A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Politician is a comic drama about dark dealings -- many involving student government -- at a wealthy California private high school. The show starts with a trigger warning: "For those who struggle with their mental health, some elements may be disturbing." The warning is apt, because a character unexpectedly commits suicide shortly after the show starts: We hear a gunshot and see another character with a bloody face and shirt, and then see a body in a body bag with a woman screaming. Another plot point revolves around a character with Munchausen syndrome by proxy who's poisoning a relative who believes she's actually ill. Sexual content is also mature, though all we see is same- and opposite-sex kissing. There's talk of group sex, body parts, consequence-free casual sex, and a girl faking sexual pleasure to give a boy "confidence." Language can be insulting and rude: A boy is called a "f-g," and a character is told to "Eat a fat one." An adult character smokes cigarettes. Many characters are wealthy (we see their fancy houses and luxury cars), and most are white, though there's at least one African American character who's also gender nonconforming -- she doesn't have a big part, though. Positive messages are few and far between, and most characters treat each other with something between condescension and contempt.
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What's the story?
Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) has suspected he was destined for greatness since grade school, but if he's going to make it to president of the United States, THE POLITICIAN is going to have to conquer snobby Saint Sebastian High School first. Under the direction of advisors McAfee (Laura Dreyfuss) and James (Theo Germaine), Payton's bid for senior class president is going great -- until BMOC classmate (and Payton's Mandarin tutor) River (David Corenswet) decides to run. Payton and his crew see only one alternative: He has to find a sympathetic running mate, which arrives in the form of cancer patient Infinity (Zoey Deutch), whose sunny outlook hides a dark family secret. Will Payton subdue his inner demons and prevail? Or will the student government battle be the fracas that finally eludes Payton's fragile control?
Is it any good?
This interesting artifact from the fertile mind of Ryan Murphy bears a lot of his hallmarks -- it isn't his best, but it has enough good soapy twists to pull viewers in anyway. With its scheming high schoolers intent on drama, the Murphy joint it most closely resembles is Glee, though The Politician's maneuverings are several shades darker: The Glee kids just wanted to pull it out at regionals, and there was no (spoiler alert! Beware!) suicide, sexual blackmail, or monstrous family members slowly murdering their loved ones.
Speaking of that last plot hook, it appears as though Murphy and fellow showrunners Brad Falchuk (Glee, Pose, American Horror Story) and Ian Brennan (Glee, Scream Queens) saw The Act, because Infinity and Dusty Jackson (Jessica Lange) are clearly a riff on Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee. The actors playing high schoolers are too old -- principals' ages range from 24 to 32 -- and there are so many different characters and schemes going that the whole story is a bit of a mess. Nonetheless, it's as smart and unpredictable as the best of Murphy's work, the cast is absolutely stellar, the story setup is weird and unique, and watching is a lot of fun. This isn't high art, but you may as well say goodbye to a few days when you start watching, because you'll be responding to that judgmental "Are you still watching ...?" Netflix button a few times before you can tear yourself away.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the realities of high school hierarchies and whether the students of Saint Sebastian High really look or act like actual teenagers. How relatable is the show's portrayal of high school? Are the characters relatable? Is the amount of sexual content realistic?
Ryan Murphy and his frequent collaborators Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk are known for making television that often has a violent edge, deals with LGBTQ+ issues, and is startling or shocking at times. How does The Politician stack up to other shows produced by this crew, like Glee, Scream Queens, and American Horror Story? How are these shows alike? How are they different?
The actors playing high schoolers are about 10 years older than they would usually be in high school. Why? Are you willing to suspend disbelief given the realities of hiring minors for theatrical work? Or would you prefer if actors were approximately the same age as the characters they're playing?
Our editors recommend
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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