Beast Of An "Animals"

After watching the pilot for USA's upcoming miniseries "Political Animals," I was left wondering what the show is supposed to be.

Insightful background into politics, a' la "West Wing?" "Primary Colors"-style satire? A soapish look at a powerful political family?

The answer is, all of the above, but those various themes don't really mesh together in the best way.

Series creator Greg Berlanti ("Dirty Sexy Money," "Eli Stone") essentially takes the basics of the Clintons and applies them to this drama. Former First Lady Elaine Barrish (Sigourney Weaver) unsuccessfully ran for President and now serves as Secretary of State for her political rival (Adrian Pasdar).

But the Bill Clinton in this case is Bud Hammond (Ciaran Hinds), whom Elaine has divorced after his philandering ways. Hammond is written so two-dimensionally as a blowhard egotist that his character seems to make the show a farce.

At least when "Primary Colors" showed the screwy marriage of the Clintons (or the Stantons, as they were called in the movie), we understood how these characters stuck together in the first place and why America would vote for a man with such character flaws.

Not so in this case. Meanwhile, the family has its own share of issues with the good son (James Wolk) about to get married to a woman with her own set of issues, and the screw-up son (Sebastian Stan), who is openly gay with a drug problem.

Complicating Elaine's life is the presence of a reporter (Carla Gugino) who won a Pulitzer exposing Bud's affairs.

The cast itself is excellent, and Weaver herself almost makes it worth watching despite its flaws. But the show is a mishmash that, at times, feels like the most soap opera-based version of "The West Wing" possible.

Worse, the show suffers from bouts when any shred of reality disappears. One wonders why The White House would choose to keep its Secretary of State in the dark about certain elements to a hostage situation that takes place in Iran. Or why Gugino's editor/boyfriend would blow an exclusive story in the manner he does. It simply wouldn't happen in the real world.

I'm debating about watching the second episode of the miniseries. On the one hand, there's potential for an interesting series. On the flip side, the pilot left me underwhelmed. You can decide for yourself Sunday night on USA at 10 p.m. with a 90-minute premiere.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: CBS brings back the latest round of "Big Brother" at 9 p.m. I don't know if people will be able to enjoy it in the same way now that ABC has aired "Glass House."

Also on the networks are "Saving Hope" (NBC, 9 p.m.) and "Rookie Blue" (ABC, 10 p.m.)

On cable, FX delivers "Anger Management," "Wilfred," "Louie" and "Brand X with Russell Brand" from 9:30-11:30 p.m., while USA has new installments of "Burn Notice" and "Suits" from 9-11 p.m.