Madam Secretary: Will You Keep the CBS Drama in Office?

Madam Secretary Premiere poll

CBS’ Madam Secretary, which debuted Sunday, isn’t the Hillary Clinton roman à clef it first seems — and that’s probably a good thing.

Yes, new series follows the appointment and first days in office of a female U.S. Secretary of State (played by Téa Leoni, The Naked Truth). And yes, Leoni’s Elizabeth McCord does, before the hour is up, earn more media attention for her wardrobe choices than for her diplomacy — just like Hil. But that’s where the similarities between the two women end, and what’s left is an intriguing, D.C.-set drama.

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When we meet Elizabeth, she’s a former CIA analyst teaching at a Virginia university where her super-supportive husband Henry (played by Private Practice alum Tim Daly) is a religion professor. The pair and their teenage son and daughter live on a horse farm; one day following the accidental death of the current Secretary of State, a motorcade bearing the president of the United States shows up while Elizabeth is mucking out the stables.

Turns out, the current POTUS (played by Keith Carradine, Fargo) is Elizabeth’s old CIA boss, and he wants her to fill the newly vacated post in his administration. “I know how you think, how you work. I trust you,” he says. “You don’t just think outside the box — you don’t even know there is a box.”

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So two months later, we pick up with the McCords, who have moved to the nation’s capital so Mom can be one of the most influential women in the world. The transition is not without its struggles: Elizabeth’s staff (including Cheers‘ Bebe Neuwirth as the judgmental Nadine) isn’t fond of her, the president’s chief of staff Russell Jackson (played by the omnipresent Zeljko Ivanek) warns her not to circumvent him, and the McCord kids mope a bit, causing Elizabeth to worry that she’s made a bad decision for her family.

The workplace challenges only get tougher as Elizabeth tries to free two idiot American teenage brothers who’ve gotten themselves captured after crossing into Syria from Turkey. When a Russell-approved mission to liberate them goes bust, Elizabeth bends the president’s ear and then taps into her network of former accomplices to get the job done on the downlow. And when the press gets wind of the covert dealings, she makes a show of going through with a (very minor) makeover, thereby dominating the news cycle and diverting attention away from the delicate overseas negotiations.

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By the end of the episode, the boys are safely back on American soil, earning Elizabeth a win and a warning from Russell not to go behind his back again. It seems like Secretary of State McCord has gotten her groove back when she deftly navigates a sticky formal dinner with the polygamist head of a foreign country, but her joy disappears when she finds Henry in her office, looking grave. His news: Elizabeth’s old co-worker and friend, George, who’d warned her that her predecessor’s death wasn’t as accidental as it appeared, has been killed in a car crash. “That wasn’t an accident,” Elizabeth says, crying as she hugs her husband. “I know,” he replies. Dun-dun-DUN!

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of Madam Secretary? Grade the premiere via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your choice.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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110 Comments
  1. Tran says:

    I give Madam Secretary a B. Don’t know if the political drama series stands a chance going up against Once Upon a Time and The Simpsons/Brooklyn Nine-Nine combo on Fox even though with football delays on CBS. Tea Leoni is great and it’s been a very long time coming to see her back on prime time TV.

  2. GC says:

    I think we should give shows a chance before we talk cancel. Some of the best got off to a rocky start.

    • scb says:

      I agree. Cheers was at the bottom when the pilot aired, and it ended up setting 11 seasons. Shows really should be given a chance instead of having two episodes airing and BOOM it’s canceled.

      • Delirious says:

        Problem is, the whole world has changed since Cheers (and all other 80’s and 90’s sitcoms). There was no fierce competition between networks, there was no internet, etc. So comparing shows today with 10-20-30 years ago seems quite off.

    • Alex says:

      So far YOU are the only one in these comments talking cancel. No one else has said anything about it yet. If you think shows should be “given a chance” before cancellation is talked about, I suggest you don’t be the one to start the cancellation talk.

  3. Kim R says:

    I liked it very much. Will definitely watch every week.

  4. knd says:

    I’ll keep watching for now. I really do like the cast.

  5. S.S. says:

    It was OK, a sort of interesting introduction to new show.
    The challenge will be making a weekly show that is fresh and not predictable while doing a “taken from the headlines” approach.

  6. Nick says:

    Just upset about the conspiracy thing. For once I wish there was a political drama that doesn’t have a big conspiracy- like the West Wing.

    • CMarie says:

      I’m with you on this. I was great with the storylines just being her diplomatic dealings and then they had to throw that in at the end. I’ll watch til that inevitably drives me batty.

