(EDITOR’S NOTE: *For those that haven’t seen the following episodes, SPOILERS may be present from here on out.*)
So I now begin my yearly ritual of watching new shows as they air and determine which I continue to watch and give a further chance to. First up Madam Secretary, the new series on CBS and the lead in to the wildly popular The Good Wife.
Show starts off introducing characters Téa Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, a University history teacher, and her husband Henry McCord played by Tim Daly, also a teacher of religious studies. She is as we learn a former CIA analyst who has retired to be with her family. While having dinner with some of her old CIA friends, she learns of a accident involving the current Secretary of State who’s plane just crashed.
She is soon visited by the current president of the United States who happens to be her former boss at the CIA. He comes to visit her because he wishes for her to take over as the new Secretary of State and will not take no for an answer.
Cut to two months later when Leoni’s character has now taken the role of Secretary of State for the United States and proceeds from this point in the story. As she is working on a State dinner she does not want to be part of she gets a call from a Czech Ambassador. She learns about the major plot for the episode in which two American brothers are captured by Syrian nationals and are being held as terrorist criminals.
Right away McCord is trying to solve the the problem of getting these brothers back from Syria. However, she runs afoul of the President’s Chief of Staff Russell Jackson, played by Zeljko Ivanek of 24, Heroes and recently Suits fame. After the first attempt to rescue the boys is a failure, the Secretary of State begins to make maneuvers to do things the way that she wanted to in the first place. She works behind-the-scenes with the President against the Chief of Staff to use her original plan that she believes will have a greater success using back channels through her previous CIA contacts.
While this is going on, she is being constantly barraged with the attempts by Jackson to have her use a stylist to improve her image for the press. This finally becomes something in a later part of the episode as she uses this “new look” to change the narrative away from a soon to be leaked story about the hostages. This works and gives her the time required to finish getting all the pieces of her plan in place. To great relief of the boys’ parents, they are returned to the United States through these back channels safely. However not everyone appreciates her work. Having learned of her going around him, the Chief of Staff threatens to make life difficult if she does not begin to play ball the way he wishes she would.
We see McCord finally having that dinner with the King of Swaziland who she politically out maneuvers into making an agreement in principle to work with her on that nation’s AIDS crisis. All in all, a whirlwind few days for the Secretary as she is still learning the political ins & outs of Washington.
The episode concludes with a death of a character who is a friend of the secretary’s from her previous CIA life under what she now believes to be suspicious circumstances via a car accident. This storyline feels like this will become a major overall plot for the season as the Secretary of State navigates these new political waters. Not a new plot device since we have seen these kind of shenanigans on shows like Scandal. Regardless, the show does a serviceable job keeping the plot moving and creating characters to like and root for.
Overall Madam Secretary is a pretty standard television drama with characters that are somewhat interesting and engaging. Not necessarily a show that I will want to continue watching but I will give a couple more episodes to see how it plays out. The one thing about the show that is good for sure is the role that women have within it seems to be going beyond just paper thin accessories for the story. This marks a continued push by CBS to shift from their traditional older audience to an audience that skews more toward strong, well written female leads which is always a good thing for television.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!