It’s re­ally a bit much

The Politi­cian is back for an­other run, but the snarky at­tacks get tire­some

Calgary Herald - - YOU - The Politi­cian Stream­ing, Net­flix HANK STUEVER

Last year’s polling data on the first sea­son of Ryan Mur­phy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Bren­nan’s Net­flix se­ries The Politi­cian came back some­what mixed, as it should have. This cyn­i­cally satir­i­cal se­ries, which charts the po­lit­i­cal rise-fall-rise cy­cle of an over­con­fi­dent young man named Pay­ton Ho­bart (Ben Platt) takes an all-too-easy theme (pol­i­tics is cor­rupt) and stretches it well past its use­ful­ness or comic po­ten­tial.

Ow­ing its tone and stylis­tic ap­proach to a chaotic blend­ing of Wes An­der­son, Tracy Flick and Selina Meyer (and speak­ing in Mur­phy and com­pany’s na­tive tongue of speed-sass), The Politi­cian has ap­par­ently ig­nored some of the vot­ers’ feed­back on sea­son 1.

The show needs fewer char­ac­ters but has in­stead added more in sea­son 2, which is now stream­ing. Rather than sharpen its clever­est ideas, it un­leashes sev­eral more half-thought scan­dalous sub­plots.

It’s pos­si­ble to watch The Politi­cian and not know whether its take on pol­i­tics is meant to be mean­ing­ful and rel­e­vant or — and this may be the bet­ter way to en­joy it — com­pletely and coldly mean­ing­less.

Let us fall back, then, to the show’s only sure de­fence: It’s a com­edy. In that re­gard, there are plenty of campy plea­sures here. Af­ter Pey­ton’s high school po­lit­i­cal ca­reer ended in tat­ters, he landed at New York Uni­ver­sity at the end of sea­son 1, hap­pily apo­lit­i­cal un­til his toad­ies (Laura Drey­fuss and Theo Ger­maine) con­vinced him to run against an in­cum­bent state se­na­tor, Dede Stan­dish (Ju­dith Light). The sec­ond sea­son picks up there.

There’s no un­der­stat­ing the way Light’s pres­ence (along with Bette Mi­dler as Hadas­sah Gold, Dede’s con­niv­ing chief of staff ) lifts The Politi­cian. Pay­ton and his ad­vis­ers im­me­di­ately take to New York-style dirty pol­i­tics, up­set­ting Dede’s am­bi­tions to join a Texas se­na­tor’s pres­i­den­tial ticket.

But ev­ery­thing that first seemed smart, snarky and on-point about The Politi­cian be­gins to wear thin; the jokes that it makes — as well as the con­tem­po­rary real-life de­ba­cles it lam­poons — are too eas­ily made.

As with last sea­son, The Politi­cian is at its best in an episode about the ac­tual vot­ers who ex­ist far out­side of the cam­paign war rooms. Last sea­son, The Voter was a deeply apo­lit­i­cal teenage boy who cared lit­tle for the school elec­tion bat­tles around him.

This sea­son, The Voter episode smartly ze­ros in on the

“OK boomer” di­vide shap­ing up be­tween gen­er­a­tion Z vot­ers and their el­ders.

When at last the show seems ex­hausted by its own shenani­gans, it finds a way to put Platt (the Broad­way mu­si­cal star) be­hind a bar­room pi­ano and have him show­tune his lungs out. Mo­ments of re­flec­tion and reck­on­ing are too lit­tle, too late; they’re also the show’s clum­si­est scenes.

The Wash­ing­ton Post


Ben Platt plays Pay­ton Ho­bart in The Politi­cian, a po­lit­i­cal satire that has grown to be chaotic in its sec­ond sea­son.

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