  7. Nicole says:

    I clearly don’t pay close enough attention to names. Who’s George?

  8. Steven says:

    I enjoyed it. I’ll give it a chance. I’ll be interested to see how it did with the NFL overruns though.

  9. Beth says:

    I don’t know who is to blame here but Cogeco Cable in Peterborough Ontario showed this programme airing at 8:30 (peculiar time for a one hour show) so I set my DVR and guess what….I only got 1/2 hour of the show because someone totally screwed up the programming. I was so disappointed but I’ll tune in next week at the scheduled hour programme. It looks quite good as I like Tea in most shows she’s been on.

    • Marie says:

      Unfortunately it was the nfl’s fault as usual on cbs. It ran late and programming bumped. Canadian channels bumped their time slot too, to accommodate it. In Manitoba we got notices of what time it would air. Best to DVr it on the later times lot or set that show for an extra hour programming until football is over.

    • GiZi says:

      The football games that air on CBS on Sundays tend to run over the time, therefore making the programs that are scheduled afterward run late. So I usually add at least a half hour to my set recordings.

    • Michele G says:

      The football game ran 1/2 hour over ,so that messed up your DVR recording. That is going to be a problem for a Sunday night CBS show

    • Rodg says:

      CBS had started doing what FOX has been doing for several years.When they have a football doubleheader they will start 60 Minutes at 7:30.This week the game went longer

    • Laurie Starr says:

      We have it as a TV show on our cables On Demand…see if you have that option

    • Mary Ann says:

      Per TVLine- UPDATE: CBS will encore Madam Secretary this Saturday at 8/7c.

  10. Alex says:

    Meh. It was just okay. I’ll watch again if nothing else I’m interested in is on, otherwise I’ll quit it without a second thought.

  11. Ernest says:

    A+ loved the show. Tired of shows about doctors, lawyers, crime scenes…..Great TV come back for Tea! Yes will be some predictable plot twists. I even think that husband’s political agenda will be revealed (he was too sportive of the move…opps! spoliers) Time slot not so good! Premier needs to be repeated.

  12. Liz B. says:

    I liked it. A strong, intelligent, human woman. The father was cool and intelligent too (liked that he quoted Aquinas) who was supportive but interesting in his own right. BeBe Neuwirth was great and the rest of the crew. Liked Zelijko Ivanek as a “threatening” COS. I also liked the conspiracy thing. I actually didn’t expect it. And I love that she’s ex-CIA and they use that in the series as well. I’ll keep watching it because it’s good so far. But I have serious doubts about it lasting on Sundays. It started late on its premiere night. I mean…Sundays are just bad for shows on CBS.

  13. CK says:

    I’d give it a B. It has a great cast, but I can see the stories starting to drag on and end up as repeats. Its not enough to just have an interesting take on the lead political figure, you need to jazz/change up the stories a bit too. I’m not asking for House of Cards (re. Please drop the George/plane crash conspiracy thing), but that hostage crisis was one of the most bland points of the episode. Heck, the Swaziland state dinner had more tension in it.

    • CK says:

      Just an Addition: I may be a bit spoiled by The Good Wife, but I think that represents best what I’m hope Madame Secretary ends up doing. Take cases that we’ve all heard before, but make them interesting while not crossing into Scandal/House of Cards category. You don’t need to throw in a murder plot to create drama.

  14. Kisha from Houston says:

    I really liked it. It does hit a bit close to home with the ISIS crises

  15. Susu says:

    You have a good blend of writers an actors… Not an easy accomplishment! Well done.

  16. Joe Marquette says:

    40 years in the biz and this is the worst photographed show I have seen. So distracting trying to just see the actors. The show need lots of work. Good luck

    • kb says:

      It looks like the sets are too small. It does not look like it could possibly be the white house. the state dinner looked like it was held in a dark bistro. Scenes quickly move to close up so you don’t see what is around the actors. Another reason to like “The Good Wife”; they have a great production team with nice believable sets and costumes

  17. Mary says:

    It did not air here even though it was supposed to. Would have liked to have seen it. Was looking forward to it but all I got on dvr was part of 60 minutes and it did not air at 10:30 when it was supposed to so we got snubbed out of a television premier for a crappy football game. Not starting out on a good note for me. May have to find something. Else to watch on Sundays. It definitely won’t be football.

    • John NYC says:

      I just add an hour and a half on the backend of the dvr’s programmed time and grab what’s on CBS despite their delays.

      • Andrea says:

        That usually works, but the overtime of the game really wacked things out. CBS said it was going to air Madame Secretary, then TGW, then Madame Secretary again. That didn’t happen, so even adjusting for time, I ended up with all of TGW, but only half of MS.

