The teaser ads made it look fascinating, and I tuned in gleefully the first night it was on. The first episode seemed a little flat, the writing pedestrian, the characters shallow, but it was after a lousy drive home on a Sunday night, so I gave it another chance.
Second week, no better. Here’s the set up. Elaine Hammond (Weaver) is the former wife of the former president, Bud Hammond (Hinds) and she is now the Secretary of State. We know who Elaine is supposed to be; Bud is channeling LBJ with a soupçon of Bubba Clinton thrown in. Bud is still chasing everything in sight and even manages to land Elaine at one point but only to get her to appoint him as the lead negotiator trying to free three journalists taken hostage in the Mid East.
But her motives aren't pure either. She’s decided to run for President against the guy who beat her last time and appointed her to State. She appointed Bud to rehabilitate his image and make her candidacy more viable.
The Hammonds also have twin sons. One works for her mother and is engaged to a feisty Asian woman. The other is gay, suicidal and intermittently coked out. Elaine's mother (Burstyn), a former lounge singer with more than a slight affection for the bottle, is also hanging around being caustic but not that funny.
Trailing them all is Susan Berg (Gugino), a smart, ambitious journalist who has made her career and won a Pulitzer for her coverage of the Hammonds. After gaining access to Bud’s negotiation with the Iranians, she is totally enamored of him. When he takes another woman on Air Force One into his cabin, she drags a guy that she dissed earlier into the bathroom to join the Mile High Club.
These characters are caricatures. The writing makes you appreciate exactly how talented Aaron Sorkin is. The plots are clap-trap. I feel badly for Sigourney Weaver – I hope she’s at least getting paid a lot for what the network has said is “a limited series.” But portraying her as a Modern Maturity sex symbol? C'mon.
I may watch it again just to see if it gets any better and only because I’m a sucker for political drama, even lousy ones. The network was right - this series will be very limited. You’d do a lot better with re-runs of "The West Wing."
Starf***er Bonus: When I was a lowly prep (freshman) at Hotchkiss, Chris Casler, an upperclassman in my dorm, would go on and on about this “woman” he knew named Sigourney. For years, I followed Ms. Weaver’s career, always wondering, even hoping, that they were one and the same. Years later I was introduced to Ms. Weaver at a party in New York. I immediately asked her if she knew a guy named Chris Casler. She looked at me a little more intently. “That’s a name I haven’t thought of in years. Yes, we used to write each other when we were in school.” Bullseye!