Battleground is Hulu's first original scripted series, a dramedy about the U.S. Senate campaign of Deirdre Samuels, a Wisconsin Democrat who begins the series polling third in the primary election.
The show is presented as a documentary that follows campaign manager Tak Davis and his campaign staff during the run-up to the election. However, unlike many Faux Documentary shows, it takes the documentary conceit more seriously and the characters sometimes interact with the film crew. The talking head interviews don't take place in a void, instead acting as Flash Forwards to give glimpses of the characters after the campaign is over.
This series contains examples of:
- Tak is able to co-opt the phone bank firm that is blocking their number in "Did You Win" by threatening to reveal something that happened with the owner and "a stripper named Peppermint from Janesville", who Corboy mysteriously alludes to in "Flashback."
- Cole very quickly declines Gretchen's offer to get the film crew to find the footage of Jordan's speech for him in "Did You Win", a reference to how he discovered Tak kissed KJ in "They'll Burn Your Eyes."
- The cat from the pilot is still hanging around the front door of the office in "He's Better Than Television", this time in person form.
- Tak mentions in the pilot that Makers was losing it when he worked for him six years ago. We see just how bad this really was in "Flashback."
- "Flashback" explains why Julie Werner thought her naive-but-moral brother Ben would be good for Tak in the pilot.
- Ben's threat to Jordan in "Nothing About Chile" is attributed to all the time he spent watching Lockup as part of Alli's prank in "Nothing to Hide."
- In The Tag to the Season 1 finale, Alli is playing the Circle Game with JD, and he doesn't prove to be any better than Jordan was in "The Comment."
- Foregone Conclusion:
- The Confession Cam scenes give the impression that it won't end well for everyone— notably Cole, who appears to be in jail.
- It's revealed at the end of the pilot that Ben and Lindsay get together by the end of the campaign, and they subsequently do most of their talking heads together.
- Given that the documentary keeps thanking State Senator Diedre Samuels at the beginning, it may have been clear from the beginning that Samuels wasn't going to win.
- Foreshadowing: D-Day Davis mentions that Donellan is looking for staff for his presidential campaign during "It's Getting Ugly, Tak."
- Ghost Extras: There are a lot of extras in the Samuels office who mainly serve to wander around and look busy.
- Idiot Ball: The married Tak kisses his friend and co-worker KJ, who is dating his other friend and co-worker Cole, while being filmed by a camera crew. Considering the shots on camera of the crew itself, it's clear they're not that inconspicuous. No way that ends badly. This becomes particularly hard to fathom after "Flashback," when it becomes clear that Tak has already gone through having his every move tracked by cameras and revealed to the world— including taking drugs and cheating on his then-girlfriend. He doesn't seem to have learned much. Moreover, after his experience in "Flashback," why would Tak agree to this new documentary? His experience with the MTV show can't have been a good one.
- Left It In: In one episode Tak asks them to not use some footage, to which they nod and whisper "f-u".
- Love Dodecahedron: As the series begins, Cole is dating KJ, who used to sleep with Tak back when he was dating Julie. Just as Tak and Julie broke up, he met his now-wife Sarah, who he's having problems with— which he deals with by kissing KJ, who Cole dumps as a result. Cole shortly thereafter starts a locationship with Gretchen, to KJ's apparent dismay. Meanwhile, Julie's brother Ben is chasing Lindsay, who has a crush on him despite Jordan's constant attempts to hit on her. Everyone on the show works for Jordan's stepmother, State Senator Diedre Samuels, who is married to Jordan's father George but once had an affair with Craig Louden, despite her co-workers believing she was sleeping with Craig's wife Claire.
- Mood Whiplash:
Name 1 Whatever they have is worse, and we've got to figure out what it is. Soon.
- The end of "Did You Win?" features a double mood whiplash. First, each member of the team individually figures out that Samuels has lost. Then Tak gets a phone call from Donellan asking him and the firm to run his presidential campaign. Then, as they celebrate, you see Sarah looking through the window at Tak heartbroken, and Samuels walks into the room to talk to Tak clearly having misunderstood the celebration.
- A triple mood whiplash at the end of "It's Getting Ugly, Tak." Tak's father joins the Creighton campaign, then he plays with his kids and Cole returns, then he and his wife get in a vicious fight over his getting drunk, and then we find out the President is coming to Wisconsin to stump for Samuels.
- This exchange:
Name 2: Did that guy look like Papa Smurf to you?
Name 1 or 3: Yes!
- Jordan, Diedre's stepson, thinks he's earned what he thinks is a serious job in the campaign. He's actually been stuck in the back office to make him feel important and keep him out of the way.
- Ben turns out to have good instincts (and he's a volunteer, so it's not like he can be fired), but Tak initially takes an interest in Ben because he's the younger brother of Julie Werner, his ex-girlfriend.
- No Fourth Wall:
- The documentary crew that's filming is very much a part of the show's universe, and the characters address them relatively often. They have played a major role in the events of the show on three occasions— providing the campaign with video of the student asking Samuels if she is a lesbian in "Who is Claire Villareal?", accidentally showing Cole that Tak kissed KJ in "They'll Burn Your Eyes," and helping Ben and Lindsay with the cop trying to force them to move the campaign bus in "Better Than Television."
- During one of Tak and Ben's parking lot walk-and-talks, Tak looks up and tells the documentary crew (who are walking backwards filming them) to look out for the curb. The camera then moves up as the operator steps up.
- No Party Given: Averted; all the candidates are identified by party.
- Once an Episode: Ben meeting Tak in the parking lot as he arrives each morning with his coffee. Lampshaded in "Nothing to Hide"; when Ben is late and Tak arrives unusually early, Tak stands around befuddled until Ben comes running up behind him.Tak: I thought you were dead.
- One-Hour Work Week: Alli doesn't seem to work that much in the second half of Season 1. Of course, it's possible she has more time to get things done since she's not part of the Love Dodecahedron.
- The Reveal: At the end of "Nothing About Chile," we finally discover what happened with Claire. Samuels had an affair with her husband.
- The Tag: The show frequently features extra clips over the credits, often in-universe campaign ads referred to in the show or based on that episode's action.
- Running Gag: KJ tells Corboy to go fuck himself in almost every conversation they have.
- Stylistic Suck: The Whole Episode Flashback to the previous Senate campaign is done in the style of a cheesy, melodramatic MTV documentary with Manipulative Editing and acoustic pop music piped in over every dramatic scene.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Tak was once obsessed with impressing his dad Frank "D-Day" Davis, who is an amoral campaign manager who will do anything to win. He's now obsessed with not turning into him.
- Will They or Won't They?: Averted. The end of the pilot shows that Ben and Lindsay end up together before we actually really meet Lindsay.
- Welcome Episode: The first episode uses Ben to introduce the cast and setting.