“Madam Secretary” is an entertaining if not flawed series. Where it lacks in writing and plot, it more than makes up with a respectable ensemble cast including the still charming Téa Leoni leading the pack. I can only hope some of the issues get shored up in the second season but as a freshman series, it’s adequate.
“Madam Secretary”: Season 1
Paramount | NR – 961 min. – $64.99 | September 1, 2015
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
“Madam Secretary” is the latest political drama that, somewhat like “Commander in Chief” before it, features a respectable ensemble but gets bogged down with family issues that and writing that isn’t exactly the sharpest to go along with plots that are either dull or downright contrived. That sort of thing might work for fluffy series like “Scorpion” but for something that wants to be taken seriously, like CBS’ own “The Good Wife”, there’s plenty of work that needs to be done to make it a sustainable series.
The story follows a former CIA analyst Elizabeth McCord (TÉA LEONI) who has spent some time as in academia and living on a farm with her loving and supportive husband, Henry (TIM DALY) and has two daughters and a precocious, conspiracy-obsessed, son. When the Secretary of State’s plane goes down, killing Secretary Vincent Marsh, she’s visited by the President of the United States, Conrad Dalton (KEITH CARRADINE), to fill the void as he had once worked for the CIA and was McCord’s protégé.
Fast forward a few months and McCord is at work where we meet a plethora of colorful supporting characters: personal assistant Blake Moran (ERICH BERGEN), the only person she brought with her; Chief of Staff Nadine Tolliver (BEBE NEUWORTH) who doesn’t hold a high opinion of McCord; press coordinator Daisy Grant (PATINA MILLER); speechwriter Matt Mahooney (GEOFFREY AREND); policy advisor Jay Whitman (SEBASTIAN ARCELUS); and the President’s Chief of Staff Russell Jackson (ZELJKO IVANEK) who really does not hold McCord in high regard made worse when, right in the Pilot episode, goes around his back to sell a plan to the President in order save two stupid kids caught and jailed in Syria.
As a series, and a freshman one at that, “Madam Secretary” isn’t great but has some positive things from an acting standpoint headlined by Téa Leoni who plays a likeable character though perhaps too likeable and not nearly flawed enough outside of not playing ball with the Washington D.C. elites, which in itself is a good quality. Sure, her personal life isn’t perfect and adds some character depth but I’d like to see some genuine flaws otherwise it’s a show that’s rather dull.
The supporting cast is respectable from Tim Daly (“Wings”) as the professor and stable husband, the venerable Bebe Neuworth (“Cheers”, “Frasier”) as a quasi antagonist while Zeljko Ivanek (“Damages”) as a full on adversary while Keith Carradine, serving as guest actor as the President, provides the necessary weight for that role. So on the surface, the filmmakers, which includes Morgan Freeman who serves as one of the executive producers, have laid out a respectable line-up and concept but the writing on a fair number of the episodes have much to be desired and I can only hope things are shored up, even on the character front, in its second season.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
The 6-disc set comes housed in a standard DVD keep case. Inside is a redemption code for the Standard Definition Digital Copy.
Commentary on the Pilot episode with Writer/Creator Barbara Hall and Executive Producer Lori McCreary
Deleted Scene (0:45) on ‘The Call’
Deleted Scene (1:01) on ‘So It Goes’
Deleted Scene (3:10) on ‘Chains of Command’
Deleted Scenes (1:47) on ‘The Time is At Hand’
Commentary on ‘There But for the Grace of God’ with Stars Téa Leoni and Tim Daly
“The Affair”: Season 1, Episode 1 – For some cross-promotion for Paramount, you can check out the pilot episode for “The Affair”.
Extraordinary Credentials: The Making of “Madam Secretary” Season One (29:31) is an overview of the inaugural season featuring on-set interviews with the cast and crew including Téa Leoni and Executive Producer Morgan Freeman as they discuss the premise and characters.
“Madam Secretary” at the Politico Playbook Luncheon (42:45) is a panel discussion with a Q&A’s by members of the cast and crew (Téa Leoni, Tim Daly, Lori McCreary, Morgan Freeman).
Rounding things out is a Photo Gallery and Launch Promos.
VIDEO – 4.5/5 | AUDIO – 3.75/5
“Madam Secretary” is selected on DVD presented in its original 1.78 anamorphic widescreen transfer showing off the great production values for the series with darker tones and rich set designs.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is effective with good dialogue levels and some OK depth whenever the score crops up. It’s a satisfactory track that presumably matches up with its original airing.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, “Madam Secretary” is an entertaining if not flawed series. Where it lacks in writing and plot, it more than makes up with a respectable ensemble cast including the still charming Téa Leoni leading the pack. I can only hope some of the issues get shored up in the second season but as a freshman series, it’s adequate. This set released by Paramount offers good video/audio transfers and a fine selection of bonus material.