There's plenty to spark interest in Netflix's new series 'The Politician', which lands on the streaming service today. It's from TV juggernaut Ryan Murphy, the man behind a rake of hit shows including 'Glee', 'American Horror Story', 'Pose', 'The People v OJ Simpson' and more. The one and only Gwyneth Paltrow has a role in it, along with Bette Midler and Jessica Lange and a whole host of other fantastic rising stars.
'The Politician' follows Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), a wealthy student from Santa Barbara, California who has wanted to become the President of the United States since the tender age of seven-years-old. To achieve this he has laid out a meticulous life plan which begins with him becoming class president of his High School, but the best-laid plans and all that.
It's rare to watch a show that feels so utterly underwhelming for the majority of it and yet will have you totally hooked by the end. Yes, 'The Politician' is entertaining for the most part and at times feels like it could be 2019's answer to Reese Witherspoon's 'Election'. A sharp, satirical series about how power corrupts, it's jam-packed with scene-stealing performances and a diverse (ish) cast playing characters who aren't afraid to embrace all elements of their sexuality. It's also wonderfully refreshing to see non-binary characters on screen who are not defined by the fact. It's not part of their character arc it's simply who they are and who even cares because there's an election to win.
The problems with 'The Politician' is that it tries to jam in far too much in this first season. There are subplots galore, some that pay off more than others, but its lack of focus means you struggle to truly care at all about our protagonist. There's an entire episode, albeit a short one, halfway through that's focused on a random new character who is ''The Voter" that is not half as entertaining as it could have been and loses the pace of the season entirely.
The tone sometimes shifts unexpectedly and at times it feels like it's not quite fully embracing the satirical nature of the series and at other times it tries too hard. There's a particularly strange conversation between Gwyneth Paltrow's character Georgina and her husband (Bob Balaban) where she talks like a teenager to him about the relationship "bumming her out" and I guess it's supposed to be funny but it's just not. At the same time, Georgina's character seems to perfectly poke fun at Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP lifestyle and she easily steals all her scenes.
The show gears you up completely to be about one thing, and then shifts course half-way through leaving you feeling a bit deflated and annoyed you bothered to invest in it. But... stick with it. The final episode gives a peek at just how good this show can be and really felt more like an opening episode of season 2 than any sort of epilogue. It makes you feel like it was worth investing in these characters and suddenly the tone, the satire, all of it, clicks into place.
The plan for 'The Politician' is that each season will revolve around a different political race our candidate Payton is involved in. The point, you can only assume, is to take him right up to the White House. An idea that will leave you unenthused for the majority of season one, but chomping at the bit before by the time the final credits roll.
Payton for President? He may just have our vote.