Hulu’s ‘Battleground’ and the Focus on Young Politicos
Hulu has launched its first original series, a mockumentary-style comedy centered on the predominately young campaign staff working to elect a female candidate to the U.S. Senate.
The sitcom, called “Battleground,” premiered on Hulu, which is known for streaming network content, recently as part of the company’s plan to become more competitive with original broadcasting. While much of Hulu’s streaming content is free, viewers are still required to watch ads—even those who pay for premium service.
“Battleground” plays on the stylistic “mockumentary” conventions already established by shows like NBC’s “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” in which the characters are aware of and acknowledge the cameras. But what’s unique about “Battleground” is that the cast is almost entirely young people—from the interns to the campaign manager, no one seems far north of 30 and most are, the New York Times decides, “unusually attractive.” The jokes are good and work for a young audience, and there’s even a few campaign romances brewing.
For young viewers, there’s no boring political drama here—just clever and witty young people who care about politics, trying to do the best they can for their candidate, state senator Deidre Samuels, the clear underdog in the race for a U.S. Senate seat. And unlike many other political shows, the candidate isn’t a main character—she takes a backseat to her young, politically savvy campaign staff and their often intertwined and messy relationships. The campaign staff is quirky—the star is arguably not campaign manager Tak Davis, but his assistant, Ben Werner, who enters the show fresh off a stint as a medieval faire performer. (As Alyssa Rosenberg notes in The Atlantic, these wacky moments are a “reminder of what a weird and artificial environment a political campaign is in the first place.”)
A focus on young voters, and the role of young people in political campaigns, emerged more prominently after Barack Obama’s bid mobilized large numbers of young Americans in 2008. With “Battleground,” Hulu is making a smart move by focusing on politics from a youth perspective during a presidential election year.
On the show, Samuels’s campaign slogan is “Truth for a Change,” a clever play on Obama’s similar slogan. “Battleground” shows young people working hard, dropping words like “grassroots,” and creating political buzz through new and innovative thinking. (Some of that comes from what Rosenberg describes as “the goofiness and cynicism of people who are overtired and a little sick of each other's company.”)
Rival streaming service Netflix has long dismissed Hulu as a serious competitor, but “Battleground” premiered just one week after Netflix launched its own first original series, “Lilyhammer.” Both companies are now more clearly in direct competition to find a way to market original television outside of the traditional vehicles rather than just streaming content. While Hulu has decided to stick to the traditional format of one episode released per week, Netflix’s “Lilyhammer”was immediately available in its entiretywhen it premiered.
“Battleground,” though, does seem short-lived in its premise. What happens after Samuels wins—or loses? The series could easily drop its charm of following the campaign members as political staffers: Half the fun is wondering how each episode’s twists and turns will affect the race itself.
Still, it’s a wise move on Hulu’s part to use the momentum behind young people’s engagement in politics to launch their first original series. New episodes of “Battleground” stream on Tuesdays; check out the trailer below:
Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is a reporter-blogger for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @salvadordahlia.