Madam Secretary s1 ep 1

Dr Elizabeth “Bess” McCord (Téa Leoni), CIA-operative-turned-academic, has a nice life in the country with her attractive, amiable husband Henry (Tim Daly), also an academic, their kids, and some horses. The news that the US Secretary of State has died in a plane accident which is obviously totally not an accident doesn’t really affect her, until the President himself (Keith Carradine) – an old friend who recruited her at the CIA – turns up on her doorstep wanting her to fill the vacancy.

Fast forward two months, and we catch up with Bess and the people surrounding her: her Chief of Staff Nadine (Bebe Neuwirth), who hates her; speechwriter Matt (Geoffrey Arend); Samar off of The Blacklist (Mozhan Marnò) as her newly-recruited stylist; her assistant Blake (Erich Bergen); and Chief of Staff Russell Jackson (Željko Ivanek).

Her immediate foreign policy challenge is that a couple of stupid American teenagers have managed to get themselves taken hostage in Syria; Bess wants to use some of her old contacts to get them freed, but is prevented by Jackson from getting to the President to discuss this option. She also has to plan for a dinner with the multi-wived King of Swaziland. And a former CIA colleague named George (William Sadler, John McGarrett in Hawaii Five-0) turns up at her house at night, in order to give her an off-the-books warning that the accident which killed her predecessor obviously and totally wasn’t an accident.

Much of this is comfort viewing, both in terms of characterisation and plotting. No-one is playing against type: Carradine is the iron fist in the avuncular velvet glove; Neuwirth is frosty; Arend is geeky; Ivanek radiates malevolence. (My internal jury is still out on Leoni.) As for the storylines: will Bess be able to melt Bebe’s heart? Will she be able to circumvent protocol and get to the President? Will she be able to bring the idiot teens home? Will she face Željko down? Can she handle the King of Swaziland and his dozens of wives? Will George make it to episode 2? And will her husband prove too good to be true?

Well, we don’t know the answer to the last one yet, but otherwise it all unfolds much as you might expect. Which is my main problem with an episode I otherwise enjoyed: it all seemed a bit… frictionless? But I liked it, and I’m encouraged by reports that it gets better as the run goes on. What with everything else we’ve got on at the moment I don’t anticipate regular reviews, but I’m going to keep watching.


11 thoughts on “Madam Secretary s1 ep 1

  1. Snoskred April 24, 2015 / 2:18 pm

    It is extremely likeable tv. 🙂

  2. Jed Bartlet April 24, 2015 / 3:09 pm

    It is.

  3. CPS April 24, 2015 / 3:56 pm

    It is likeable TV. But lets be honest, it is also predictable and kinda boring.

  4. Jed Bartlet April 24, 2015 / 5:57 pm

    On the basis of the first episode only I’d concede predictability, although I can see that you’d want viewers to buy into a network show on the basis that nice things happen to good people. I wasn’t bored, though, but can understand why it would be too low-octane for some.

  5. Olive April 25, 2015 / 10:51 pm

    Ok, not groundbreaking, in any way, but really was a very pleasant way to spend 40-odd minutes. I actually hope it stays low octane. With so many shows trying to out shock and surprise one another it would be quite nice to have something to add to my weekly stable of similarly “safe but enjoyable” shows like NCIS.

    The really quite remarkable cast also suggests that there was something more to this that pulled them in, too. Let’s face it, some of them really don’t struggle for screen time elsewhere.

    I’ll be watching.

  6. Kay20 September 13, 2015 / 1:55 am

    Also enjoyed the first episode and am going to give it a go. Yes its hamfisted but I am enjoying the ham. 🙂

  7. Kay20 September 13, 2015 / 1:55 am

    I also like healthy marriages on TV a la the Taylors – hoping this is more like that.

  8. Jed Bartlet September 13, 2015 / 8:09 am

    It’s worth persevering, Kay. I think you’ll like it.

    • Kay20 September 14, 2015 / 2:37 am

      Thanks Jed. I’m going to stick to it.

  9. Kay20 September 16, 2015 / 9:19 pm

    Really liked the 2nd episode. This show is growing on me.

  10. Jed Bartlet September 17, 2015 / 6:51 pm

    Can’t honestly promise it gets a whole lot better. But then again it never really gets worse. It’s very reliable.

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