Netflix's The Politician already looks like it's going to be our next Fall TV obsession, partially due to to the eye candy that is its lush setting. The hour-long dark comedy, which follows an intensely ambitious young man with dreams of sitting in the Oval Office, is set in Santa Barbara, California. To hear the cast and creatives tell it, this is a story that couldn't be told anywhere else.
One of the key themes running through the show is its skewering of uberambitious, uberwealthy, often white teenagers who are raised from childhood as intense overachievers, and its location in a wealthy California enclave is crucial to that story. The series opens with its protagonist, Ben Platt's Payton Hobart, getting waitlisted at Harvard, and his mother's response is a quip about how she "bought" his older brothers' spots at elite universities. Ironically, the show was filmed before the "Operation Varsity Blues" scandal that revolved around wealthy parents who did, in fact, "buy" their children's way into elite programs.
"We lucked into that," admitted series creator Ryan Murphy to The Hollywood Reporter. Still, he explains, while the specific context has shifted thanks to real-world happenings, the idea of writing a series about unchecked ambition has been percolating for a while, and the setting of an ultrawealthy California city seemed like the perfect fit. "My ambition has always been," he pauses, " 'sociopathic' is too strong of a word — but maybe not."
For Platt, who grew up in Beverly Hills as the son of wealthy producer Marc Platt, the world of The Politician is shockingly familiar. "It's a lot of very privileged wealthy white people, and I think now is the time to take a blackhearted look at that," he said to The Hollywood Reporter. The first season of the show will focus on Payton's run for student government at Saint Sebastian High School, his competitive, exclusive prep school. The setting of an elite high school is nothing new for teen dramas, but it seems pretty certain that The Politician will give us a version we've never seen before when the first season hits Netflix on Sept. 27.