One episode in, and we understand fully why CBS wanted to pair “The Good Wife” and “Madam Secretary” together. Both are sharp, intelligent series fronted by strong women, and both do a good job of mixing complicated politics with a home life that can have some problems of its own.
The biggest selling point for this show, just like “The Good Wife” had with Julianna Margulies in the early going, is Tea Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, a college professor and former CIA agent who becomes Secretary of State when called upon. She just commands the role with ease, and does not play it off like someone who will go off on tangents or have “hijinks” like many other rookies would in her position. They really want to show that McCord is good at her job, and can pull it off. She may almost be too good, but we much prefer that to the alternative.
The Hillary Clinton influences are obvious here, but we don’t mind them given that the personal lives are different. We actually wish there was less of what was going on for Elizabeth at home. It’s not so much that Tim Daly or anyone else was bad, but we much prefer the world of politics and complicated relationships. Plus, Keith Carradine makes for an awesome President.
Eventually “Madam Secretary” is going to need to find a better sense of balance if it wants to become a consistent player in the CBS lineup, and it may also need to take a few more chances. We could telegraph almost the entire course of the pilot; that doesn’t make it bad, but it does make it predictable.
If nothing else, we will give the producers and Leoni some credit for creating an interesting pilot that at least proves that CBS can do politics, and doesn’t necessarily have to fill their lineup with cop shows. They just need a little more zing moving forward. Grade: B.
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