THE POLITI­CIAN DIF­FI­CULT TO EN­DORSE

Edmonton Sun - - SHOWBIZ - HANK Stuever The Politi­cian (eight episodes) is now stream­ing on Net­flix.

What some folks wouldn’t give to have the in­stincts — to say noth­ing of the tim­ing — of tele­vi­sion im­pre­sario Ryan Mur­phy.

His knack for an­tic­i­pat­ing the zeit­geist is matched by an en­ter­tain­ing tal­ent for own­ing the ob­vi­ous — hor­ror-movie tropes, picke­dover scan­dals, sin­is­ter soror­i­ties or even the showy emo­tions that pro­vide the fan­tasy fuel for gen­der­bend­ing dance com­pe­ti­tions and knives-out glee club con­certs.

All Mur­phy has to do these days is merely con­firm his next big project and the world halts briefly on its axis to again ad­mire his moxie. (Beanie Feld­stein as Mon­ica Lewin­sky in the next Amer­i­can Crime Story — why, it’s bril­liant al­ready, and no one will even see it for an­other year. Insert a row of ex­cla­ma­tion points here. Heck, insert an­other row.)

His se­cret, I think, is just to let go and let the idea run wild, roughshod if nec­es­sary, with what­ever bor­rowed styles and pop-cul­tural ref­er­ences will get the job done. Let other pro­duc­ers and writ­ers rooms fret about whether an idea is too pat or too over the top. In Mur­phy’s world, the au­di­ence and crit­ics will ei­ther even­tu­ally come around (wit­ness Billy Porter’s lead ac­tor tri­umph at the Em­mys last month for Mur­phy’s FX drama Pose) or, at min­i­mum, ap­plaud the ef­fort. That’s why it’s such a big deal that Mur­phy and his col­lab­o­ra­tors have moved oper­a­tions to Net­flix, push­ing their new ideas for­ward while still tend­ing to the valu­able fran­chises (Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story, 9-1-1) they cre­ated at FX and Fox.

The Politi­cian, a darkly comic, eight-episode drama about a kid (Broad­way star Ben Platt) con­vinced of his des­tiny to be­come U.S. pres­i­dent, firmly plants Mur­phy’s flag on Net­flix’s mon­eyed turf.

Co-cre­ated by two of Mur­phy’s most trusted col­lab­o­ra­tors (Brad Falchuk and Ian Bren­nan), the se­ries is a deeply cyn­i­cal and un­for­tu­nately su­per­cil­ious re­stat­ing of an old Wash­ing­ton cliche, that pol­i­tics is re­ally just high school and vice versa.

The tone and look of the se­ries feel at first like a heavy ap­ing, bor­der­ing on theft, of film direc­tor Wes An­der­son’s fas­ci­na­tion with preter­nat­u­rally gifted teen am­bi­tion, a la Rush­more, and one-per­center en­nui, a la The Royal Te­nen­baums. (For an echo ef­fect, Mur­phy has roped one of those Te­nen­baums, Gwyneth Pal­trow, into play­ing the young politi­cian’s dot­ing mother.)

A dog-pil­ing of other in­flu­ences seem to come and go: Heathers, Clue­less, Elec­tion, one or two Bret Eas­ton El­lis nov­els, the orig­i­nal ver­sion of House of Cards and the cal­lous­ness of Veep, for starters. Some­how, it’s all in here, a mash-up of dead­pan vibes and manic melo­drama made brighter and pret­tier: all the best parts, un­der­lined to death. The re­sult is both ir­ri­tat­ing and fun, a feel­ing that has be­come some­thing of a Mur­phy hall­mark.

NET­FLIX

Gwyneth Pal­trow plays Ben Platt’s on­screen mother in Ryan Mur­phy’s new se­ries, The Politi­cian.

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