Madam President

I wrote about the CBS show, Madam Secretary, back when it premiered. Interestingly, that post is among those people still sometimes read. In fact, it’s one of the older of my posts people still sometimes read. That post also talked about another CBS show, Scorpion, which (to my surprise) lasted four seasons, so I’m not entirely sure what the attraction is.

Madam Secretary, informally retitled Madam President for its sixth and last season, aired its final episode last Sunday, December 8th. And while nothing is perfect, and all runners stumble, in its six-year run, this show gets an unqualified Wow! rating from me.

I’m really going to miss it.

At the end of season five, Madam Secretary, Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni), decides to run for POTUS. When season six begins, she has won the election and is well into her first term.

The season arc involves how Congress is investigating her administration in a purely partisan attack. It’s similar to how the Republican congress and the “birther” movement harassed President Obama. The attack was groundless; the victim was innocent.

Unlike, for example, a guilty administration, the McCord administration cooperates fully, including, in the last two episodes, public testimony by President McCord before Congress.

Individual episodes involve President McCord and her staff handling various international crises. The background for all this has always been the personal lives of the McCords, and the series ends on a decidedly personal (and really touching) note.

Is that Peter Frampton? Hey, that’s Peter Frampton!

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Much of what I love about the show is that, while some might accuse it of idealism, it shows what politics could be like if we stuck to the values we so frequently espouse.

If we really believed in facts, honesty, character, decency, and honor, we would not have the political swamp we’ve had for so long (and which lately has an especially foul stink).

It’s gotten so bad that we’ve lost all sense of shame. It’s no longer effective to demand of someone, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” The likely response is a blank look.

Anyway, as with The West Wing, another favorite show of mine, this show presents a role model of sorts — one I wish more politicians, and more citizens, would emulate.

The downside is that shows like this give me a bad case of Weltschmerz. The dissonance between the is of current politics and the ought of how it could be can be just heartbreaking to me.

But I believe in ideal role models, even if they present mountains we can never fully climb. Reaching the top isn’t the point. The climb towards the goal is the point. (And there are many paths that lead up.)

So Superman, Roddenberry’s Vulcans, The West Wing, and Madam Secretary, all rate high for me. (And something like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones never will.)

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As a bit of a personal aside, it’s neat to see Željko Ivanek in a good guy role. (I’ve seen  him play a lot of bad guys in his career.)

Željko Ivanek as Russell Jackson, White House Chief of Staff.

In Madam Secretary, he plays Russell Jackson, White House Chief of Staff, both for President Dalton (seasons one through five) and for President McCord (who, early in season six, appoints him 98 days into her term).

The poor guy sacrifices his marriage for the job (and has a heart attack), but it turns out okay in the end.

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Also on a personal note, co-stars Téa Leoni and Tim Daly (who plays her husband) became a real-life couple during the first season of the show.

Married on the show; a couple in real life.

How romantic is that?

I have to say, another part of the appeal of the show is its depiction of a decent, loving family. There is none of the over-amped melodrama that seems so common these days.

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Now that the show is over, the CBS network has a lot less draw for me.

I’ve been growing away from NCIS, and I’ve always been a bit iffy on Bull (the whole idea of trial science and gaming a trial revolts me). If I ever give up on NCIS, I suspect that’ll be it for me and CBS.

I have no interest in Star Trek: Discovery, and the idea of a new Picard Star Trek show utterly appalls me. I decided, on the 50-year anniversary of The Original Show, that five decades of Trek was enough and moved on.

As far as other major networks go, on ABC I still like Fresh Off the Boat, although this season has seemed a bit weak to me. I’ve gotten a little tired of Jessica (Constance Wu) and Louis (Randall Park). The former is such a shrew, and the latter is such a dummy. As it turns out, this is the show’s last season, so that’ll probably be it for me on ABC.

On NBC, there’s The Good Place, which is my favorite TV show right now. There is also The Blacklist, which got old years ago, and which I only watch for James Spader.

I’ve been disenchanted with The Blacklist for years, but Spader’s Raymond Reddington has kept me watching. I’ve really disliked the arc this season (with Katerina Rostov). For one thing, I’m now utterly confused about what’s going on, why people are doing what they’re doing, and who is really who,… and I don’t care. The show is bullshit, but Spader is so good.

One of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen!

The Good Place, which is one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen, is in its fourth and last season. Depending on what happens with The Blacklist, NBC may also be on the way out with me.

There is The Simpsons on Fox (which like an old friend you know well), and Rick and Morty is (finally) back on Comedy Central. I haven’t been hugely taken with their fourth season so far, but the show is so rich that I may change my mind once the whole season airs. Somehow the show doesn’t seem as together as it was in the first three seasons.

Comedy Central also has what’s grown to be another favorite show of mine, South Park. They’re in their 23rd season, and still turning out good shows. They really do manage to be incredibly current, not to mention biting.

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Now that baseball season is over, I have been watching a little more TV, but I seem to be in a phase of life where I can’t watch much at one time.

I get restless just sitting staring at the screen. It’s especially hard to justify watching episodes of old TV shows I’ve seen before (but it sure if fun to watch an occasional episode of My Name is Earl or some other old friend).

The new streaming environment is a-okay in my book. I love having access to the old friends not to mention a lot of new ones to choose among.

I even got a great Christmas present from YouTube TV. Some of the networks have required you watch the ondemand version (with commercials) even if you watch a DVR version of the show. CBS is one of those, so watching my CBS shows has had an element of pain.

Ironically, now that CBS may be about to exit my life, that restriction no longer applies. When I watched the last two episodes of Madam Secretary, I was able to move past the commercials. Sweet!

Stay commercial-free, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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