The 2 Most Surprising Things about ‘Madam Secretary’.

Madam Secretary photo


My wife Sarah and I have started watching the brand new TV series called ‘Madam Secretary‘.

(Australian readers can access the episodes online here, otherwise it’s on channel 10, Thursday nights, 8.30pm).

It’s kinda-sorta a West-Wing type drama, although West-Wing purists might take issue with me saying that. Ok, it’s a more accessible (read ‘dumbed down’) version of the West Wing, in that they  don’t often talk about esoteric political things like ‘minority whips’. It’s all about the US Secretary of State, in this case a female by the name of Elizabeth McCord, and her life. The lead role is played by Tea Leoni , with supporting actor Tim Daly playing husband Henry.

(You can see a promo from The Project here).

All in all, it’s a great show if you like political dramas. But even if you don’t (Sarah isn’t exactly a West Wing fanatic), it’s got enough other drama to keep most people interested.

There’s love. There’s family. There’s a plotline. It’s all good.

Anyway, as I watched it, and reflected on it, two surprising things came to mind.

1) The two lead characters (Leoni and Daly) are not only married, but happily married.

I grew up watching television in the mid 80’s – early 90’s. And so the shows that I watched were very family-friendly, ‘family-values’ type productions. Think Family Ties, ALF, Growing Pains, and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, to name a few. All of these shows held up the traditional family as good, and ideal. The message was clear: it is good to be part of such a (traditional) family.

But in the early 90’s, along came The Simpsons, and then that show Married with Children. The families in both these shows were deeply dysfunctional, in stark contrast to 80’s TV programming. The dysfunction was actually part of the humour: we were meant to laugh at it (from the comfortable distance of the couch). But the message was also pretty clear: the traditional family is neither  good, nor ideal. In fact, the family is something you need to escape from, and be liberated from. Fast forward 20 years, and we now have shows like Family Guy, which (I am told) takes the dysfunction to a whole new level.

Sure, there are always exceptions to this rule: but the general rule of ‘happily married couple with family’ in an American TV show is quite a surprise. And what’s more,in the case of ‘Madam Secretary’, I think it works: it’s  actually great drama seeing the two of them in their happy marriage, and working hard at being good parents.

2) The husband of Madam Secretary is a Theology Professor. And he’s likable

Maybe it’s just because I’m a Christian, but it seems to me that so many American dramas, sitcoms, and movies make fun of Christians and Christianity.

Think Ned Flanders from the Simpsons: who can forget ‘Howdli Doodli Neighbour’?

And on a more serious note, there’s this classic scene from The West Wing:

Whilst the paying-out of Christians in mainstream movies/TV is not a universal rule, it does come reasonably close, in my experience.

And so, to have a Christian Theology professor on a mainstream show, who is, yes, likable, and even (can I say it?) cool , is, well, quite a surprise. (I should say that I went through Theological College (seminary), and I would rate all my lecturers as very likable, and some of them would even come perilously close to having a ‘metrosexual’ wardrobe).

All in all, Madam Secretary is a great show. And it’s refreshing to have something that’s rather more…wholesome?

Yeah, I think that’s it.

Worth watching, I reckon.

Leave a Reply

2 thoughts on “The 2 Most Surprising Things about ‘Madam Secretary’.

  1. Sure, he’s a theology professor, but apart from the occasional references to Thomas Aquinas, his profession isn’t a significant element in the show. The one time any kind of ethics or theology related plot element came up, he was ready to sacrifice a human life for his own personal scholarly integrity, then flip-flopped for purely emotional reasons. Err… not exactly a paragon of virtue or piety.

    Of course, we’re talking about a fictional character…

  2. Hey Pete!

    Thanks for your comment.

    Sure. You make a valid point.

    However, my point is that he’s still a likeable theology professor…not sure if I’ve seen that in other shows/movies (although supposedly Shia Labeouf plays a likeable Christian in the new Brad Pitt movie ‘Fury’).