There’s something fascinating about Ryan Murphy and how he is able to create or produce, shows that are socially relevant and made at the right time. The timely arrival of Glee, the phenomenon that is American Horror Story, the true-crime obsession of American Crime Story and the wonderfully important Pose are just a few examples of how Murphy seem to just know what the audience wants and when. His latest creation, his first one under his new overall deal with Netflix, The Politician reunites him with his frequent contributors Brad Falchuck and Ian Brennan. But if The Politician tries to be a commentary on today’s world, it’s packaging into a funny and witty dramedy more often the none fails to hit the mark. The show ends up getting lost in its own narrative and tries way too hard to be too many things.
Starring Tony Award winner Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen, Pitch Perfect) as Payton Hobart, an ambitious high school senior who only has one goal in life: to become President of the United States, The Politician never truly knows how to handle everything it wants to be. At times trying to be a comedy, then a drama and sometimes borderline becoming satire, the show runs through its premise so far that you are left with almost nothing, repeating it’s point over and over. It’s not by its fault of trying to spin things around but the repetition of its subject becomes quite evident once you get past the first few episodes. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not entertaining, because if there’s one thing Murphy knows how to do is to be entertaining.
Providing a solid case for Platt to become one of the most sought after leading men, The Politician relies a lot upon him making Payton likeable. And if it wasn’t for him, maybe the show would have been even more of a train wreck. He has the ability to make a character like Payton, who is borderline on the psychopathy scale, likeable and someone we root for. He leads the cast with a strong arm and sells Payton’s struggles with an ease that you wouldn’t expect from someone who has never really lead its own television show. While the rest of the cast is strong, particularly Zoey Deutch (Flowers, Set It Up) as Infinity, a student with cancer who becomes Payton’s running mate, none are quite as strong as Pratt.
Like it’s often the case in Murphy’s work, the show struggle with the fact that it spreads its premise to thin. With a large assemble who all become more and more important, the show can never truly come back to the beauty of its pilot. If the first episode mostly focused on Payton, the show diverges and tries to tell too many stories. This means that the show finds itself telling stories that never feel necessary and important. They help establish the side characters, the people who are in Payton’s orbit but takes away from Payton and his story. The show becomes a cluster of different stories that don’t seem to fit together no matter how hard the writers try. It brings the showdown and makes it’s very convoluted, even impossible to follow at times. The show tries so hard to be relevant and often tries to be maybe too relevant. It just fails to give a commentary on today’s world, it tries but doesn’t have anything new to say and that’s a shame.
The show, should it get many seasons, would follow Payton has he runs different campaigns throughout his life, possibly leading to his Presidential campaign. This makes me forgive the fact that almost none of these actors are passable as teenagers. It’s forgiving because it’s easy to assume that the same cast will be kept. If you are able to look past that, then you can enjoy the show a lot more. Because the strongest part of the show is its wide cast of characters. All of them are unique, creating a universe that feels lived in. That is something that Murphy knows how to do so well, developing characters that are really interesting and often are better than the show. The Politician might not be perfect but the characters that inhabit the show help create a show that is better then it would normally be.
The Politician continues Ryan Murphy’s trend of being socially relevant, this time with commentary on politics and today’s world. While it does fail at times and often spread itself too thin, it’s world and characters make up for the inconsistent tone and convoluted story. It might not be perfect, but it’s entertaining enough to want to see more of it.