Before tuning into “The Politician,” armed with only the trailer that Netflix forces down my throat as soon as I open the app, I was expecting a modern take on the student body president election plotline that is popular in movies (Vote for Pedro!) and television shows alike. What I got instead was singing, death and a blatant Hulu rip-off — and it was amazing!
The show, created by Ryan Murphy of “Glee,” follows Payton Hobart (played by Broadway star Ben Platt), a wealthy California high school student who believes that he is destined to be President of the United States. He examines the lives of previous presidents to see what steps he needs to follow in order to reach the ultimate office. One of these steps is to be elected student body president. The issue is that he has to face off against his friend-turned-opponent River (David Corenswet) and his girlfriend, Payton’s longtime enemy, Astrid (Lucy Boynton). The first episode drops you right in the middle of the drama with a turn of events that made me think I had accidentally played a later episode.
While Payton’s brain trust of campaign advisors focuses on winning the election (and are more dedicated on achieving that goal than anyone running for president in 2020), Payton is also dealing with his home life and trying to be accepted by Harvard, another crucial step to his plan. Payton lives in a Santa Barbara mansion with his nurturing adoptive mother (Gwenyth Paltrow) and billionaire father (Bob Balaban), as well as unaccepting brothers Luther and Martin (Trevor Mahlor Eason and Trey Eason) who only care about their share of the inheritance. Through the use of flashbacks, we find out that Payton’s mom hired River to tutor Payton in Mandarin which culminates with an intimate moment between the eventual political opponents. Can someone say budding internal conflict?
Eventually, Payton has to pick a running mate and sets his sights on Infinity Jackson (Zoey Deutch), a classmate battling cancer … or so we thought. It quickly comes out that Infinity may not have cancer after all, despite believing she does, which unravels an instance of Factitious disorder imposed on another between Infinity and her Nana (Jessica Lange), strangely reminiscent of Hulu’s “The Act” (another good show, check it out). All Payton cares about is winning this election, but everytime something goes right it is canceled out by something going wrong.
Overall, “The Politician” satirizes the drama of high school by having a cutthroat student body election that seems like it matters at the time but ultimately does not. As a former student council president myself, this show captures the intensity of elections and the eventual realization that it’s near impossible to enact real change in high school. The show even dedicates a whole episode to the “common man” who couldn’t care less about the election. But “The Politician” goes full-force with its sabotage maneuvers and assassination attempts — nothing is off limits.
If you would enjoy a comedy-drama that makes fun of the high school days and our tendency to take things too seriously and will keep you on the edge of your seat (seriously, you have to watch the whole season in one day), then then I highly recommend. And don’t fret! The show is complete with multiple Ben Platt musical numbers for fans of “Pitch Perfect” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”