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Madam Secretary Succeeds Week After Week

October 13, 2014


I was originally going to hold off on posting about Madam Secretary until State of Affairs, another political new show with a female lead premiered, in order to compare the two, but I couldn’t wait. I just freaking love this show too much.

Many procedurals (and yes, this falls into the category) lose fan interest when there isn’t an ongoing storyline or a season arc. Forever solves weekly cases, but we tune in to find out more about why Henry is immortal. Castle has an ongoing romantic storyline, as well as the mystery of what happened to Beckett’s mother. Bones had the backdrop of Booth and Brennan’s romance for a long time and now has a focus on corruption within the FBI.  Similarly, Madam Secretary has weekly issues that Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni) and her staff have to  work out, but there is also a mystery surrounding the death of her predecessor.

While most shows would grow stale without the continuing story arc, Madam Secretary stands on its own without the additional storyline. In last night’s episode, there was so much tension, so much pressure on McCord from senators, her family, foreign governments, and even her own staff that I completely forgot that there was still a mystery element to the series.

And I think that is a good thing. The show has come under fire from some critics (mostly conservative ones) that Madam Secretary is thinly veiled liberal propaganda, solely put out to the public to get them fired up for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid for the presidency. While McCord is based loosely on Clinton, and the stories thus far are ripped from the headlines (Benghazi, Snowden, etc.), overall, the show doesn’t feel like propaganda.

For one thing, McCord is former CIA and very non-political, whereas Clinton couldn’t be more political if she tried. And for another, Leoni is far more human than Clinton has ever appeared to be. Clinton has an iciness about her that is necessary for a presidential bid, but Leoni’s McCord is tough and decisive, but also warm, caring, and concerned that the job could make her callous, unsympathetic, and a monster.

Comparisons aside, week after week Madam Secretary has been entertaining, tense, and fun to watch. McCord’s staff play well off of each other, and her family’s bickering keeps things interesting at home. Plus, you’ve got veteran actors Tim Daly, Bebe Neuwirth and Zeljko Ivanek as McCord’s husband, chief of staff, and White House rival, respectively, to match Leoni’s talent and expertise in navigating a show with heavy issues, multiple storylines, and complex characters with hidden motives and agendas.

All in all, Madame Secretary is the middle ground between hyper-intellectual The West Wing and soapy Scandal, which is the perfect place for it to be. Look out, State of Affairs: there may not be room for you.


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