I was looking forward to the pilot episode of the new drama Madam Secretary. Is it going to be reflective of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, as West Wing was Bill Clinton’s Presidency?
I came to the pilot Sunday night expecting something West Wing worthy. Tea Leoni is Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA agent turned history professor at the University of Virginia. She is married to Henry (Tim Daly) who is a religion professor at UVA. Together, the couple has two teenage children. Their happy, quiet life on a horse farm in Charlottesville when the President comes by for a quick visit. The Secretary of State’s plane has crashed and the Secretary has died. The President had trained and mentored Elizabeth when they were both in the CIA, so he already has a well developed trust with her and asks her to be the new Secretary.
Sounds good, right? Yet, And I found myself disappointed. The episode seemed to show all its hard right away. Unlike West Wing, it did not use the gift of mystery. In the pilot episode of West Wing, something big was happening. The episode had a pace to it that pulled us in and left us wanting more. The pilot of Secretary told us too much right away.
The pilot should have taken us right into a situation where we see the Secretary at her best. Moments of high drama. Gut-wrenching situation that we the viewers can relate to. While the background, origin stuff is important and helpful, they should have done what Scandal (another DC based drama) has been doing so well. Make use of the flashback. But not just some generic flashback, but one that compliments the ongoing present storyline.
While disappointed, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that the show will step it up. While the pilot is not perfect, it does communicate a few things that we can assume are going to important. It shows us how important family is to Elizabeth. She has a great marriage with Henry, and spending time with her two children is important to her. But how will that play out as her role as the Secretary increases? It also has Tea Leoni as Elizabeth. A strong actresses who is confident and funny. Some of the supporting cast need work, but CBS has known to take care of such issues with ease and grace.
Even so, there is hope that the pieces that do work will come together to make the show more than a three episoder.