When I first saw the trailer for CBS' new fall show “Madam Secretary,” my first thought was, hey, Tea Leoni! I love Tea Leoni! My second thought was, man, have not been seeing much of her in recent years. Sure, she was just in “Tower Heist” in 2011, but no one saw that, and it's been a whole lotta years since “Flirting with Disaster.” There have been many projects in between, but not enough of them have been ideal showcases for Leoni's talent, plus movies like “Jurassic Park III” and “Deep Impact” weren't really about the actors, and plenty of other stars dominated hits like “A League of Their Own.” Here are five reasons why I'm really hoping this is the hit Leoni has long deserved.
1) She's smart by any standard
Yes, she dropped out of Sarah Lawrence, but let's remember that she got into Sarah Lawrence. Watching her on screen in any role, her intelligence is apparent — even when the intelligence of the project is, shall we say, lacking. I wasn't a fan of “Fun with Dick and Jane,” but it was notable how much she elevated the material and played well (and held her own) with Jim Carrey, who can often overwhelm the screen. She makes other actors look good, an often undervalued skill.
2) She's a comedic talent that never got the TV material she deserved.
“Flying Blind” was a blip on the radar in 1992, lasting just one season, but it was supposed to be Leoni's big break. It should have been. Leoni's husky voice (more on that in a moment) and talent for screwball comedy got a lot of press initially, even though viewers didn't bother to find the show. “The Naked Truth,” in which she played a tabloid photographer, was more successful (it lasted from 1995 to 1998, hopping from ABC to NBC after its first season) but it never scored particularly well in the ratings. While “Madam Secretary” isn't a sitcom by any stretch, Leoni's knack for wry humor is obvious in the trailer, and this might be just the setting for her.
3) That voice
When Leoni speaks, she sounds like she's been chewing a pack of cigarettes all day. While for her sake I hope that hasn't been the case, it lends her portrayal of a role like this one — a former CIA analyst who becomes Secretary of State — a certain gravitas and steel. When she tells a superior in so many words not to piss her off, she sounds just tough enough to back that up in a kick ass way, one befitting a high ranking politician, of course.
4) The show looks like it might be good
Okay, it's too soon to tell. I'm a little worried it might get sticky maudlin, what with Elizabeth McCord going rogue to save those kids who are just a few years older than her own (she's a Secretary of State who never forgets she's a mom! Represent!). Still, some of the dialogue is snappy, and it's good to see Tim Daly, Bebe Neuwirth and Geoffrey Arend working, too.
5) It's just time, okay?
Even if the show dodges down familiar alleys, I'm always game for a series in which a smart woman is the focus, whether it's Olivia Pope or Alicia Florick. After so many years of near misses, Tea Leoni deserves a show that's smart, possibly funny, and has some grit. Let's just hope this is the one.