TV Review - Battleground

Jay Hayden in "Battleground"
Hulu was a joint venture between NBC, FOX and ABC to provide an online hub of those networks' programming. With Internet access and a fast connection, you can watch the latest shows of all the major broadcasters. With an additional monthly fee, you can watch entire seasons both past and present. Hulu mostly replays TV episodes that have been over-the-air, mostly episodes that are a week old at least.

Yet, in January, Hulu unveiled to the Television Critics Association, a change in its paradigm. It unveiled a plan to premiere three series that were not going to be replays or week-old episodes. It was going to unveil new and original series that were going to be exclusive to Hulu. It's going to be competing with Netflix, which will also roll out three new series over the course of this year and next, but the difference is you have to first subscribe to Netflix for its monthly fee. Hulu's new and original programs can be streamed right now for free.

The first of the Hulu series is Battleground, which began on Valentine's Day 2012. It's about a fictional, Democratic primary occurring for a state senator's seat in Wisconsin. It focuses on the campaign of Deirdre Samuels, a female politician, as well as the people working on getting her elected. The series is thirteen episodes. This review encompasses the first six episodes.

According to The Los Angeles Times, this series is notable for its timeliness to the Republican primaries, which are on-going. Unfortunately, several other TV shows have already beaten it to the punch with far better writing and acting. In terms of drama, CBS' The Good Wife is the best example of modern political campaigns in action with regard to sex scandals and social media.

Battleground is more akin to Parks and Recreation, which in its third season is also about a female politician running for a seat in government. Both Battleground and Parks and Recreation are produced in the faux documentary-style. Battleground, however, is more realistic in its construction. Parks and Recreation is also built on the premise that a documentary crew are following its characters but Parks and Recreation disregards that crew, except when it wants to wink at the camera, whereas Battleground doesn't ignore and at times incorporates that crew into the storyline.

Battleground is essentially the Oscar-nominated The Ides of March meets the Emmy-winning The Office. The story starts four weeks prior to Wisconsin's primary election. It stars Jay Hayden who plays Chris "Tak" Davis, the campaign manager. If you recall The Ides of March, Tak is a more comedic version of Ryan Gosling's character.

Like Gosling's character in that movie, Tak develops feelings for someone also working on the campaign. He develops feelings for Kara "KJ" Jamison, played by Teri Reeves. KJ is the media strategist. She's also responsible for making or coordinating campaign ads. She's less like the comparable character in The Ides of March in terms of the love interest. She's more like the character of Pam from The Office.

KJ is in a relationship with Cole Graner, played by Jack De Sena. Cole is the speechwriter for Senator Samuels. KJ and Cole's bond seems solid. Despite his feelings for KJ, Tak is also in a relationship that seems solid, but it's not. Tak is married with two daughters, but he's on the outs with them because he devotes all of his time to the campaign trail.

He has a dedication and passion for being on the campaign trail that is a detriment to his family life. He claims to love his wife, so it's a wonder what's driving his feelings for KJ. The writers must think they need the drama.

Another source of drama comes from Tak constantly bumping heads with Senator Samuels' husband, George Mosley. It appears that Mosley's function is to be a bug up Tak's ass, frequently disagree with his decisions and be merely an obstacle. Often, George's actions make no sense and are obvious as to be only inventions of antagonism by the writers.

Ben Samuel plays Ben Werner, a young guy who also shares Tak's dedication and passion for being on the campaign trail. Conversely, he's really naive, no where near as cynical as Tak, or as arrogant. Ben is very much a nerd. He's into the Renaissance Fair. He's essentially an errand boy to be teased or manipulated by Tak or the others. He does develop feelings for a co-worker too, so, in many ways, he's a combination of the characters Andy Dwyer and Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation.

Jordan T. Maxwell plays Jordan Mosley, the son-in-law of Senator Samuels who seems like he's only there to promote his comedy act and try to get laid. At first, Jordan seems like he might be more interesting or integral to the overall story, but his role is reduced to irrelevant gags here and there.

Each episode deals with some obstacle that Tak has to overcome in order to increase Senator Samuels' standing at the polls, earn her more money for the campaign or get her more votes. The best of these obstacles is the accusation that Senator Samuels is a lesbian. This occurs in Episode 2, entitled "Who is Claire Villareal?," and it's by far the best episode.

Tak who really is a puppet master is at his most manipulative and at his most out of control. We get more into Samuels' character than we perhaps ever do. It also features the funniest and most layered scene when Samuels and Tak go over talking points. It certainly indicates great potential and Hayden is certainly more likeable than Gosling was in The Ides of March, even though his character can still be a jerk.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Uses "S" word but not "F" word.
Running Time: 21 mins.
Tuesdays on Hulu.


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