Like basically every other show Ryan Murphy has produced (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”), “Politician” looks great, has an amazing cast, and alternates between moments of brilliance and excess. It’s satire, heartfelt drama and over-the-top soap opera — with plenty of pathos.
It starts streaming Friday on Netflix with Ben Platt (Tony winner for “Dear Evan Hansen”) starring as Payton Hobart, who believes being elected student body president at his privileged high school will set him on the path to the White House. He’s endearing, annoying, high-strung, bisexual and, perhaps, psychotic.
Through seven episodes of sometimes terrifying drama and sometimes ridiculous comedy, we’re whiplashed through plot developments that mostly involve teenagers who act like they’re middle-aged cynics. (No spoilers here.)
Episode 8 is actually the first episode of Season 2, which Netflix already ordered — and that’s why, despite their presence in ads, Bette Midler and Judith Light don’t show up until then. (The plan is that each season will involve a different election.)
The large cast includes David Corenswet, Zoey Deutch, Lucy Boynton, Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, Dylan McDermott and January Jones, who all have their moments. And there are enough moments to make “Politician” work.
But it’s the sort of show you’ll binge and then ask — what the hell was that?
“TRANSPARENT’S” MUSICAL DISASTER • I’m sure that ending “Transparent” with an extended musical episode must have seemed like a good idea to those involved.
It wasn’t. It’s self-important, self-congratulatory and tries to be something it never was. After producing 40 half-hour episodes, it’s bidding fans farewell with an excruciating, 100-minute long “Transparent: Musicale Finale” that starts streaming Friday on Amazon.
Oh, the series’ most devoted fans will enjoy it. And, clearly, the show’s creatorJill Soloway, the cast and crew found it a healing experience — what with star Jeffrey Tambor getting fired after allegations of sexual harassment.
“It was our chance to heal together,” Soloway told TV critics. “And everything we did, every time we got together and we choreographed or we danced or we sang or we improvised, we were just trying to find our way back to that holy belief that what we were doing mattered and that it was important.”
Yup. “Holy belief.” This is all about the people making the show, not those watching it.
Producing any sort of finale without Tambor — we learn immediately that Maura died — was going to be tough. And Soloway believes that “making it into a musical in some ways just rescued it from being overly serious.”
Well, it makes it unintentionally goofy. But it still takes itself much too seriously.
Yes, “Transparent” has always had a streak of self-importance. But this finale ramps that up to such a degree that it’s unwatchable.
Don’t get me wrong. The show actually was important when it debuted in 2014. This story of a retired professor, Mort Pfefferman (Tambor), who decided to finally transition and become Maura Pfefferman — shocking his ex-wife (Judith Light) and three adult children (Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker and Gaby Hoffman) — was groundbreaking. It was the first time a trans character had been at the center of an American TV series, and it was widely praised by critics and showered with Emmys.
In the run-up to Season 2 in 2015, I wrote, “The show is not, however, about advocacy. It doesn’t hit viewers over the head with its point of view, it simply tells its story as honestly as possible.”
The “Transparent” musical hits us over the head with a sledgehammer. Repeatedly. And the musical numbers are … well … bad.
I don’t take any joy in writing this. “Transparent” was a very good show for the first three of its seasons, and the fourth was decent. Better to remember it for what it was, and not this.