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TV Series Review

Do ads for ABC’s hit Commander in Chief bring to mind Hillary Clinton and her looming bid for the presidency? It’s no coincidence. Steven Cohen, a producer on the show, was her deputy communications director. Series consultant Sandy Berger was President Bill Clinton’s national security advisor. Another consultant, Capricia Marshall, served as social secretary under Mr. Clinton. Cohen denies that his series is trying to grease the skids for a “Hillary in ’08” campaign but told Time, “For the viewing public to hear the phrase ‘Madam President’ certainly does a great deal in getting people comfortable with the idea.”

That, explains creator/writer Rod Lurie, is the real objective: “This is not a You-Go-Hillary show, this is a You-Go-Girl show. If there’s any social agenda to the show, it’s to be enthusiastic about the idea of a woman president.”

Lurie’s icon of Oval Office equity is Mackenzie “Mac” Allen (Geena Davis), a noble champion of human rights who succeeds despite a conniving Speaker of the House, a backstabbing cabinet and a plot to force her resignation. Shortly after being sworn in, she sends troops to save a Muslim woman about to be stoned to death. Her first summit finds her pressuring a Russian president to release imprisoned journalists.

For Mac, it’s all about defending people. For this series, it’s about depicting the personal side of a woman taking on the hardest, most influential job on earth. It’s complicated. Beyond managing the stress of public office, she wants to be a good mother to her 6-year-old daughter and two teens. Meanwhile, her encouraging husband —humbled by being passed up for the Chief of Staff job—struggles with the awkward role as America’s first “First Gentleman.” It’s been great to see the family so supportive of one another. In one episode Mac fiercely defends her children’s privacy, telling reporters, “This is not Mac the President talking, this is Mac the mother: Don’t mess with my kids.”

So far this Commander’s gaffes have been relatively minor. Mac’s teenage daughter gets caught making out with a boyfriend on her bed. There’s also been some mild profanity and suggestive dialogue. But content may get seedier. With Lurie now out and envelope-pushing producer Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue) running the show, anything is possible. This new commander in chief—who fired half of the original writers—would do well to heed Mac’s words: “I’m going to do one thing and one thing only, and that’s what’s right for the American people.”

Episodes Reviewed: Sept. 27, Oct. 4, 11, 18, Nov. 1, 2005

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Marcus Yoars

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