  18. Allen says:

    I only got to see 1/2 of it, but what i saw was pretty good, cant trust the sunday dvr on cbs as usual! Thats why i usually stick to abc!

  19. Pat S says:

    I have always liked Tea Leoni, and this show was not a disappointment. I thought she was very believable in her role as the S of S. I will continue to watch as I am sure this show will only get better.

  20. para says:

    Did the Hillary camp fund this show?

  21. Autumn says:

    I gave it a “B”. Think it has potential. I just wish a few more shows had characters that looked like the most of the rest of the country…not slim, good looking, young people. Why not a couple in their 50’s, husband a bit fat and balding, the SOS a bit heavy with graying hair…ala Harry’s Law? Seems like it would be a bit more life-like.

  22. Madam Secretary is not airing on KCBS Channel 2 in Los Angeles as listed. I’m disappointed. I was looking forward to the “Good Wife” and “Madam Secretary” line-up of complex female characters in high stakes drama.

  23. BOBBI says:

    could have been a brilliant show but its kind of dumbed down and a little cliche. Acting is excellent thought.

  24. S says:

    Recorded it at 8pm… but it was the last half hour of Good Wife and then news. Tried again at 11pm… it was an episode of CSI. Never had this problem before when I try for the west coast feeds. Rather perplexed. So, I saw nothing. Can’t say I’m interested in a show if it’s that hard to watch, and I put in more effort than most people.

  25. Maria says:

    Very well written

  26. Željko Ivanek is my favorite as the White House Chief of Staff. I’m keeping my eye on that sexy man.

  27. I got hooked, love political dramas that have everything in it. and based more on today’s world and i hope this show stay on for a long time.

  28. Sadie says:

    Liked it very much. Smart writing and a great cast. I’ll watch again.

  29. Debbie says:

    It was preempted or something it was not on when they said it would be. Everyplace they said it was on it was not. So will we get the 1st show over again.

  30. dman6015 says:

    It was a very good show. It was also the pilot, so there is always room for improvement and changes once the regular episodes get going.

  31. ziyal says:

    I totally loved it and will be tuning in regularly. Tim Daly and Tea Leoni make a great match! So happy to have Bebe Neuwirth back on TV! Woohoo! Awesome cast!

  32. Marilyn Snell says:

    I really enjoyed it and looking forward to seeing how it develops. It drew my attention and kept it throughout.

  33. Q says:

    Another brainwashing political drama?
    No!
    This was pure brainwashing!
    Bad syrian take two idiotic, and of course innocent boys.
    Yeah, sure!
    And want them killed?
    Another bull…t.

    And in the middle of that stupidity, is heroic madam secretary.
    Suuuure….
    Little conspiracy, and everyone is happy.

    For intelligent people, with political, and economical background, is this just bad joke, and waste time.

    But for badly, or no educated….yummy.

    • Ernest says:

      What about doctors watching hospital shows and real lawyers watching shows about the law. Do us all a favor and get off your high horse! I’m in aviation so i stay away from airplane/airport films/shows and if I do watch them I find the humor not the stupidity…..Hmmmm WHO is the stupid viewer?!

    • John NYC says:

      “economical”?

      Good one.

      So much for “intelligent”

    • kb says:

      Rampant clichés don’t make good dialog. Characters are thinking about what they should do, instead of doing it. Scene with Tim Daly’s class is an insult to women, as is cbs’s decision to put this show in a slot that will be moved by football- showing men are more important. You take female skewed shows and position them so that they will be moving for football? Think about what actions say to your viewers. The plots in the pilot are so pat, so predictable, and so clichéd. I like tea leoni. So far she is shown in stills with her mouth slightly apart, brows furrowed, looking like a chipmunk. Who chose these images to represent her?Is this her worried look? If it is noticably repetitive now, what happens in 2, 4, 10 weeks? The heavily retouched web ads using portrait filters don’t really look like her, but they don’t have that silly questioning look. I presumed they hired leoni to use her real-life backstory with her sex-addict ex husband. Having her promote the show gushing about how wonderful he is for giving her her kids, coupled with that silly scene with the students and Tim Daly, doesn’t remind me of Hillary and power conflicted, it makes me think this is a stupid show with meaningless narcissistic dialog.

  34. ldylkngb says:

    Loved it, and really didn’t expect to! Great cast! ” I see they stole some from House of Cards” I’m hooked! Liking the CBS line up again. Also for those of you that haven’t caught on, Football always runs over, so just set DVR’s for an extra hour.

