Thursday, September 29, 2005

The New TV Show Review Challenge: Commander-In-Chief

ABC's new drama Commander-In-Chief stars Geena Davis as the first female President Of The United States. With a top-notch cast, good writing, and hints at intriguing storylines, this show looks like it will be one of the better new dramas of the season.

Davis plays Mackenzie Allen, a former Congresswoman and university chancellor who is vice-president at the beginning of the premiere episode. President Teddy Roosevelt Bridges (Jim Wyman) is ill after suffering a brain aneurysm. The public has been kept in the dark regarding the president's illness and word is going around that Allen should resign instead of becoming president since it's presumed that Bridges' illness will be long-term. If she resigns, it would open the door for the slimy Speaker Of The House Nathan Templeton (Donald Sutherland) to become president. The president himself even asks her to resign not long before passing away. After a contentious conversation with Templeton, Allen decides to take the Oath Of Office and become not only the first female president, but the first Independent president as well.

President Allen faces trouble from various fronts as she makes history. Her husband Rod (Kyle Secor) feels left-out when she asks the current Chief Of Staff Jim Gardner (Harry Lennix) to stay, effectively removing him from her staff. He also has to deal with the idea of being the First Man. Her oldest daughter Rebecca (Caitlin Wachs) is someone who is described as "wanting Pat Buchanan to be president instead of her mother." She almost doesn't attend her mother's first speech as President. There is also mixed reaction to her Presidency from within the White House. It is also clear that Templeton, who missed his chance to be President because Allen decided not to resign, will be a thorn in Allen's side throughout the series.

I think Geena Davis is perfectly cast in this role. She has always had a commanding presence onscreen and that is exactly what is needed to play the President Of The United States. Donald Sutherland shines as Templeton, even in the relatively few scenes he has in this episode. The writing is thoughtful and not too heavy-handed.

Commander-In-Chief was created by Rod Lurie. He also wrote and directed the political drama The Contender about a female vice-presidential candidate. Although that film divided audiences, I'm intrigued by the fact that Davis's President Allen is an Independent. This means that the show's writers could have President Allen clashing just as much with Democrats as Republicans. I'm pretty certain that we will see men on both sides of the aisle having issues with dealing with a woman in the most powerful position in the world. It also means that the show could theoretically be grounded somewhere centrist politically. I am very interested in seeing how this show handles various issues.

I think that Commander-In-Chief is one of the better dramas to premiere this season. I hope that this show continues to be strongly written and acted during the season. The first episode introduced a lot of avenues to explore and I am looking forward to seeing how they are handled.

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