A Tale of Two Political Dramas

There's something vital about 'Madam Secretary' and 'Scandal,' and we can't afford to miss it.
A Tale of Two Political Dramas
Image: CBS
Tea Leoni in 'Madam Secretary'

Last Sunday, Madam Secretary premiered on CBS, just after 60 Minutes. The hour-long drama, which stars Tea Leoni, is (so far) the story of Elizabeth “Bess” McCord, a former spy turned college professor, a happily married mother of two teenagers, who gets called up by POTUS—a former intelligence head himself—when the Secretary of State is tragically killed in a freak airplane crash. Would she take the job?

Of course she would.

The pilot draws on our by now well-established political TV vocabulary to pack a lot into its narrative: there is some intrigue, some comedy, some nice moments of marital harmony, and of course the need to perform some political gymnastics in order to do good in the world. There's also a bit of Thomas Aquinas from Bess's husband Henry (Tim Daly), an apparently appreciative religion professor at Georgetown (stay tuned for commentary, if this becomes significant), and a cast of minor characters that recall the fun quirk of the minor characters who pop up in another political TV show: West Wing. Also, it's nice to see Leoni, aged 48, in a leading role. Actually, Madam Secretary recalled West Wing to me in several respects, not just for the marriage and the characters, but for the way it characterizes politics in DC. Over at The AV Club, Sonya Saraiya gave the pilot a B+, saying that the show is solid and has the seeds of being something great, but “its idealism and patriotism both sound a little too uncomplicated for the modern viewer choosing among True Detective, Game Of Thrones, and Homeland on a Sunday night.” So I'm gonna go out on a limb here: I'm totally okay with that. For a reason I hope is good. Don't get me wrong: I love ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
Previous Watch This Way Columns:
Tags:
September
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
close