Ben Platt and Gwyneth Paltrow in The Politician, Ryan Murphy’s first show from his Netflix deal
Ben Platt and Gwyneth Paltrow in The Politician, Ryan Murphy’s first show from his Netflix deal

First TV show from $300m Netflix deal

The expectations for The Politician were almost atmospherically high.

As the first project from mega-producer Ryan Murphy's reported $US300 million deal with Netflix, there are many eyes on the fruits from this very expensive labour.

A satirical comedy of sorts, The Politician features an impressive cast that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Bob Balaban, Jessica Lange and Broadway star Ben Platt.

It's a lush, over-the-top and ambitious series that boasts extraordinarily high production values - just keep an eye out for all the different wallpapers that adorn these Santa Barbara mansions, from palm frond prints to flamingo feathers.

But The Politician's ambitions weren't matched by its shaky execution, which makes this a very mixed bag that is sometimes deliciously entertaining, sometimes clever and sometimes ridiculous, but not in a good way.

Ben Platt has the voice of an angel — and he does sing, twice
Ben Platt has the voice of an angel — and he does sing, twice

Payton Hobart is a 12th grader with a very clear path mapped before him. He believes he's destined to be the US president and he's worked out that involves becoming his school student body president and then going to Harvard.

The adopted son of a cold father (Balaban) and a loving but sad mother (Paltrow), Payton is supported by a group of friends who are as savvy and calculating as he is determined.

Together, they scheme and plot to win the presidency, a contest that these privileged rich kids take as seriously as any real elections.

Through this school election, The Politician skewers all the dirty and dehumanising aspects of any political fight, including picking the running mate - the school's only Haitian kid or the cancer-ridden Infinity (Zoey Deutsch) or the black lesbian Skye (Rahne Jones)?

These rich white kids are clamouring to make themselves seem the most woke with their choice.

Lucy Boyton’s Astrid is another privilege white girl on a journey of self-discovery
Lucy Boyton’s Astrid is another privilege white girl on a journey of self-discovery

While there are definitely smart, chuckle-worthy moments, The Politician's school election doesn't have nearly the same bite or insight as Alexander Payne's 1999 movie Election.

The best episode of The Politician is its fifth, a shortened chapter (at 26 minutes) that shifts perspective to a random student at the school, the so-called average swing voter.

It follows his experiences on election day as he's hounded by both campaigns when all he wants to do is stare at tits, arse and masturbate in peace. It's a scathing portrayal of the US election system and the apathy of voters - and why polling seems to be so off.

Elliot cannot be less interested
Elliot cannot be less interested

The Politician trips over itself in trying to be too complex, tackling too much, and it isn't as profound as it hoped it would be. What is the show really saying about the uber-rich?

In its rush to be oh-so-clever, it loses the connective tissue - the parts are more than the sum of its parts.

Like many of Murphy's work, The Politician can be quite arch and melodramatic, but the tone here is inconsistent.

Some of the characters and their actors - Platt as Payton, Julia Schlaepfer as Payton's girlfriend Alice, and Dylan McDermott - are much more mannered while others - Lucy Boynton's Astrid - are almost naturalistic, almost.

The Infinity and Dusty storyline feels like it belongs in a different show
The Infinity and Dusty storyline feels like it belongs in a different show

Then there's the whole subplot involving Infinity and her grandmother (Jessica Lange), plus dopey boyfriend Ricardo (Benjamin Barrett), which feels like it's in a different TV show. Everything here is so heightened and stagy, it can be frustrating.

Which is not to say that The Politician is a write-off. It's still amiable and amusing enough for an easy enough binge. It's just a little lightweight, closer to Glee or The New Normal than it is to Murphy's true heavyhitters like Pose or American Crime Story.

The Politician is available to stream on Netflix from 5pm AEST today.

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