Edith! Is a new audio drama podcast starring Rosamund Pike as Edith Wilson, the wife of President Woodrow Wilson who secretly took over the US Presidency when he was laid low by a stroke and ran the country in his name. And not to over-exaggerate, but it might be the best American audio comedy-drama of this generation.
Billed by Crooked Media as "the untold true-ish story of America's first female president", Edith! really happened but is seldom discussed. It was previously a 10-minute comedy sketch on Comedy Central's Drunk History a few years ago. The new reading of the situation is that when Wilson was incapacitated by his stroke in 1919, Edith effectively took over the presidency. She vetted who could speak to him, which papers and policies should be introduced, headed off an attempted coup by the cabinet, and did it all in the name of Wilson. She considered what she did a "stewardship" of her husband's presidency, seeking to help finish ratifying the League of Nations that he was in the process of completing when he had the stroke. In short, Wilson ran the country while Woodrow Wilson was bedridden. She became America's first, secret, female President.
Writers Gonzalo Cordova and Travis Helwig said they didn't really like script audio dramas when they were commissioned to write Edith! Maybe this is why it might be the best American audio drama this Century. It lacks the self-consciousness of most US audio drama podcasts that are often preoccupied with the gimmick that they're audio-only and have to comment on it in some 4th Wall-breaking way that is often distracting. Instead, Cordova and Helwig's scripts present the series as a TV show without pictures. It's as snarky, cynical, scathing, and funny as Veep and The West Wing. And this might be Pike's best role – she found her specialty in movies like Gone Girl and I Care A Lot playing icily smart, calculating, and amoral women who are tough as nails and able to out-think the men around her with surgical precision. We don't know if the real Edith Wilson was as steely as Pike plays her but we hope she was, especially when she's this hilarious. The show gives Edith a foil in Trudie Grayson as played by Esther Povitsky as Edith's wide-eyed sidekick who unintentionally comments on storytelling tropes even as they live through them. Clark Gregg is a likable and affable Woodrow Wilson before he's struck down by his stroke. Dietrich Bader is fun as Wilson's nemesis, Henry Cabot Lodge. Stephen Root is a hoot as drunken Vice President Thomas Marshall whose alcoholism proves why Edith doesn't want him running the country while the President is down.
The British call these things radio dramas because they're broadcast on BBC Radio. Edith! Is the first US audio drama podcast that's on the same level as the best of the BBC. There's a sophistication in the writing that's multilayered in ways few US podcasts are. It's a character study, a deconstructionist comedy about history not unlike Apple TV+'s Dickinson, a sardonic commentary about the Machiavellian nature of Politics that's still going on right now, which is why this show is relevant. Politics in America has never really changed, and Edith! Explains why a woman can only become President in secret. Edith! Is streaming on all podcast apps and on the Crooked Media website.
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