Take Me To The Pilots ’14: CBS’ ‘Madam Secretary’

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show: “Madam Secretary” (CBS)
The Pitch: “Yo NBC, I see your shocking show about a woman who's a detective AND a mother and I raise you… A SECRETARY.” “That's not actually all that progressive.” “Of State?” “Good enough.”
Quick Response: It seems silly that “Madam Secretary” has to steal its core premise from ABC's short-lived “Commander in Chief” — A woman with ties to a Virginia university is chosen to become a DC power-player due to her outsider credentials and lack of interest in higher office — but nearly everything in the set-up to “Madam Secretary” is silly, from the excruciating posturing from President Keith Carradine — “You don't think outside the box. You don't even know there is a box.” — to the Vast Government Conspiracy that may or may not be afoot. [Hint — It is. It always is.] If you get past all of the silliness, maybe you'll be able to see a confident and comfortable lead performance from Tea Leoni, a wry-but-underutilized performance by Tim Daly (reduced to playing the “girlfriend”/”wife” role, which is both progress of sorts, but also a waste of Tim Daly) and a supporting cast that verges on spectacular, including Carradine, Zjelko Ivanek, Bebe Neuwirth, Patina Miller and Geoffrey Arend. Heck, this is the rare show with foregrounded political intrigue and background teen supporting characters in which you don't instantly want to kill the teen supporting characters. Having all of those pieces in place just puts extra pressure on creator Barbara Hall to figure out what the *show* is supposed to be and to do it fast. The pilot has International Crisis of the Week and International Diplomacy of the Week elements as well as the aforementioned Vast Government Conspiracy elements. And I found myself engaged in… None of those elements. I wanted to watch a brilliant, capable woman and her capable staff (all brilliant, but still beset upon by human frailties as we all are) doing a job that most of us only understand on a very superficial level. [I was even prepared to watch her domestic life as well, though only if they can resist the annoying temptation to have one of her children get kidnapped by Middle Eastern terrorists at the end of Season 1. Please, “Madam Secretary,” resist that temptation.] That's a little bit of what “Madam Secretary” is, but it'll have to find its way there on a more regular basis.
Desire To Watch Again: There's a potentially good show at the heart of “Madam Secretary,” or there's potentially good bone structure if nothing else. Since seeing the trailer for “Madam Secretary,” I've had the suspicion that this might be a show I'd honor best by allowing to find itself for five or 10 episodes and then checking in at midseason (and then catching up if I like the show “Madam Secretary” becomes). That was my feeling after watching the pilot as well. If they find a way to get maximum value out of Ivanek and Neuwirth and Miller and Daly, this will be a good pairing with “Good Wife.” It's not there yet and watching the growing pains may not serve anybody. I'll go another episode or two and if things don't lock in, I'll wait to be told when to return.

Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Forever'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Red Band Society'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'State of Affairs'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Stalker'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Selfie'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'Jane the Virgin'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Gotham'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Constantine'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Scorpion'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Black-ish'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'The Flash'
All of my 2013 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries