I’ve been a fan of Barbara Hall’s writing since I discovered Judging Amy years ago. I’ve been watching her newest show Madam Secretary since it premiered in September. So far the series shows promise and entertains. The premise is that the President of the United States chooses professor Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA colleague to replace the Secretary of State, who just died when his plane went down. Téa Leoni plays McCord, a savvy, attractive woman who juggles family and international diplomacy amazingly well given she doesn’t have any hired help. (I would like to see her get a housekeeper because that’s how life would be.)
Elizabeth is loyal to the President, played well by Keith Carradine, and stuck working with an sniping head of staff, and some young rather goofy staff members. If I were her, I’d slowly move these folks out to other jobs as their loyalty is scant, though growing.
At home Elizabeth is married to Henry, a theology professor, played by Tim Daly. I wouldn’t be surprised if Henry started walking on water. I don’t mean that as sarcastically as it sounds. Henry is smart, caring and loving. He seems to help around the house a lot and is great with the kids. I think Cosby’s Dr. Huxtable wasn’t so perfect. He’s one of the best characters on the show. Certainly, better than the children. The poor middle child is a teenage daughter who whines a lot. She screams and usually runs off stage. The youngest, a son, is a self-proclaimed anarchist, which is funny-ish. The oldest daughter emerged in episode two when she dropped out of college because it was too much to deal with people trying to be her friend or criticizing her now famous mom. “Finish the semester! We paid for it!” would be how I’d handle that. Then if the daughter wanted she could take online courses.
Each week Elizabeth must handle a diplomatic crisis. First she had to rescue two American boys who’d gone over to Syria. Then she had to free an operative who’d been captured and last week Elizabeth’s treaty between Japan and China over a territory dispute just as a Chinese teen visiting the US announces she wants political asylum.
Since I’m a Barbara Hall fan, I believe the show will get on course. It’s got plenty of strengths: Leoni’s performance, Tim Daly, and the arena of the State Department. While she can keep her assistant, most of the rest of her staff is rather wooden. Bebe Neuwirth plays Nadine, the head of staff and we’ve learned that she had an affair with the former Secretary of State. Nadine’s not terribly diplomatic or international and there’s considerable conflict of interest. If I were the Secretary, I’d help Nadine get her dream job ASAP. The show moves along briskly and has promise. Some of the characters should be more international in their outlook and personalities. The kids in the family could be more engaging as The Good Wife kids manage to be, though I hardly see kids helping the Secretary of State the way the Florick kids sometimes point their mom in the right direct at work. Anyway few network shows seem to now so I’ll stick around.