It’s impossible to consider Political Animals, USA’s surprisingly ambitious limited series that premiered on Sunday, without mentioning its time-slot competitor, The Newsroom. Like Aaron Sorkin’s ode to the anchor desk, Political Animals is set in a familiar sidewaysverse, a very recent past or near-present in which a charismatic upstart has captured the White House, partisan rancor seems insurmountable, and, while smartphones exist, expository monologues remain the most popular form of communication. But if The Newsroom exists to show us how things should have been done, Political Animals cannily prefers to show us what they could be. Rather than primly sitting on the sidelines with those who once bought ink by the barrel (and now produce pink slips by the truckload), PA dives right into the messy, wholly imagined world of the headline-makers. This decision makes all the difference: It’s far more pleasurable to be asked a question than told the answers. And while it may be unfair to compare the two — especially considering that the soapy, silly Political Animals appears to be just the sort of frivolous indulgence that St. Will McAvoy would toss off his balcony in disgust — in politics, as within the fictional Hammond family, everything is relative.