The American first lady occupies a distinct place in our collective consciousness. She can be a fashion icon or simple dresser, an activist or a hostess, a celebrity or a historical footnote. She might end up a presidential candidate or adamant about leaving politics behind once her spouse exits the office.
Showtime’s stylish, star-packed series “The First Lady” (premiering Sunday, 9 EDT/PDT, ★★½ out of four) aims to dig deeply into the inner lives of three of American history’s most prominent presidents’ wives – Michelle Obama (Viola Davis), Betty Ford (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Eleanor Roosevelt (Gillian Anderson). With gorgeous period detail, meticulous performances and familiar historical buzzwords and events, “First Lady” checks a lot of boxes for fans of this kind of glossy, highbrow drama.
However, what holds “First Lady” back is its focus on three first ladies rather than one, with conflicting stories that compete for our attention.