TV drama takes diplomatic turn with ‘madam secretary’
Character Elizabeth McCord is appointed as U.S. secretary of state after her predecessor is killed in a plane crash
Television's fascination with Washington takes a diplomatic turn in "Madam Secretary," a new CBS drama series whose lead character has more than a few traits in common with Hillary Clinton.
Blonde actress Tea Leoni stars as Elizabeth McCord, a professor and former CIA agent who is suddenly appointed as U.S. secretary of state after her predecessor is killed in a plane crash.
McCord "drives international diplomacy, battles office politics and circumvents protocol as she negotiates global and domestic issues, both at the White House and at home," CBS says.
Premiering Sunday, "Madam Secretary" joins a raft of American TV series with a political theme, from "House of Cards" to "Scandal" via the comedy "Veep" and spy thriller "Homeland."
"There's a legendary rumor in Hollywood that all of us are obsessed with Washington," CBS Television Studios president David Stapf said at a preview screening in the U.S. capital on Thursday.
"I'm here to admit it is true," he added.
Seen on the red carpet at the Washington screening -- which, appropriately, took place near the State Department -- was a real former madam secretary, Madeleine Albright, a member of former president Bill Clinton's administration.
Hollywood star Morgan Freeman, one of the show's executive producers, also turned up.
Notably absent was Hillary Clinton, who was President Barack Obama's first-term secretary of state, and who many expect will seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Producers say they came up with the concept of "Madam Secretary" when Clinton found herself in the hot seat over the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Conservatives in particular suspect Clinton has failed to tell all about the incident that claimed the lives of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
But for story-line purposes, the "Madam Secretary" heroine could not be a tried and tested politician, the show's creator Barbara Hall said.
"I wanted to bring her in from a real-world situation," juggling her public and private lives, said Hall, who previously worked on "Homeland."
Keith Carradine plays the president who pulls up to his friend McCord's home to offer her the top job in American diplomacy, just as she is cleaning out a stable.
"You don't just think outside the box," he tells her. "You don't know there is a box."
Fittingly for a show as real as today's headlines, "Madam Secretary" finds McCord wrestling with the fate of two Americans held in Syria.
The title of another episode is self-explanatory: "Another Benghazi."