Under the always-rumored Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy in 2008 comes “Commander in Chief,” a Rod Lurie-directed show that tackles the nation’s possible reaction to a female president. Despite cliched moments, a strong, experienced cast, high production value redeem the show from the “West Wing” rejection box.

“Commander” stars Academy Award-winner Geena Davis as Vice president Mackenzie Allen, a firm, measured woman of great resolve. In the opening episode, the president suffers an aneurysm, and despite the pleas of several detractors, including the president himself, Allen becomes the first female Commander in Chief.

Her appearance is perfectly attuned to political fashion with conservative pantsuits and practical hairstyle that contrast to the fiery red hue of her locks. Instead of being an all powerful, Joan of Arc-style ultra-feminist, Davis shows shades of grey and feelings of doubt. On several occasions she concedes that a woman in the presidency might not be the most stable decision, especially during war.

A skilled ensemble cast is also introduced to complement Davis’s central position. Donald Sutherland, (“M*A*S*H”) plays House Speaker Nathan Templeton, Davis’s key rival and opponent. Sutherland is deliciously evil in the role, attempting to sabotage Davis at all costs, even cutting the prompter for Davis’s speech. He is direct, opinionated and cruel – the dramatic yin to Davis’s yang. Davis’s husband, Rod Allen (Kyle Secor, “St. Elsewhere”), provides the necessary comic relief throughout the serious debut. Demoted from a position with the Chief of Staff to First Husband, Rod is forced to choose the salad dressing and color scheme for his office like many of the First Ladies before him.

The acting is not the show’s only strong point. “Commander” resembles an expensive movie more than a typical TV show. The program’s editing is flawless and the camera work engaging.

The only sizeable drawback is that at times the writing seems contrived or forced. Often the actors spout cliched lines, and the dialogue screams for a touch of reality.

However, if one is willing to give into the premise, “Commander In Chief” becomes highly entertaining and appealing. The possibilities for plotlines seem endless and “Commander” may prove to be the next ABC ratings hit.


Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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