead actress in a drama series

Emilia Clarke, "Game of Thrones"

Jodie Comer, "Killing Eve"

Viola Davis, "How to Get Away With Murder"

Laura Linney, "Ozark"

Mandy Moore, "This Is Us"

Sandra Oh, "Killing Eve"

Robin Wright, "House of Cards"

Outstanding reality/competition series

"The Amazing Race"

"American Ninja Warrior"

"Nailed It"

"RuPaul's Drag Race"

"Top Chef"

"The Voice"

Outstanding variety talk series

"The Daily Show with Trevor Noah"

"Full Frontal with Samantha Bee"

"Jimmy Kimmel Live"

"Last Week Tonight with John Oliver"

"The Late Late Show with James Corden"

"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"

Outstanding limited series

"Chernobyl"

"Escape at Dannemora"

"Fosse/Verdon"

'Sharp Objects"

"When They See Us"

Outstanding comedy series

"Veep"

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"

"Barry"

"The Good Place"

"Fleabag"

"Russian Doll"

"Schitt's Creek"

Outstanding drama series

"Better Call Saul"

"Bodyguard"

"Game of Thrones"

"Killing Eve"

"Ozark"

"Pose"

"Succession"

"This Is Us"

Jessica Lange has announced that she's leaving American Horror Story after four dastardly seasons, but the diva isn't saying sayonara to the hit series without throwing a little shade first.

During a Q&A session at PaleyFest 2015, Ms. Lange was asked if news that Lady Gaga was joining the season five cast of AHS was enough to change her mind about quitting--and her reaction was absolutely priceless.

Lange paused with a slightly puzzled look on her face that quickly transitioned into a quiet bemusement.

"What does that mean?" she replied with a smirk. "I don't understand the question."

She then wagged her finger, shrugged her shoulders, pouted her lips, and rolled her head around in a circle before finishing with a murmured "hm."

Amazing.

Jessica Lange is leaving American Horror Story after four seasons on the Ryan Murphy executive-produced show.

As Popdust previously reported, here have been reports circulating for a while now that Jessica would not be returning, but she officially confirmed it at Paleyfest.

“I’m done,” she told the crowd, reports Variety. “We’ve had a great run here. I have absolutely loved doing these four characters that I’ve had the opportunity to play, and in all madness, I love the writers and Ryan and the insanity of shooting it.”

It's been a good run—Jessica won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for her fantastic work on the FX show. Poor Ryan Murphy will be upset, having done his utmost to convince her to stay:

“Before I was met with a really quick no and now I’m hearing, ‘Let’s keep talking.’ So that’s a promising sign," he previously told E! News. "I think if I presented her with the right character, it could work. That’s my hope. I’m sending bribes every day!"

Hey, Jessica might still change her mind!