New online series: “Battleground” – from Hulu
After seeing the first two episodes of this groundbreaking series, I’m quite intrigued. It has a similar feel to the early seasons of “The Office” in the cinéma vérité / docufiction style. Of course, “Battleground” is more drama than comedy, but it isn’t without its bright spots of biting humor.
Not a new concept, in that we’re seeing behind the scenes of a fictional political campaign, however, it is innovative in that it’s one of the first online network original shows, and the first scripted series on Hulu. The scope of this series lands somewhere between the webseries format and a broadcast network drama. The cast is talented and well-rounded, and the writing is sharp and smart.
The ‘documentary’ camera follows the fictional campaign of Deirdre Samuels (Meighan Gerachis), an underdog candidate for one of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seats. The title, “Battleground”, comes from the fact that Wisconsin has historically been one of America’s ‘swing’ states – otherwise known as battleground states. Because the state isn’t exclusively one party dominant, the elections can become much more contentious.
Like other workplace setting, there are leaders and followers, bosses and subordinates, hard workers and layabouts, and even in this fictional setting, nepotism. The show flashes between the campaign, which is set in the recent past – and vignettes with the characters in the present. Several characters are missing from the one-on-one present-day interviews as of episode 2, and it has me curious to see why they’re conspicuously absent.
There are relationships and triangles forming already, whether professional or personal. I’m particularly intrigued by the pairing of the naïve and eager Ben, and the jaded Tak – who has taken young Ben under his wing. We see most of the action from Ben’s perspective, so he’s the defacto protagonist – although the show balances viewpoints rather well. It seems that there is a triangle forming between Tak, KJ, and Cole, however, it is nebulous at best at this early stage.
The campaign itself feels like an unbilled character. Ms. Samuels is clearly an underdog from the start. Her husband and Tak struggle quietly for dominance – where Mr. Samuels wants to do things by the book, but Tak thinks outside the box. The struggle to gain ground in the hotly contested race makes this tense series quite riveting.
I was pleasantly surprised to see no lack of depth when it came to the characters, whether they be mains or background players. The three main female characters are all portrayed as smart, savvy, and confident from the start – a refreshing change from other political genre shows.
I recommend giving this series a shot – if you can live with the ads, it’s completely free to watch on Hulu.
Executive produced by filmmaker Marc Webb (“The Amazing Spiderman,” “500 Days of Summer”), “Battleground” is a workplace dramedy set in the world of political campaigns. Head campaign strategist Chris “Tak” Davis and his staff strive to win a Senate seat for their underdog candidate in a race with national consequences. Set in Wisconsin, a real battleground state, Tak and his team manipulate the 24-‐hour news cycle, new media, and social networking to navigate the unpredictable ups and downs of state politics. All the while, a documentary crew exposes the behind-the-scenes chaos of idealistic twenty-somethings trying to make a difference.
Premieres February 14, 2012 exclusively on the free, ad-supported Hulu service and the Hulu Plus subscription service. 13 episodes, 22 minutes each.
Battleground is Hulu’s first original scripted series. The series, along with Hulu’s other original documentary series, is available for free rather than on the subscripton-based Hulu Plus to enable the site to build its user base and reputation for original programming. The show will premiere on February 14, 2012, with a new episode made available online each subsequent week. The 13-episode first season will also coincide with the 2012 Republican primaries.
CAST AND CREW
Executive Producer: Marc Webb (“The Amazing Spiderman,” “500 Days of Summer”)
Director/Writer: J.D. Walsh (actor in “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “The League,” “Two and a Half Men”)
Producer: Hagai Shaham (“Mean Creek,” “The Details”)
Meighan Gerachis as Deirdre Samuels
Jay Hayden as Chris “Tak” Davis
Teri Reeves as Kara “KJ” Jamison
Jack De Sena as Cole Graner
Ben Samuel as Ben Werner
Lindsey Payne as Lindsey Cutter
Jordan T. Maxwell as Jordan T. Mosley
Alison Haislip as Ali Laurents