Is Madam Secretary doing the right thing?
Wearing a puzzled frown and a fabulous hairdo,
Lizzy is given little choice as friend and president of the United States, Conrad Dalton (Keith Carradine), tells her he isn’t taking no for an answer, because she’s the only one he can trust.
Unfortunately not everyone shares his faith in the former CIA-agent-turned-college-professor and horse enthusiast, least of all the president’s chief of staff, the cranky Russel Jackson who proceeds to turn on the hostility from minute one and keeps up the cantankerousness through the series until you end up liking him for not being bland.
But, there’s nothing for it: Bess bundles up her family, consisting of tasty-looking unfailingly supportive husband, Henry or Tim Daly and three brats of varying sizes and click-clacks her way into the White House to sort out the world — her way.
Just past four or five episodes, I was still frozen in terror at the thought of Madam Secretary being another Designated Survivor as the show looked all set to be as formulaic. Kiefer Sutherland’s wooden face and soft growl kept sneaking into my head time and again until I finally shook it out and settled down and watched Madam Secretary struggle to accept her new role and the fact that it was not easy having the world’s problems on your pretty shoulders.
Meanwhile, nothing is made easier by the rest of the McCord family. Humourless and deeply annoying youngest brat, Jason, believes in anarchy above all else and does everything he can to be a bit of a thorn in the side. He succeeds and should have been slapped hard in Episode 1. All-alone-in-the-middle brat Alison or “Noodle” veers between falling to pieces over boyfriends to having a startlingly cynical mind of her own. Eldest Stevie causes the most trouble, dropping out of college, making out with the President’s drug addict son, and working hard to be a public embarrassment to her mommy.
Mommy finds life has changed as she has less and less time to tick Jason off for biffing someone at school or cuddling the girls as they navigate the troubled waters of having a busy busy mother who always has to be somewhere else and a father who seems to have taken on some top secret work in addition to professorial duties.
Family scenes are unfailingly predictable. Each episode inevitably begins with some bickering over breakfast, hurried mandatory I-love-you’s all around, and smacking loud kisses for the delicious Henry McCord. And then it’s on to work where each episode we go through the alphabetical list of countries hell bent on making trouble for the rest of the planet. Two American teens get trapped in Syria, Israel takes a potshot at Iran’s nuclear installation, Pakistan plops a nuke in India’s backyard and India won’t give it back, and maybe-Russia cyber attacks Air Force One. All in a day’s work for Madam Secretary.
Surfacing every now and then is the distinctly uncomfortable thought that Elizabeth’s predecessor and friend was probably murdered — with inside help. Oh George, you didn’t really die in an accident, did you?
At work, the Secretary’s staff present their own side stories. The elegant Nadine Toliver (Bebe Neuwirth) is among them, chasses her way through an affair or two and the ever present speech writers Matt and Daisy behave inappropriately at the appropriate times.
But through it all, Madam Secretary holds it together because eventually, she knows exactly just how to make all those naughty countries behave, leaving America to be the good guy for yet another episode. By Season 2, the series settles down and matures into international relations and isn’t uninteresting as we touch down on situations alarmingly similar to real life. But thank god, it’s only a show so everything gets resolved easily with a good slap on the wrist for some head of state.
At the end of the day, it’s back home for Madam Secretary to catch up with the kids’ problems and more smacking kisses with the hubby as Bess goes through her daily routine of wondering whether she’s doing the right thing by being in the job she finds herself in. Hubby assures her — more smacking kisses — that he’s proud of her.
Mala Bhargava is a senior personal technology writer - and a Netflix addict. You can follow her on Twitter @malabhargava