Ugh… I haven’t seen it, but all I know is that ABC needs to move this show. Premieres tonight, but my TIVO is dedicated to House at that timeslot. Curious to see how CinC turns out, though. I imagine they’ll replay the pilot of it does really well, but this could be the first major Solomon’s Dilemma of the season.
I think I’ll have to watch it just to see what they do with it. This review isn’t very positive.
September 27, 2005, 8:09 a.m.
It’s Commander in Chief G. I. Jane
ABC takes a look inside the liberal id.
By Louis Wittig
I believe a secret world exists behind Washington, D.C.’s closed doors, but not the obvious secret world of midnight parking-garage rendezvous, undisclosed locations, and fiercely clean-cut G-men types whirling around town in black sedans, frequently employing the phrase “the plan” in conversation. No. I believe that once a day powerful congressmen, high-level appointees and staffers all — completely unbeknownst to each other — slip into their stained mahogany offices, lock their doors behind them, and take out a hidden set of dolls (maybe puppets). Then, for about a half an hour, in multiple cartoony voices and jerky motions, they act out their deepest frustrations and desires.
I do not, as yet, have the photos I need to prove that this world exists. But after watching the premiere of ABC’s new champion drama, Commander in Chief, getting them doesn’t seem all that urgent. Commander delivers Geena Davis as Mackenzie Allen, America’s first female president. Even as novel as the show’s premise is (which isn’t as novel as its marketers probably hoped it would be), Commander displays a remarkable lack of imagination: The travails of the first woman in the Oval Office are exactly what you would guess they would be. But Commander in Chief is interesting; interesting as a liberal fantasy (the New York Times’s description, not mine). An almost Freudian bomb is buried beneath its cliché shots of D.C. monuments lit up at night: Deep down, liberals like the ones who wrote Commander harbor a repressed desire to be like George W. Bush.
Commander is an archetypal liberal tale: A hero is challenged by blind prejudice but rises to show us that when we embrace equality and diversity, it all works out. While on a state visit to Paris, Vice President Allen learns her boss has had an aneurysm. The ensuing dialogue sounds like something that’s been translated into a foreign language and then translated back to English in a hurry (“So what happens now? Do I take the oath?” “Can you smell the history?”). Top aides urge her to resign. The world is too unstable, damn it; Americans need to see strength, not a woman. Allen agonizes, supported only by her dopey-but-redeemable husband Rod (Kyle Secor, who apparently didn’t fall off the face of the earth after Homicide: Life on the Street). Her potential Cabinet starts falling apart in a perfunctory sort of way. Her nemesis, the glowering Speaker of the House (played as well as the circumstances allow by Donald Sutherland), gives cynical, sexist diatribes, makes veiled threats — and smirks. Allen agonizes some more.
In all this Commander tries to capture something of The West Wing. But it never builds up the necessary speed or suspense. Once viewers wrap their minds around the fact that a woman could be president, the only thing left to be surprised by is Kyle Secor’s performance as he tries to get used to everyone referring to him as First Lady.
Along the way, the producers weave in a president-as-working-mom storyline. President-in-waiting Allen gathers her three kids in the kitchen to ask them how they think she should handle the political crisis. The little girl asks if they’ll put her picture on money. Later she spills juice on mommy’s blouse before her big speech to Congress. Despite Davis’s remoteness, it has a distinctly awkward, sitcomic feel. This does not augur well. Davis’s last balancing-the-career-and-kids role, on The Geena Davis Show, lasted a season and is about as widely remembered as Millard Fillmore’s first 100 days in office.
Just like that dream you keep having, the one where you marry an orangutan that’s dressed in your mother’s clothes, it’s the details are the most revealing and disturbing part of this fantasy. In their dreamy Shangri-La, Democrats don’t have any messy baggage. The word “Democrat” does not appear even a single time in the pilot script. “Republican” does. The Iago-like Speaker is clearly identified as a creationism-teaching GOP member. Mackenzie Allen, on the other hand, is a plucky independent, and the audience is firmly reminded of it. Every time a character remarks how she would be the first female president, another shoots back “and the first independent.” In the glorious future, with the issues so perfectly framed, “Democrat” and “liberal” have withered away, and everyone presumably knows that their choice is between upright, sincere independents (like Allen) and icy, extremist Republicans. Ah, to dream.
Liberals are serious about human rights in this world too. Working out a subplot, Allen’s aides keep reminding her about the Nigeria situation: In accordance with sharia, Nigeria is about to put a woman to death for committing adultery. Allen is concerned.
