A must for fans of American politics, skein sets up shop in the under-construction offices of Matalin and Carville and balances a pair of fictional co-workers with the real D.C. machine. Soderbergh uses guerilla style filmmaking to capture behind-the-scenes players with a fervent urgency; if "K Street" holds its course, it could serve as a primer in understanding modern-day politics.

A must for fans of American politics, “K Street” sets up shop in the still-under-construction offices of Mary Matalin and James Carville and balances a pair of fictional co-workers with the real D.C. machine. Director Steven Soderbergh uses a guerilla style of filmmaking to capture behind-the-scenes players with a fervent urgency; if “K Street” holds its course, it could serve as a primer in understanding modern-day politics.

Democrat Carville, the political consultant who guided Bill Clinton to the presidency in 1992, is the main focus in the first episode as he sidesteps his firm’s commitment to bipartisanship. With Paul Begala and the fictional Tommy Flannegan (John Slattery), Carville accepts a request to advise Vermont Gov. Howard Dean on debate techniques. Begala’s advice to Dean — all of it dead-on — is given an added depth by Soderbergh’s direction. The camera moves between candidate and adviser with amazing alacrity, focusing on hand gestures one moment and turning to sharp close-ups the next.

While Carville is being a good Democrat, his wife, business partner and former political opponent, Mary Matalin, is engaged in damage control, informing members of her party, Republican, that Carville is not acting in the firm’s name. Her fictional sidekick is Maggie Norris (Mary McCormack), who isn’t given much more to do than answer the phone in the first seg.

Matalin, with a fiercely biting tone, and Carville, the loquacious Southerner, dwarf their fictional companions with energy and intensity — they arrive as TV characters unto themselves. They are as exciting to watch in this context as they have been on political talkshows. The two are thrown a curve, however, with the arrival of Francisco Dupre (Roger Guenveur Smith) who applies for a job at their multidiscipline agency. (Matalin explains they do lobbying, strategy planning, crisis management and PR.)

They’ll undoubtedly hire Dupre and he might well confound them as they attempt to define how much America has changed since they emerged in the late 1980s. He’s a significant enigma in a world they feel they know inside out. In the first episode, though, the fictional characters have no cogent effect on the series and one has to wonder if they are even necessary.

Production-wise, show is no frills across-the-board, yet herky-jerky camera work by Soderbergh (working under his nom de camera Peter Andrews) is invigorating. He gets the right shot and, from the get-go, everything is in focus from the framing to the characters’ intentions.

Series premiered early in week one and will air at 10 p.m. beginning this week.

K Street

Series; HBO; Sun., Sept. 14; 9:30 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Washington, D.C., and Maryland by Section Eight and thinkfilm for HBO Original Prods. Executive producers, George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Henry Bean, Mark Sennet; co-executive producer, Grant Heslov; producer, Michael Hissrich; co-producer, Stuart Stevens; director, Soderbergh;

Crew

camera, Peter Andrews; editor, Mary Ann Bernard; casting, Brian Chavanne. 30 MIN.

Cast

Tommy Flannegan - John Slattery Maggie Norris - Mary McCormack Francisco Dupre - Roger Guenveur Smith James Carville - Himself Mary Matalin - Herself
With: Paul Begala, Matty Carville, Alice Chernault, Maria Cino, Michael Craig, Howard Dean, Till Hanson, Caroline Crutchfield Hunter, James Miller, Susan Molinari, Don Nickles, Jose F. Rejas, Rick Santorum, Sally Vastola.
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