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Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2012

‘Political Animals’ a smart series

July 15, 2012

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Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more smart summer series on Sunday nights, Sigourney Weaver stars in the six-hour miniseries “Political Animals” (9 p.m., USA). She’s Secretary of State Elaine Barrish Hammond, the former first lady to a popular, rogue two-term president. Any resemblance to Hillary Clinton is obvious and intentional.

As secretary of state to a shallow president (Adrian Pasdar), Elaine is portrayed as the only adult in the room. Weaver gets most of the show’s best lines. The rest are reserved for her spicy, opinionated mother (Ellen Burstyn).

In between extinguishing diplomatic brushfires, Elaine has to mother her two very different sons. Doug (James Wolk), an overachiever, is her personal assistant at the State Department. Prodigal son T.J. (Sebastian Stan) has a substance abuse problem, possibly sparked by the burden of being the first openly gay child of a sitting president.

The show’s biggest flaw is the characterization of Elaine’s former husband. It’s obvious that the show’s creators decided that in order to make the Hillary character the star, they had to diminish the Bill stand-in. There is logic to that, but as rendered, Bud becomes dead weight at the center of what should be an effervescent romp.

• As “Breaking Bad” (9 p.m. Sunday, AMC) enters its fifth season (the first 8-episode run of its final 16-episode season), Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) discover that they’ve left some incriminating evidence behind. Their method of removing it from a police compound proves to be ingeniously old school, another reminder of Walt’s past as a high school science teacher.

Sunday’s other highlights

• A familiar face is found among the victims on “Falling Skies” (8 p.m., TNT).

• The asylum and its aftermath on “True Blood” (8 p.m., HBO).

• Jeremy Irons narrates the nature documentary “The Unlikely Leopard” (8 p.m., Nat Geo Wild).

• A simple art heist can’t explain a violent assault on “Longmire” (9 p.m., A&E).

• Will’s antics land him in the tabloids on “The Newsroom” (9 p.m., HBO).

• The funeral for Merc’s father becomes an industry event and an excuse of conspicuous gift-giving on “Episodes” (9:30 p.m., Showtime).

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