I found the pilot of Political Animals
very entertaining and worth watching, with a few nitpicks. Sigourney Weaver is fabulous (and the whole story is very much a love letter to Hillary Clinton, with arguably a "did you make a mistake, voters, in the primaries or what?" subtext/agenda), and I'm thrilled that the dynamic between Elaine the Secretary of Defense/former First Lady and Susan the journalist is indeed the central one and just the kind of "my best enemy" trope which female characters rarely, if ever, get. Where it ventures outside the Clinton precedents and adds characters it brings in the pure soap: as I suspected, Sebastian Stan as the gay son gets to practice his angry teary eyed stare, perfected from Kings
, a lot, though with the twist that his family is actually supportive of his sexuality. (Frivolous sidenote: someone should cast Stan and Hiddleston in roles where they can stare teary eyed and angrily at each other
. Fandom would then combust, not just for finding it hot but because of the dilemma of whom to woobifiy more
.) And of course the grandmother is the Tough Old Broad trope personified, etc. But the acting is good enough that all these archetypes come across as believable, and there are a lot of neat additions to keep from feeling stale, such as the two bodyguards, i.e. Elaine's and her ex husband Bud's, who have the most hilarious non-verbal eye contact conversations throghout. (And remind me of Vir and Lennier in their commiserating meetings on B5.) I totally s hip Elaine's Bodyguard/Bud's Bodyguard, I tell you.
Where I'm somewhat torn is on Ciaran Hinds as the former president
Bud. At first I thought, come on, if he's presented as that
much of an ass you make it unbelievable that she stuck it out with him for 30 years before divorcing him, show. Around the middle of the episode, however, Bud, until then a crass ole' boy philanderer cliché, got to show his political smarts and deliver an acute and as it turned out correct analysis of What Was Going On (plus he turned also out correct in his assessment of why his ex wanted him to come to the family meeting), and from that point onwards writing wise you could see why Elaine had stuck it out as long as she did, and why these two were still drawn to each other. Writing wise. But I'm still not sold on Hinds' performance, which surprises me because he's an excellent actor usually, and I loved his Captain Wentworth and his Caesar (talk about morally ambiguous leaders). I think the problem is that in this role he doesn't have the glib charm or the type of charisma that makes it believable this man made it to the top and despite scandals kept being reelected. It's an elusive quality, political charisma, and I'm speaking party-neutral here, similar but not identical to actor charisma, which is why sometimes you believe actors playing politicians and sometimes you don't. Incidentally, Adrian Pasdar in his so far brief appearances as
President Garcetti does have the right type of charisma to sell me on the idea he'd get voted into office. I'm not saying all politicians, fictional or real, have it. (Personal aside: I've heard a lot of political speeches and met a lot of politicians, mostly German but also some Americans. A lot of them were rather dull, independent on whether or not I agreed with their agendas; one was far nicer and interesting in person than he ever came acrross in the media, but it wasn't the type of quality than can come across in speeches because it depended on lengthy conversations; and precisely three had that weird type of charisma that compells you to listen to them talking, no matter what they talk about, laugh at their jokes and gets you to like them at least while they're around. A guy who was campaigning for DA in a parish in rural Lousiana when I was visiting a friend there, a German provincial politician whose party I'd never ever vote for, and, yes, Bill Clinton when he was in Munich years after his presidency and talked to German students with a free Q & A afterwards. If nothing else, his ability to quote Max Weber complete with mentioning the year and place of the book he was quoting from - Leipzig 1921 - in a debate would have impressed me, but it was really more than that, and dependent on a live speech and ensuing conversation, because on tv I had never been interested.) But Ciaran Hinds' character needs to have that quality, and so far, he doesn't, resembling if anyone Richard Nixon instead.
Still: whom you mainly have to believe in in order to enjoy the show is Sigourney Weaver's Elaine, and she exudes intelligence and charisma to spare. And really sparks off with Carla Guigino as her frenemy. So, more, please!
From thinly veiled RPF to respectable because it's Shakespeare RPF: transcript of a Q & A Richard Eyre, Sam Mendes and Simon Russell Beale did about The Hollow Crown
. Key passage, re: what got the reviewers upset: Eyre said it was important in portraying Falstaff that he did not represent the heart of Merry England, as some literary critics liked to argue. Beale said that you don’t make moral judgements on your characters, but that nevertheless Falstaff was – ironically – a little man, a pub bore, a shit. Eyre added that Hal and Poins are also shits.
The blog I found this on also has some fascinating transcriptions of actual historical document, such as a letter about Anne Boleyn's trial and execution written to her daughter Elizabeth I. after her accession in 1559 by a Protestant Scottish theologican who used to work for Cromwell for a while and fled when Henry VIII swung back to the Catholic (minus the Pope) side of the force. As the blogger notes, it's impossible to know what Elizabeth thought/felt about the fact her father killed her mother; she never spoke of Anne and often of Henry, but she favoured her Boleyn relations and had a ring which turned out to have a miniature portrait of Anne on the other side of a portrait of Elizabeth herself, which she wore all her life. If it's hard to guess - yet impossible to resist speculating - what she felt regarding Anne and Henry in general, it's even harder yet compelling to imagine what she felt when reading this letter, which includes the letter writer mentioning conversations he heard in his lodgings about Anne's trial, whether or not they thought she was guilty of adultery, and the question of Henry's behaviour, such as this passage about the immediate aftermath of Anne's execution: While the guests were thus talking at table in my hearing it so happened that a servant of Cromwell’s came from the court and sitting down at the table, asked the landlord to let him have something to eat, for he was exceedingly hungry.
In the meantime, while the food was being got ready, the other guests asked him what were his news? Where was the king? What was he doing? Was he sorry for the queen? He answered by asking why should he be sorry for her? As she had already betrayed him in secrecy, so now was he openly insulting her. For just as she, while the king was oppressed with the heavy cares of state, was enjoying herself with others, so he, when the queen was being beheaded, was enjoying himself with another woman.
While all were astonished and ordered him to hold his tongue, for he was saying what no one would believe, and that he would bring himself into peril if others heard him talking thus, he answered, “You yourselves will speedily learn from other persons the truth of what I have been saying.”
You can read the whole (well, nearly) letter here