A fascinating series that leaves you wanting more

When you think of first ladies, you probably think of stylish women who emphasize White House decorating and vanity projects that include children. You know – safe and “feminine” topics. new showtime series The first ladyHowever, takes more than one look at three women, for well-known deep political motives who happened to be married to the President of the United States.

The first season of this anthology series focuses on three first ladies: Michelle Obama (Viola Davis), Betty Ford (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Eleanor Roosevelt (Gillian Anderson). Each episode bounces back and forth between the three women, focusing on a specific, thematic area of ​​their lives. Overall, the series doesn’t just delve into their time as first ladies. There’s a whole episode that shows them in their formative years, including the circumstances of how they each met their husbands – men who would later go on to become POTUS each in their own right.


Although these backstories are somewhat important to develop a deeper understanding of these women in real life, they also feel like something that would be better suited to a series committed to covering all their lives. I kind of a show called Expect The first lady focus exclusively on their time as, you know, the First Lady.

First Lady Michelle Pfeiffer
Picture via Showtime

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Episodes are not evenly distributed among each member of the series’ main trio of protagonists. Instead, they jump back and forth in time between the three stories, and sometimes within the time frame of a particular first lady. It can lead to a bit of a boost, but eventually you get a feel for the rhythm. A date tracker at the bottom of the screen keeps you firmly focused on the right timeline.

Regardless of any jump in confusing times, it is a fascinating vision of the White House. We see the struggle for same-sex marriage from the perspective of Mrs. Obama – not by the prospect of her husband, or that of his political advisers. We see sudden rise Gerald Ford the presidency through Mrs. Ford’s eyes when she looks forward to retirement. We see Mrs. Roosevelt to fight for a place at the presidency of her husband and, failing that, the choice of chart its own course – to the chagrin of many members of his cabinet.

The performances are wonderful. Davis does justice to Michelle Obama, the only First Lady in my life presented here. I never thought of Davis as bearing much resemblance to Mrs. Obama, but she embodies courage and determination so it disappears into the role. I am less familiar with Betty Ford, but Pfeiffer represents with grace and ease that you rarely see today. It’s hard to hide the natural beauty of Anderson behind enough prostheses to make it look like Eleanor Roosevelt, but it’s such a phenomenal actress it is easy to focus on what a strong and brilliant woman, Mrs. Roosevelt.

I can’t help but wonder if these three women would have been better served by each having their own miniseries. I understand the business of television enough to know that this wouldn’t be a possible model, but I really wanted to learn more about each woman individually. I didn’t know that Eleanor Roosevelt’s husband, Franklin, put the first woman in his presidential cabinet thanks to his wife’s insistence. Little did I know that Betty Ford pressed so hard among congressmen’s wives to espouse feminist ideals. Little did I know that Michelle Obama wanted to have more of a hand in Obamacare, and convinced Barack to speak out on same-sex marriages. The actresses wear so that their roles would be easy for me to get involved in these stories take place over a longer series based solely on their performances. At the very least, Michelle Obama should have had her own series. It is still so recent, still so deeply rooted in the current national air of time, that it could have continued its own show. It also feels awkward because Mrs. Obama feels like she exists in a different place in time as a newer first lady, and still presents a national figure.

The first lady is a compelling series that does a great job of boiling down the important parts of three influential first ladies and reintroducing them into the national dialogue (or, in Michelle Obama’s case, reminding us why we love her) – but I wanted more each global story. The first season of this so-called anthology series manages to be perfectly emblematic of the saying that goes, “Always leave them wanting more.” »

Evaluation: B+

The first lady aired Sunday night on Showtime from 17 April.


The video for “The First Lady” revealed Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt

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