More TV I Like: Political Animals and Bunheads, pre-finales


Bunheads got renewed, hurrah! I finally caught up on last week’s episode, which unfortunately was as disappointing as advertised. All of the characters were written to be the cartoonish parody versions of themselves, acting more like escapees from a painful Saturday Night Live sketch than actual human beings. (Fanny injuring students — really? All of the girls losing their brains and/or voices when faced with boys who maybe liked them — really? Michelle and the interminable saga of the coffee shop… I mean, there were literally at least four pratfalls in this episode, with the falling student, the falling Ginny, and Michelle’s double coffee-shop knockout, which is at least three pratfalls too many for any television series that isn’t an improv comedy show.)

Michelle and Sasha’s talk near the end was great and perfectly in line with the show’s failure-and-regret strengths, but that was one minute of good versus 44 of bad. But let’s focus on the positive — a surprise renewal, which hopefully will mean a much better balance of good-to-bad in tomorrow’s finale and future episodes.

I’m hoping for a similar ratings reprieve for Political Animals, the other summer show I’m watching and mostly enjoying. The good:

-Sigourney Weaver plays Hillary Clinton as the badass she’s so publicly become these days. Some of the best parts of the show are watching Weaver’s Secretary of State character handle international crises while navigating internal White House politics and personalities.

-Carla Gugino plays an actually believable veteran journalist who manages to be both professionally competent and an occasional screwup in her personal life without ever “slipping on a banana peel" or forgetting how email works (take notes, Aaron Sorkin). I don’t buy her massive, massive lapse of judgment in last week’s episode, but — focusing on the positive here!

-The newsroom of Gugino’s paper actually somewhat resembles an actual newsroom, complete with at least a token nod to the importance of blogging and online publication in the 2012 media universe.

-The relationships, especially the non-romantic professional ones, are wonderfully complex. I’m not enthralled by the Gugino-editor-blogger triangle, but I really enjoy Gugino’s interactions with the younger blogger. She’s a personal and a professional threat, but also an inexperienced journalist who needs Gugino’s mentoring, and also a colleague who has some information Gugino needs and who will withhold it unless she gets to share the byline. Like the wary relationship between Gugino’s character and Weaver’s character, there are a lot of nuances and the show takes the time to at least nod to most of them. (I wish the show would focus on them and drop some of the tedious gay-suicidal-addict son shame-spiral, but again - focusing on the positive.)

Political Animals has its finale tonight at 10. It has yet to be renewed, so my fingers are crossed for another Bunheads miracle, if only so I don’t spend all of next summer only inside Sorkin’s newsroom.