Courtesy of IMDB
Broadway saw above-average success in 2017. Just as fans of the stage had begun to recover from the previous year’s “Hamilton fever,” “Dear Evan Hansen” took over the scene and utterly swept the Tony Awards, collecting an impressive six wins, including “Best Musical.” In as short of a synopsis as I can give, ”Dear Evan Hansen” follows the title character, portrayed by actor Ben Platt, as a high school senior through the aftermath of a classmate’s suicide as Evan becomes entangled in progressively larger lies about his part in what transpired.
“The Politician,” released on Sept. 27 on Netflix, follows Payton Hobart, portrayed by actor Ben Platt, as a high school senior through the aftermath of a classmate’s suicide as Payton becomes entangled in progressively larger lies throughout the season. Payton and Evan are portrayed almost identically with anxiousness, fear of social invisibility, and palpable mommy issues being the most obvious. Both Ben Platt-led productions cast Laura Dreyfuss as a supporting actress and see the main character break into impassioned musical numbers.
The only real difference between the characters is their respective economic classes. While Payton Hobart prepares for admission to the Ivey League and attempts to keep his name on his father’s billion-dollar will, Evan Hansen fills out scholarship forms to hopefully attend community college. It is undeniable that ”The Politician” draws heavily from Platt’s previous success, but only after the show (more or less) sheds ”Dear Evan Hansen”’s main plotline of a classmate’s suicide after the second episode.
Audiences are left with the adventures of the high-achieving Payton Hobart as he attempts to win the election for president of his high school’s student government, receive a letter of acceptance from Harvard, marry his high school sweetheart and eventually become the POTUS. This season’s comedy mainly stems from the cast of colorful characters, zany assassination attempts and the teens’ habits of taking themselves too seriously.
But where there is Com, there must be Dram. Granted, ”The Politician” is first and foremost a comedy, but a comedy with heart and a comedy with genuine messages. The show borrows from most new teen dramas’ and comedies’ angst and feelings of emptiness, loneliness, inadequacy, distance from society as seen in ”13 Reasons Why,” ”Sex Education,” ”Big Mouth,” “End of the F***ing World” and, of course, ”Dear Evan Hansen.” Georgina Hobart and Payton’s adoptive mother, portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow as an all-encompassing and all-loving earth goddess surrounded by her mystical spirit aligning charka crystals, serves as the means of catharsis. With Mother’s reassurance and a short cry, Ben Platt reinvigorates the passion and drive within himself to conquer most obstacles the other billionaire high schoolers and less wealthy – but certainly more deranged – neighborhood sociopaths can throw his way.
All in all, the show is pleasant to watch and will always keep the audience’s attention with the help of Ben Platt’s three extensive musical numbers, well-developed story arcs, the constant (more often than not) illegal shenanigans, a genuinely intriguing and often unpredictable school election premise, and well-directed filmography. Scenes involving Payton’s home life, led by his adoptive parents Bob Balaban and the aforementioned Paltrow, look as if they were ripped from the mind of Wes Anderson in their color pallet, eclectic but pristine background decoration, painfully symmetrical shots and quirky dialogue and movement.
What captures the overall essence of the show though, is the first scene of episode eight, where a refreshed, less high-strung and mildly alcoholic Payton Hobart delivers his rendition of Billy Joel’s classic ”Vienna” at a local bar. With its humor, complex characters and well-intentioned heart, ”The Politician” is a show whose second season I am eagerly but patiently waiting for.
Slow down, you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart, then tell me
Why are you still so afraid?
You’ve got your passion, you’ve got your pride
But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?
-Billy Joel (Vienna)