  35. TV Gord says:

    I enjoyed the first episode, but the one scene that jumped out at me as completely unbelievable was the scene with the “polygamist head of state”. Are we to believe that the leader of a country would stand for that kind of comeuppance from a Secretary of State? Even if that situation could happen, there would be repercussions. It was too neat and tidy that he just nodded and acknowledged her point, and yay, she got a win. That scene took me out of an otherwise pretty good show.

    I like all of the characters and the actors who play them (I liked Leoni much more than I thought I would. She hasn’t bowled me over in the past). The conspiracy has me intrigued. I know every show seems to have a conspiracy these days, but this one might be different, so I’m along for the ride. I think this could be a good pairing with The Good Wife. A good one-two punch for CBS on Sunday nights!

    • PantsRule says:

      I disagree. I thought the three scenes that worked the best were the ones that allowed Leoni to flex her comedy muscles a bit– the state dinner, the decision to call in the stylist, and the “I love your masculine energy” scene– that was bried but easily the best, with Leoni anxiously advancing on her husband asking if her masculine energy was too threatening… this is what gives me hope for this show. With a good, humorous script, Leoni is every bit as good as Cloris Leachman. She and the writers still need to find each other a bit better for the rest of it– but I am hoping they will, and that this will be great TV.

  36. mommaknowsbest77 says:

    I know this is a strange thing to notice, but: there were times when the background music was so loud, I couldn’t hear the dialog. I tried turning up the volume a bit, but that only made the problem worse. Sound editors, please take note.

  37. SHERRY CURRY says:

    ENJOYED IT VERY MUCH! LOVED THE ENTIRE CAST FROM THE WELL KNOWN TO THE NEWCOMERS! I WISH IT DIDN’T COME ON SUNDAY NIGHTS. ONLY BECAUSE SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL THROWS TIMELINES OUT OF WHACK.

  38. bill johnson says:

    Too much walking and talking, a constant gaggle of folks hurrying down a hall. It looks like a pale copy of West Wing. Her staff (press people) are presented as hapless and rather goofy. Overall, it seems to be a bit of a caricature that lacks credibility.

  39. JAR says:

    I didn’t get to see Madam Secretary which I was looking forward to all week. All I saw was 60 minutes run over as a result I’m sure of a run over football game. So what else is new.

  40. Deborah Dean says:

    The commercials gave away too much!!! Other than George dying at the end (which was a given from the start), the were no surprises. Do they want me to watch the show or just the commercials??? Other than that, I did like the show.

  41. Mer says:

    I like this show. Believable star. Great supporting cast. Really great actually. A leading character you can cheer for. Interesting situations (even though they are familiar ones). It has good potential. A definite yes for me.

  42. MandaJ says:

    I enjoyed the pilot. Great cast, great premise. An hpur of tv well spent for me.

  43. Sarah says:

    Tim Daly is such a hottie.

  44. Missy Kelly says:

    Pilot is just too earnest. Going to give it some time to settle in but are we going to have a Secretary of State saves the world every week? The cast worked well together. Writing is good but just a tad to NBC (over produced, over written, almost over acted). Going to see how it goes over next few episodes

  45. dogsrulecatsdrool says:

    I really think Tea Leoni is the best actress for this role, she will bring lots of surprises to the show’s boys club that is running the White House. And now I know why Bebe Neuwirth left televisions Blue Bloods with her slightly recurring role. She now has the chance to be front an center in opposition with Tea Leoni.

  46. Marilyn Audet says:

    I think this show was in extremely poor taste, not only for the three families who know the horror of their loved ones murder (Foley, Sotloff, and Haines) but for all the world who also condemns such atrocities. WE mourn their loss.

  47. Television says:

    Won’t watch this show again. I tried, but the teenagers are unbelievable, the main actress her voice sounds like a slurring drunk, and the story is predictable. Main reason I just can’t take watching this show because of her voice.

  48. T.C.Cummings jr. says:

    Excellent beginning. I will be looking forward to it each week. Tea’s character is outstanding !!
    Overall rating B+.

  49. Rita says:

    I wasn’t going to watch it because Sunday night TV is insane need I say more can’t even DVR everything thankfully the pay channels have demand without commercials, anyway I thought what the hell lets give it a chance as I like Tea Leoni and I did enjoy it..and will be watching again, who knows where it will go..I have to AGREE with some of the commenters about the NFL going over the time limit but sports = big bucks so there ya go..Just have to decide if the show or shows are worth it like “The Good Wife” which I love…

  50. karen1228 says:

    I liked it very much and I thought it was very well done. I just hope it survives coming after the NFL games which are way to long (in my humble opinion)