Throughout, Allen is shown confidently ordering around generals and positioning aircraft carriers (see, this is why stereotypes are bad). And as Commander limps through its 38th minute, she brings the Nigerian ambassador to a Joint Chiefs’ meeting and proceeds to illustrate how the Marines will storm his country if the woman isn’t released immediately.
“I can’t believe the U.S.A. would take such a unilateral action,” the ambassador mumbles.
“If you think I’m going to sit by while a woman is executed, tortured, for having sex, you’re sorely mistaken,” retorts Allen. Dare I think it? You go girl.
But this is not how Bill Clinton likely would have handled the situation, or Jimmy Carter. There’s something about its brusque disregard for other viewpoints, and its recklessness, its black-and-white worldview, that reminds one of a certain Texan. They might not like what he does with it, but Bush’s self-assurance, his nonchalant imperiousness and unimpaired bluntness strike some of them, the ones who wrote and respond to the show, as elemental and seductive. Commander in Chief peeks in on the liberal id playing with its dolls at the very instant it’s holding a G.I. Joe above its head, and in a guileless voice saying to itself, “I’m powerful. My way is better than your way. You’re going to do what I say!” Of course it’s hard to watch, but it’s important to see.
— Louis Wittig is a writer living in New York.
A liberal-bashing review from the National Review? GASP
Commander in Chief gives the Rushites enough ammunition to claim ironclad evidence of the “liberal conspiracy” 'till the next election. And maybe they’re right this time? Because the only reason this show exists is to “acclimate” the American public to the idea of a female president so that Hillary can get elected. I mean it’s unabashed propaganda.
That wasn’t a review, that was political trashtalk disguised as a review. Worthless.
My favorite part is that he’s the one that decides that CiC is a liberal powerhouse, then totally slams them for how much she acts like Bush. Owned.
wow, the networks really have a hardon for the sci fi shows this year, surface, threshold, invasion, now this.
extarbags- That review is so obviously biased it made my monitor fall off my desk, but whoooooosh. Did you stop reading at the word “Texan”? It’s the only way I can see someone missing the point that badly.
More than grand conspiracies, though, I’d say liberal+unilaterally interventionist sounds suspiciously like another fictional President.
Well, they need all the help they can get what with Blanco, Landrieu, and Feinstein are doing lately. :)
That review was biased political claptrap. It was also right. Man, that show sucked.
Yes, where did they get the idea for a character like that?
I got around to watching it. It felt shaky, but not so bad. The dialogue was a little, uh, bad at points, but I see a lot of potential. Should they do very edgy things, this could turn out to be a very very good show.
I like the second episode a bit better than the first. I really hate the scrawling of character’s names and titles on the screen, though. It’s trying to go for some kind of documentary feel.
Peter Coyote as the Wes Clark figure is cool.
But the real reason that I’m going to keep watching is for the press secretary, played by Ever Carradine. Yes, as in the Carradines. Daughter of Robert, niece of David, grandaughter of John, and cousin to Martha Plimpton. Not only does Ever have a killer name, but she’s unbelievably hot in her press secretary clothes. If we had a real-life White House press secretary that hot, I guarantee you that more teenage boys would pay attention to politics.
I really love Rod Lurie’s previous work, most notably The Contender. Jeff Bridge’s speech at the end is one of the great “America, Fuck Yeah” moments in cinema.
I’m also curious what kind of tone he sets. West Wing is brazenly liberal and proud of it, but C-in-C has an “indepenent” president who just nominated the losing Democratic vice presidential candidate to be her VP. And she took over for a Republican president. Seems like its tilting leftward.
Random trivia, but Lurie graduated West Point, so if he’s a liberal, he sure ain’t a typical Ivy League/Berkeley liberal.
Steven Bochco is taking over executive producer duties from Rod Lurie. The exec producer controls the direction of the series, so it should be interesting to see if Bochco decides to do anything different.
Lurie’s staying as exec producer, I believe, while Bochco takes over as show runner (in other words, the guy with the most hands-on oversight/supervision of the weekly ins and outs on the show.)
The direction does not so far look like some liberal fantasy at least, so it should be able to draw a larger audience. The Democrats meeting left me with as bad a taste as the Speakers silly crap.
Geena Davis was the perfect pick for this role. She has a strengthy way about her, as she is most definitely athletic. Strong jaw, strong way of speaking. I think a series based upon a less physically imposing woman would have been weird to watch.
Plus, she almost qualified for the US Olympic Archery Team, so if she gets attacked or something, she can fight back with her elite archery skills.
I don’t like Davis’ delivery, though. It sounds like they injected her mouth full of Novacaine 24/7.
I don’t like Davis’ delivery, though. It sounds like they injected her mouth full of Novacaine 24/7.[/quote]
She’s always talked like that.
Well there’s my next CoH character…