Ryan Murphy has a pretty famous track record when it comes to his shows: the first season is really good and genuinely hits whatever mark they’re going for, but each and every season afterwards descends into madness or unaware self-parody. The exception to the rule is American Horror Story, wherein Season 2 was its masterclass and Season 3 was when it was having the most fun. Otherwise, you could practically write a line of folk wisdom on the subject: ‘For every +1 added to the season number of a Ryan Murphy show, expect -3 from its total quality.’
The reason why I mention this is because Netflix’s newest offering from Ryan Murphy might not even hit the bar of the ‘classic first season’ trope. It’s just… there, I guess. Not terrible, but distracting in how it barely distinguishes itself from any subpar Netflix production. The titular politician (entitled Beverly Hills high schooler) is supposed to Make Us Think about how sociopathy produces the best politicians and how they only care about diversity as a statistics metric and Everyone Has Problems and all that. But it’s just… much like the ‘middle-aged white man’s midlife crisis = FREUDIAN EXCUSE FOR VIOLENCE SHOOT GUNS FUCK WOMEN AND THEN BLAME WOMEN YEAHHHHHHH’ HBO dramas of the last two decades, the idea of real-world poltical discussions and Crazy Kids being condensed into quirky detached American high schools has been played out hundreds of times now. In the case of The Politician, it tries to borrow the social cues of Cruel Intentions without any of the bite; it tries to emulate Election and its much more menacing example of a wunderkind with total ambition, but we’re not given any example of why this high schooler wants the presidency beyond just having the money to do so. Which could have been a much better story if that was the intentional angle they went with.
But more than anything, it lacks the fun that should be present in a story about weird rich fucks in Beverly Hills. That’s the biggest problem – the jokes are stale and without life, which I suppose derives from its stale by-the-books plot. The first and only genuine laugh is used up by Gwyneth Paltrow in the first episode, though it is a good one. In the show, Gwyneth Paltrow knowingly mocks herself by being casted as a down to earth and fundamentally bored wife that paints pictures of Syrian war dead and knows the intonations of Mandarin to perfection, who then goes on to live in a monastery and begins paving mountain roads in Bhutan by hand, but not before carrying out a love affair with Martina Navratilova. That sentence alone has far more comedic and dramatic potential (imagine!) than The Politican provides, and I was far more interested in her growth than whatever intrigue was playing out in the A-plot.
The soundtrack is mostly cute, tho. But the casting would give Dawson’s Creek and 90210 a run for their money – the Luke Perry Class of 2019.
4/10: Ryan Murphy is lost without Sarah Paulson