The Politician: Ryan Murphy tackles politics, teen angst in uneven Netflix show


New Netflix show The Politician isn't just for political junkies. It's for anyone who likes smart dramedies that tackle current themes. For the political satire, available on Sept. 27, uber-producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) captures the tribulations of a group of precocious Generation Z high schoolers. And it's hard to watch it without drawing parallels to present realities.

Payton (Ben Platt) has known he'll be president of the United States since he was 7. And the path to the White House is clear to him: Become student body president at Saint Sebastian High School. Go to Harvard. Make history. But of course, things get complicated. 

He's the adopted younger son of an extravagant millionaire (Bob Balaban) who doesn't much care for him. Payton's mom Georgina (Gwyneth Paltrow), on the other hand, loves him more than her other "lesser Picassos," devious twins whose only talent is rocking a perfect tan. Payton's high school girlfriend, Alice (Julia Schlaepfer), is laser focused on being first lady. And he has a couple of political advisers, the calculating James (Theo Germaine) and the wearer of colorful pantsuits McAfee (Laura Dreyfuss), who'll stop at almost nothing to get him the presidency.

The diverse characters don't end there. Murphy's muse, Jessica Lange, plays an un-PC grandmother and lover of Shirley Bassey tunes. Her granddaughter (Zoey Deutch) becomes Payton's running mate only because she's "differently abled." Bohemian Rhapsody 's Lucy Boynton is Payton's nemesis. Picture-perfect Dylan McDermott and equally picture-perfect January Jones are her parents. "No sex tonight. I'm still sore from my lipo," Jones says when she's first introduced to viewers.

Former pro tennis player Martina Navratilova has a small part, but Netflix doesn't want me to tell you much about it. Or about Judith Lightand Bette Midler's roles, both breaths of fresh air that don't appear early enough. 

The show is at its best when commenting on things political -- voter suppression, political strategies, statistics, government inaction or how fake news can make voters tick. The parallels between Trump-era politics and high school politics are allegoric and even subtle sometimes, but definitely intrinsic to this show's subtext. Like the fabricated Drake prom concert that can turn voters from one candidate to another. Or the episode narrated from the point of view of an undecided voter who isn't interested in the democratic process but could turn the election around.

But the political references aren't just Trumpian. "John McCain tried that. It was a disaster," screams Payton when his team suggests he look for a running partner among the special ed students. "This is like '08 Hillary tearing up in a cafe in New Hampshire," says James during an especially inspiring moment involving his candidate.




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