surprised no one has figured out payton may be a sociopath when he drinks orange juice straight out the bottle pic.twitter.com/tSMQe0Njqy
— The Politician (@the_Politician) October 2, 2019
Netflix’s latest comedy-drama series “The Politician” is a satirical exaggeration of 21st century campaign tactics used in a high school election. The core idea of a political satire set in a high school is a brilliant idea given today’s current political climate; however, the creative team lacked any politics at all, unless you count the brief support for banning plastic straws. While I cannot deny that I was thoroughly entertained by the idyllic and glamorous world of St. Sebastian High School of Santa Barbara, California, I felt the writers wasted the potential of creating a landmark series that perfectly encapsulates modern American politics. Show creator and Emmy Award winner, Ryan Murphy, has given audiences many critically acclaimed titles including “American Horror Story,” “Glee,” “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” to name a few. This work, however, lacks the same power presented in his earlier writing.
The series follows Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), a wealthy and ambitious high school senior from the affluent hills of Santa Barbara, whose goal is to be none other than the president of the United States. Since the age of seven, Payton has planned every moment of his life to ensure his spot as leader of the free world, and the first box on his to-do list is being voted student body president of St. Sebastian High School. At his side, he has his loving First Lady, Alice Charles (Julia Schlaepfer) and cut-throat campaign team, McAfee Westbrook (Laura Dreyfuss) and James Sullivan (Theo Germaine). At home, his charming and glamorous mother, Georgina Hobart (Gwyneth Paltrow) is his number one supporter.
The series includes the intertwining sub-plots of numerous other characters and their lives that create confusion and distract from the main plotline. This is most notable in the character Infinity Jackson (Zoey Deutch), a fellow high school student seemingly stricken with cancer who’s being kept sick by her grandmother, Dusty (Jessica Lange). While I cannot deny the impeccable performances of Deutch and the more notable Lange, who shone despite her secondary role, the story seemed too similar to Hulu’s recent drama, “The Act,” which also portrayed Munchausen syndrome by proxy. While this is a topical mental illness, I honestly could have done without.
The saving grace of this series was the phenomenal and star-studded cast assembled to tell our hero’s story. Ben Platt, most known by America as “that guy who does magic in ‘Pitch Perfect,’” is no stranger to playing emotionally troubled teens, as he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for originating the titular role in “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway. Now playing Payton, Platt perfectly portrays the character’s motivation and cold heart, while still making audiences love his character. In my opinion, there is no greater feat than an actor who can make you love a character you really should hate. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange also steal the spotlight from a show centered around high school teens. Paltrow brings great depth to her outwardly shallow role as a wealthy housewife, while Lange commands every scene she is in as the embodiment of the trailer park “Nana.”
While there are some overall issues with writing, this show is perfect for anyone looking for a fall binge as an escape from the gritty reality of midterms, and at the very least to hear Ben Platt sing his heart out. I wouldn’t hold my breath for any Emmy Awards coming their way, but I can assure you I’ll be the first to watch season two next fall.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.