The Reagans review – a shallow docuseries that needed more elaboration

November 18, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
Showtime, TV Reviews
2

Summary

The Reagans provides a shallow overview of the Reagans’ marriage without offering any real insight, especially into their lives outside of their careers.

Previous EpisodeView allNext Episode
2

Summary

The Reagans provides a shallow overview of the Reagans’ marriage without offering any real insight, especially into their lives outside of their careers.

This review of The Reagans on Showtime is spoiler-free.


The President of the United States is, in many ways, the most significant political position in the world, which is perhaps why those who occupy it retain their title even after their terms in office have ended. At the moment, the world’s eyes are turned towards the current U.S. presidential election, which is turning out to be one of the most bizarre in living memory, so Matt Tyrnauer’s four-part Showtime docuseries The Reagans seems the least of anyone’s concerns – its subjects, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, vacated the Oval Office over three decades ago.

But the fact that U.S. presidents continue to be addressed as such even after their tenures speaks to a lingering appeal of those who have held the office, whenever and for however long. Ronald Reagan, in particular, venturing into politics directly from Hollywood, represents the first real fusion of celebrity and elected official. “If you are not a good actor, you cannot be a good president,” Reagan once apparently said. The docuseries might as well have left things there, so succinct that statement is.

But it doesn’t leave things there, much to its own detriment, since it continues to chronicle Reagan’s career and marriage without really delving into any crucial aspects of either. The Reagans is toothless in its examination of Ronald as a politician and a husband, and of Nancy as his wife, enabler, and string-puller. The overall tone is, I suppose, gossipy, like a group of insiders have gotten together to share hearsay and make allusions to more interesting ideas that The Reagans never manages to unpack.

The actor and politician comparison is also hammered into the ground, and while it’s fitting, it’s also the most obvious thing to say about the Reagans. Through archival footage and talking heads, Tyrnauer goes over Ronald’s disastrous record on key political issues without taking a firm stance in opposition to his obviously self-serving and flagrantly hypocritical policy decisions. The docuseries is weak in that sense, and distressingly unenlightening when it comes to the personal and geopolitical contexts in which those decisions were made.

The Reagans has, admittedly, little time for the personal aspect of Ron and Nancy, which is a shame considering how ripe for examination their marriage seems to be. Nancy’s role in her husband’s life, and her increasing responsibilities as he succumbed to dementia, aren’t downplayed, per se, but are left frustratingly unpacked, still feeling like rumor more than verifiable fact. Docuseries’ should provide those more than anything else, but The Reagans seems mostly interested in doing so.


Thanks for reading our review of The Reagans on Showtime. For more recaps, reviews, and original features covering the world of entertainment, why not follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page?

Previous EpisodeView allNext Episode

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.