Saturday, February 1, 2020

Review of Season One: Senate Impeachment Trial

I don't usually watch TV shows, but a few things drew my attention strongly to Season One of "Senate Impeachment Trial".

1. I'm interested in politics, but the real life version tends to be too depressing. An inspirational drama about the impeachment trial of a corrupt President seemed right up my alley.

2. I love legal dramas, and watching a show entirely expressed as a very formal trial seemed fascinating.

3. I'm a huge Adam Schiff fan and loved him in "Impeachment of the President", which can be seen as sort of a prequel to this show.

So I decided "What the hell." and gave this Internet Television Series a shot.

Sadly, it had a lot of problems. But first, let's talk about a few things I really liked!

1. Adam Schiff was great. Playing the clear spoken Atticus Finch/Mr. Smith goes to Washington character he was the soul and backbone of the show and a real hero to root for. Without him this show would have been pointless. Also it was extremely clever how they mainly surrounded him with an almost unbearable level of hypocrisy, incoherence, and evil so that when he finally appeared he and his close reasoning, simple logic, and sense of justice was a palpable and almost intense relief. This was a brilliant device.

2. I liked how the ultimate villain, "The President", never appeared in any way and was only referenced. He seemed so horrible and ridiculous as to be almost unbelievable, but that lack of realism kind of worked when he was merely obliquely referenced and left to our imaginations. I like how he was only expressed through craven and repulsive toadies.

3. Towards the end I was really invested and hoping for "The Presidents" removal from office. Despite myself I'm incredibly curious about season two.

Unfortunately there were a lot of problems with the show:

1. Too few characters! Having the judge read the Senators' questions offered a kind of gravity, but the Judge had no personality or any reason for being there except to read the questions that weren't even his own and to cut people off . It often felt like they were saving money by not having to pay actual actors to appear as Senators. It felt cheap. Also, what happened to that repulsive Dershowitz character? He was an interesting villain (though maybe a little overdrawn?) and seemed to disappear halfway through the season?

2. Hello? Where's the trial? I felt like maybe the production was underfunded? Just when it was getting really interesting and we finished the opening statements, the "Republicans" decided to have no witnesses or evidence. Was the show cancelled due to poor ratings? How could this be a trial in any real world situation? I know they were trying to make a point about the Republicans being corrupt, but the "no witnesses" thing seemed kind of unrealistic and stopped the show just as it was getting interesting. It also made the "Bolton" backstory go nowhere. If this "Bolton" was a Republican how could there have been not even a few Republican Senators who hadn't gone completely mad? My only guess or hope is that perhaps some big reveal is coming in the next season?

3. It was really dark. This might be my own fault. I was hoping for an uplifting escape from modern politics, but this was far more cynical and tragic than real life. I know it was meant as a kind of warning, but the "Republicans" supporting and protecting a President who bribed another country to help his reelection was maybe a little unrealistic? And there was a sense that the media surrounding it just sort of shrugged their collective shoulders. Maybe they were saying that the press is so lost in "He said she said" that all of truth, justice, and democracy could slip away in between their lines of dutiful reporting. But I kind of think the press would say something in such a grave scenario. These reporters in America are still real people with some integrity, at least some of them. In the end this "Trial" was all so cynical and hopeless. What was the point? Was it a warning, like, in Watergate, when they said it showed how the system worked, and so they are showing what happens when it doesn't? It's an interesting idea, but maybe not realistic enough. I can't really believe America, for all its many faults, could get this bad and I'm not sure they really make the case.


I can't really recommend this show and if there is a season two, I don't know where they're going with it since they kind of closed down all their storylines. Will they go full dystopia as is the logical next step, or will they make more use of Schiff, their most compelling character? For all my questions and complaints I really am interested to see what happens next. Whatever the faults, they did get their hooks in on me with this grim production. If there is a season two (and I'm not sure this wasn't cancelled midseason and patched roughly to a final ending), and they pull this thing out of the fires of despair, my view of it could change. In some ways I think it merely needs a little more hope than they offered here in season one. But as it stands now I find it too soul destroying and darkly unrealistic to really recommend.

Two stars.

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