Review: Madam Secretary

A new series on CBS Sunday nights is Madam Secretary. Téa Leoni plays Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst who retired from The Company “on a matter of principle.” The series starts with her teaching in a Virginia University as a political science professor. She’s married with three kids although we only get to see the two teenagers at home. Word comes that the Secretary of State has been killed in a plane crash en route to Caracas Venezuela. President Conrad Dalton played by Keith Carradine is a former CIA director who was her boss and mentor when she worked for the agency. He recruits are to replace the dead Secretary of State and tells her she was his first choice for the job when he was elected but got talked out of it by his advisers.

Flash forward three months where she is settling into the job having moved her family to DC. She is resistive of the parts of the job that are all for show such as hosting a dinner for the king of Swaziland and his 10 wives and for getting a personal makeover by a stylist appointed by the White House to make her more camera friendly.

The main plot of the first episode is about 2 American college students who sneak into Syria to promote peace by joining an anti-government group. They get arrested and are being held hostage and the government is threatening to execute them.

She seems to constantly butt heads with her staff which includes Bebe Neuwirth. Most of them were leftovers from the previous secretary. She also isn’t getting along very well with the president’s chief of staff who is played by Zeljko Ivanek. He always plays characters who seem to have some hidden agenda and you definitely get that vibe from him here as he’s constantly trying to block her access to the president.

Tim Daly plays her husband who is a religion professor. Their relationship seems solid and he serves as a sounding board when she has problems at work. Other than that he hasn’t given much to do so far.

She remains friends with some of her old colleagues at the CIA and uses back channel contacts with Russian diplomats to negotiate the release of the hostages. One of her old CIA friends comes to her in the middle of the night in a panic and says he thinks that the plane crash which killed her predecessor wasn’t an accident. You can’t tell if he’s a burned out agent for conspiracy theories or if there really is something going on. Then he turns up dead. So the conspiracy is off and running. It remains to be seen how much of the weekly plot will circle around that issue.

The dialogue is smart. The plots are reasonably credible and the acting is decent. The show is immediately followed by The Good Wife on Sunday nights and should appeal to that audience as well. If you like tough, smart, intelligent women in interesting situations such as The Good Wife and you will really like this as well.

The shows creators said that they saw the intrigue around the Benghazi scandal and said to themselves “We’ve got to make a show about this.” The background of the character isn’t very Hillary-like so it isn’t exactly ripping off her story. Then again the title of episode 2 is “Another Benghazi”

I’m giving it a definite “I’m Watching” on my rating scale and it could get upgraded to “I Really like It” if it holds up week to week. I suggest you do to.

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