Political Animals' lead character Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver) appears to be strong, tough and full of confidence on the outside. But a few minutes into the USA series, viewers will learn that she's a lot more flawed and self-doubting than she looks.
"We present this woman so effective, so articulate, so passionate, so true to her moral compass and the flip side is she's much less confident in her personal life and as a mother," Weaver tells TVGuide.com. "She makes a lot of mistakes."
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Elaine is a former first lady who divorced her husband Bud Hammond (Ciaran Hinds), ran for the presidency, lost and became Secretary of State. But as much as the six-episode series follows her high-powered career and feud with government journalist Susan Berg (Carla Gugino), it also documents her family life with polar opposite sons Doug (James Wolk) and T.J. (Sebastian Stan), and kooky mother Margaret (Ellen Burstyn).
Check out our five reasons why Political Animals is a must on your summer TV schedule.
1. Sigourney Weaver's television series debut
There's a reason that this was the series project to lure the three-time Oscar nominee to the small screen. Weaver is stellar as a tough leader who's also relatable as a recent divorcée and loving mother. And with Weaver's chops and star power comes an ensemble cast that would make even the pay cable networks drool. Recurring stars include Dan Futterman stars as Susan's editor and boyfriend, Adrian Pasdar plays the president, and Dylan Baker and Roger Bart recur as members of his cabinet.
2. The Hammond family is not the Clintons.
Bud's a former president and a well-known philanderer, and his wife, Elaine, ran for the Oval Office, lost and is now Secretary of State. Sound familiar? Well that's where the similarities end. "[The characters] are very human and it's that interplay between the public and private, successful and dysfunctional that's going to make people want to see this," Weaver says. The complicated relationship between Elaine and her now ex-husband is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes it the Hammonds' problems. Among the family's struggles: drugs, eating disorders and suicide attempts, to name a few. (Not to mention light-hearted bickering.)
Watch the eccentric family below:
3. The dynamic between foes Elaine and Susan
Susan has made a career out of ripping apart Elaine and other politicians, but there are glimpses throughout where the two women have moments of understanding. "Susan realizes Elaine is not the ambitious politician who only made moves for her career and Elaine realizes this is not the rabid writer who only wants to tear them down," Gugino tells us. Plus: By the end of the premiere, the two realize that they not only need the other more than they thought, but that they have much more in common than they'd like to admit. (Watch a scene between them below.)
4. Brotherly love
Doug and T.J. may be extremely different, but the bond between them is unbreakable. "They're the only people in each other's lives who don't judge each other," James Wolk says. While Doug is primed to follow in his parents' political footsteps (he's Elaine's chief of staff), T.J. is a brilliant pianist plagued by a drug addiction with a suicidal past. Yet rather than T.J. being bitter about his brother's success, Doug is the only person he really trusts and can lean on. When T.J. presents a risky business venture to his parents, Doug is the one who defends and backs him.
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5. The comedy
Yes, this is a dramatic series, but don't be surprised when you laugh out loud more than once. Some of our favorite moments include Bud's line, "I don't eat sh--; I serve it" and Susan defending her lackluster wardrobe by saying, "I wear one outfit a day. I'm not Beyoncé." And then there's Ellen Burstyn, whose line about a hummer (no, not the vehicle) will make you do a spit-take. "I'm the comedy relief," Burstyn says. "I get a lot of funny lines."
Political Animals premieres on Sunday at 10/9c on USA.