The TV Series Review Vol. 3 No. 7: Payton for President in “The Politician”

Ryan Murphy’s new comedy-web series features rich high school student Payton Hobart and his political orchestrations aimed at his ultimate goal: to become president of the United States.

Payton Hobart, a wealthy student from Santa Barbara, has known since age 7 that he’s going to be president of the United States, but first, he has to navigate the most treacherous political landscape of all, Saint Sebastian High School.

Payton has studied all the biographies of past presidents. He has watched all the videos about them. He has watched Ronald Reagan’s attempted assassination over and over again. He is ready, or so he thinks. Through the high school life of Payton, we watch the political environment of the United States unravel, all the intrigues, power play, and betrayals shown in a high school presidential campaign.

Let’s check first what the critics are saying. According to Ben Travers of Indiewire, the show is only interested in melodrama and is too obsessed with the broken system of the government “to prop up its plot.” Travers further noted that there’s “a shallow character study supported by equally flimsy ties to important-sounding ideas.”

Well, there’s melodrama in “The Politician,” true, but the show does not “obsessed too much with the broken system.” On the contrary, it focused on Payton himself, specifically his character which I do not find in any way, “shallow.” The political element is just the background. What I learned from Murphy’s works is that you have to dig deep to see through the characters and their stories. It’s always a mess, but a brilliant mess nonetheless.

Geek Rate

zeus-512Sky god Worthy (5 out of 5 stars). It’s like this show is made for me: history of U.S. presidential politics, political strategies, and campaign plus some high school stuff to balance all of it. There’s humor in the lines of the characters albeit somehow darker (with outrageous murder plots), but the overall setup is just light. It’s a mashed-up between a high school YA story and “Scandal.” Despite the criticisms, it is an interesting show to watch.

Characters

Payton Hobart – Our lead character looks like he’s a love child of William LeGate and white supremacist Paul Joseph Watson. Payton is an overachiever and is super focused on his ultimate goal of becoming the president of the United States. He came from a very wealthy family but being an adopted child, he thinks he understands the situations of those less privileged students at their school. Tony Award winner Ben Platt plays Payton and of course, there’s singing involved in here. But throughout the series, I was mesmerized on Platt’s acting. I think he deserves the geek award for the best actor this year.

Infinity Jackson – It’s fun watching Infinity. You will equally hate her and love her. Alright, to be honest, I hate her: her voice, the way she moves. Sorry. But as Payton’s running mate, her situation as a cancer kid definitely adds intrigue to the whole story.

Skye Leighton – The lesbian black vice-presidential candidate of the opposing party, Skye should have been given a longer exposure in the show. She’s one of the most interesting characters in the story and I sure hope that she will not be just relegated on the sidelines.

Astrid Sloan – The presidential candidate running against Payton. Astrid is white, beautiful and privileged girl. She’s not a villain sort found in YA books, but not lead character material either. She’s a new being, with a somehow beguiling story to tell. As an opponent to Payton, I just think she’s too soft to take on the obsessiveness of her opponent.

Dusty Jackson – The best supporting character in the series, Dusty is Infinity’s country girl “nana” and steals the show every minute of her screen time. I will not divulge what her story is here but Jessica Lange’s acting was just superb.

Georgina Hobart – I was hoping that Gwyneth Paltrow will sing in this series. As the mother of Payton, she just stood at the background, not much to do for Paltrow here but her being on the show adds to its glamour.

River Barkley – The YA male lead character that every author conjures for their book. River is Astrid’s boyfriend (well, obviously) and Payton’s sort of best friend/lover. Yes, it is intriguing. He sorts of acts like Payton’s moral guide (because he lacks some sort of genuine morality) but I found hard to believe that such a good looking guy is also rich and full of wisdom. Him being a jerk is more appropriate. Also, he speaks Mandarin.

Payton’s Team – Sorry to lump them together but they really are members of Payton’s campaign team. Alice Charles is Payton’s girlfriend and acts like some sort of Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Bush. Definitely not a Hillary, though. McAfee Westbrook and James Sullivan are the campaign strategists and take care of polling stuff which is cool in a high school setting. But I mean, guys, it’s just an election! Sorry, Payton.

Top Lines

“I try to do good things, right? But I’m not a good person. That’s my flaw. I’m ambitious. I am political. I’m conniving.”
— Payton Hobart
“Politics isn’t about policies, a candidate is elected on a story.”
— Payton Hobart
“Keep thinking that, uh, the only thing we all share together is that we’re all alone.”
— River Barkley
“It’s so hard to have to try so hard all the time.”
— Payton Hobart

Top Episodes

Top 1EP 5: The Voter– This episode focusing on an individual student belonging to a group of undecided voters (who could eventually determine the outcome of the election) is the best episode of any TV series ever created, and I’m not even exaggerating here.

Top 2- EP 8: Vienna– The episode finale brings light to the future of the series and silenced the critics. This part paves the way for another election run for Payton to be shown in the second season. It’s so interesting that I can’t wait what’s up next.

Top 3EP 3: October Surprise– I pick this episode because this might be one of the most hated by critics. The chaos in its plot is apparent but if you watch closely, you could see why this series will stand out.

Created by: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Ian Brennan

Cast: Ben Platt, Zoey Deutch, Lucy Boynton, Bob Balaban, David Corenswet, Julia Schlaepfer, Laura Dreyfuss, Theo Germaine, Rahne Jones, Benjamin Barrett, Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow

Production company: Prospect Films, Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision, Ryan Murphy Television, Fox 21 Television Studios

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