By Evan Lambert
Like any other TV episode written and directed by Ryan Murphy, The Politician has one or two great lines, one or two great scenes, and one or two cool shots. Everything surrounding them is bullshit.
Has the man spread himself too thin by attempting to produce eight shows simultaneously? Has he tried too hard to spread his seed over the back of Netflix that he hasn’t stopped more than ten minutes to write decent TV? Like a good penis, his career has been long and productive, but it has choked his creativity while filling his wallet.
What if Murphy sat down and focused all his efforts into one creative project, without ceding writing duties or moving on to a new show? What would we get? Oh, that’s right: Popular, the first two seasons of Nip/Tuck, the first two seasons of Glee, the pilots of every American Horror Story season except #2 …
You know, good stuff.
After watching the pilot of The Politician, I couldn’t help but wonder: Did Murphy just come up with those aforementioned two great lines, then let an AI write the rest? Some of the conversations in this show are unlike any human conversations I’ve ever heard. For example, why would a Harvard admissions counselor ask an applicant if they’ve cried? As someone who’s actually been in a Harvard admissions interview, I can attest that those people only ask about your grades and the economy of China.
The Politician doesn’t have a consistent enough tone to justify those unrealistic conversations, which merely serve to establish and further the show’s themes. (By the way, those themes are: Superficiality versus Authenticity; Logic versus Feeling.) Parts of the episode feel true-to-life, while others don’t. It’s like listening to your sociopathic liar friend tell you about their trip to Mykonos.
But then there’s Ben Platt, who saves the whole endeavor. In the scene with the Harvard interviewer, Platt fills in the blanks of Murphy’s robotic writing with real, complex feeling. He’s probably the reason critics are calling this show “watchable.” (That’s like calling Guy Fieri’s food “edible” or Stephenie Meyer’s writing “readable.”)
The show’s satire of fabulously wealthy people is also great. And speaking of Gwyneth Paltrow, her character exudes just enough compassion to make you like her again. In fact, a Spanish friend of mine recently told me that people in Spain like her because she’s unapologetically rich. So perhaps the key to liking Gwyneth Paltrow has been to just switch our perspective.
That doesn’t make this a great show, though. Fucking Ryan Murphy, man.
Grade = B-