- Wrapping our heads around The Politician
- Living for the J. Lo moment. (J. Loment)
- Employing our fashion expertise.
- The best Emmys photos.
- Wendy Williams has not seen Fleabag.
The Politician, the new Ryan Murphy series that hits Netflix on Friday, is a simple show. A boy named Payton, played by Ben Platt, wants to be class president and, one day, president of the United States.
Well, there’s that. There’s also a bisexual love triangle, a suicide, a staged kidnapping, a murder investigation, Gwyneth Paltrow having an affair with Martina Navratilova, a deaf school principal, a whistleblower with cerebral palsy, a poisoning through cupcakes, a poisoning via BB gun, a staging of the musical Assassins, January Jones as a pill-popping former hooker, a performance of Joni Mitchell’s “The River,” a throuple featuring Judith Light, and a ghost mentor/therapist.
And that’s all not to mention Jessica Lange’s role as a grandmother with Munchausen-by-proxy who poisons her granddaughter and tells her she has cancer.
That The Politician does SO MUCH is its fatal flaw, because scaled back to its core, to that simple logline, it is legitimately fascinating and provocative. Given the state of the world and the kind of behavior that isn’t just excused, but rewarded—and given who is, ahem, sitting in the White House—what kind of person would want to be a politician? What kind of ambition does that take? What does ambition mean, or require, in 2019? And what about us: What moral compromises are we willing to justify so that we don’t have to be leaders ourselves? It’s cynical and optimistic in warring ways that feel just about right given the mood of today.
It’s a shame that’s essentially drowned in the flood of constant lunacy. It’s tonally all over the place. Respective elements of it are intriguing and occasionally fantastic. Platt is a captivating actor, capable of both Election-like camp and emotional rawness in equal measure. The storyline between him and Paltrow, who plays his mother, is remarkably tender, elevated all the more by the Oscar-winner’s stirring performance. And no one does big comedy with dame-like flair more skillfully than Jessica Lange.
But that the show doesn’t seem to know what it is becomes clearer as the episodes continue and actors whose plot lines never meet—like Paltrow and Lange—seem to think they are in entirely different shows. Paltrow is acting with the grounded sincerity of someone on a Murphy show like American Crime Story. Lange is doing broad, satirical work straight out of Glee. The large ensemble falls on the spectrum in between.
The truly remarkable thing, however, is that for how mixed and meh I feel about the series, I could not be more excited for a Season Two. The standout final episode of the show sets up a Season Two featuring Platt, Light, and Bette Midler. Other critics have wondered why the series didn’t just start there.
And that’s what makes this show such a captivating test case. Of the many reasons I’m obsessed with the series—hello, did you catch that part about Paltrow and Martina Navratilova?—the biggest is that its existence provides a window into what may be the next stage of television, at a time when the medium is in a curious stage of transition.
The Politician is Ryan Murphy’s first Netflix series, and he now has a massive $300 million deal with the streamer. The series is the first example of how a slew of celebrated TV auteurs will take advantage of the seemingly free rein and bottomless bank accounts they have access to while transitioning from networks to streaming services. (Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris’ first shows under their respective, massive Netflix deals have yet to air.)
With the streaming service apocalypse nigh—Apple TV+, HBO Max, and Disney+, oh my!—the ways in which these major names adapt to the new landscape is fascinating in its own right. And with The Politician especially, imperfect as it is, every decision, from the casting to the camera work to the tone and the themes merit dissection. From that standpoint, the show is as addicting as series get; it’s interesting to see what Murphy produces when the intention is to binge.
Is messy the new norm? Will people watch anyway? With so much content racing toward us, and as expensive and expensive-looking as that content is, is a series’ mere ambition and the promise of an interesting season two enough to merit endorsement? In the case of The Politician, we’re surprising even ourselves by voting yes.
I cannot express to you how thrilling the Jennifer Lopez MOMENT we are having is for me. Her accolades for Hustlers? As moving to me as when I met my baby nephews for the first time. That she could win an Oscar? Sweet, sweet vindication for someone who loved every batshit second of The Boy Next Door and watched it twice in theaters, accounting for two of the three film screenings I bought tickets to that year. That, somehow, the news about her has somehow gotten even more exciting? I could cry.
First came the iconic moment that was her walking the runway at a Versace show in Milan in a replica of the jungle-print gown she wore to the Grammy Awards 20 years ago. It wasn’t even that she looked so jaw-droppingly stunning in the dress, at age 50, or that she had the showbiz wisdom to celebrate the anniversary in that way. It’s the way she wore it. (Watch it here.)
What I can’t stop swooning over in the video is that not only did she wear the dress, but she also worked the runway like that. She didn’t just come out with a knowing smile and wave at the audience while teetering around getting applause. She treated that runway walk like a job. Perfection.
And if you think I’m being histrionic about any of this, well, gird your loins, babe, you’re not ready for my ecstatic mania over the news that Lopez will be performing the Super Bowl Halftime Show alongside Shakira. That is how you book a show, football people in charge of such things, whoever you are. I am not overselling it when I say that Lopez ranks among the most dynamic live performers in the business, whatever you may think about her music. (Want proof? Watch this video.)
That this will be taking place two days before Oscars voting ends is just *chef’s kiss* magnificent. When her Best Supporting Actress competition is out shaking hands and answering bland questions at screening Q&As, Lopez will be setting the stage on fire on the biggest entertainment event of the year. Will such a blazing reminder of her breadth of talents win her an Oscar? Well, it won’t hurt…
I am not a fashion reporter, know nothing about labels and designers, and abjectly have no sense of style. But I am gay!!! So take it with that authority that I pronounce Mandy Moore’s red-carpet look at this year’s Emmys to be Best Dressed. I love it! She looks great! Sexy high-fashion first lady is a sensational look on her. Good for you, Mandy!
Speaking of the Emmys…
The combination of these two photos taken after Fleabag swept the night, the first of creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the second of co-star Andrew Scott partying with A Very English Scandal winner Ben Whishaw, just about killed me.
And Speaking of Fleabag…
Wendy Williams does not know what that is. Hey, not everyone has Amazon Prime. I don’t know why, but this video makes me laugh so much. (Watch it here.)
What to watch this week:
Judy: What Renée Zellweger does in this film is astonishing.
Sorry for Your Loss: I bet you didn’t know Facebook had an original series, or that it’s this good.
Abominable: It looks cute!
Transparent Musicale Finale: Judith Light sings a song called “Your Boundary Is My Trigger.” Out of its mind.
What to skip this week:
Transparent Musicale Finale: On the other hand, sometimes out of its mind is just out of its mind.