Sebastian Stan as TJ Hammond, left, Sigourney Weaver as Elaine...

Sebastian Stan as TJ Hammond, left, Sigourney Weaver as Elaine Barrish, James Wolk as Doug Hammond in USA Network's "Political Animals." Credit: USA Network

THE SHOW "Political Animals"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 10 p.m. on USA

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Secretary of State Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver, in her first extended TV role) is a good woman in a tough town. Not her fault that her ex, the former letch of a president, Bud Hammond (Ciarán Hinds), ran off with a floozy, or that her gay son, T.J. (Sebastian Stan), is a junkie, or that her mom, Margaret (Ellen Burstyn), a former Vegas showgirl, tends to drink a little too much and say a little too much.

No! Elaine's got heart and ethics, even if the rest of the world sometimes doesn't. She ran for president and lost the election to a semiprincipled opportunist, Paul Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar). Now, she's working for him.

Meanwhile, reporter Susan Berg (Carla Gugino) demands to get exclusive access to her life, but it's a hard time for Elaine. Her other son, chief of staff Douglas (James Wolk), is about to get married and the Iranians have taken three hostages. Besides, the reporter wrote mean stuff about her philandering husband that won her a Pulitzer Prize. No, it's not easy being beautiful, talented, sexy Elaine Barrish.

MY SAY "Political Animals" is junk. Or, to elaborate, it's a clanking, clattering collection of collagenous clinkers -- of dialogue so inept, of acting performances so preposterous, of plot points so cliched that the only question worth posing is why someone of Weaver's stature would be caught anywhere near a turkey like this. Even beautiful world-class actresses can't salvage a program containing lines of dialogue like "All that matters now is three scared people sitting in a jail cell wondering what their country is doing to help them. Are we clear?" Or: "If the American people really knew how this government was run, there would be one collective upchuck the size of which FEMA would have to clean up."

A thinly veiled -- to the point of parody -- takeoff on the Clintons, there's nothing even remotely plausible about "Political Animals." At least with the first episode -- the only one of six available for review -- this is the Mad Magazine version of "Washington: Behind Closed Doors."

BOTTOM LINE Stupendously silly. A laugh track might help.


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