Best Political TV Show: 'Madam Secretary' or 'Designated Survivor'? | The Tylt
Best Political TV Show: 'Madam Secretary' or 'Designated Survivor'?
Are you an expert TV binger? Don't forget to vote for the rest of your favorite shows in our Best Political TV Show bracket!
In "Madam Secretary," Téa Leoni plays a former CIA agent and current college professor who is drafted into service as the Secretary of State by her old friend, U.S. President Keith Carradine (err, "Conrad Dalton"). The whip-smart, plays-by-her-own-rules maverick hits some bumps as she transitions to the West Wing, but it's nothing she can't handle. The show has been running on CBS since 2014 and doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
While the casts of both "Designated Survivor" and "Madam Secretary" have that "Oh, that guy! I know that guy!" quality, "Madam Secretary" is the clear winner in terms of guest stars. In the most recent season premier, Leoni sought out assistance from former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Madelein Albright and Hillary Clinton.
Both leads are reluctant to take on the mantles of power, but impervious to their corrupting power. Just listen to this ringing endorsement from President Keith Carradine in the pilot episode.
You quit a profession you love for ethical reasons. That makes you the least political person I know. You don’t just think outside the box. You don’t even know there is a box.
In "Designated Survivor," Keifer Sutherland tries his best to work against time and within the confines of U.S. laws and international treaties. Much like Téa Leoni, Sutherland is a real standup guy. The audience knows this within the first 15 minutes of the pilot because he a) has a daughter who likes him, b) wears sweatshirts and "Cool Dad" glasses, and c) is about to be fired from his job as HUD Secretary for being too moral.
The show, which starts out with a juicy premise—Sutherland becomes president after the entire government is blown up during the State of the Union—goes a little off the rails as the season goes on. According to the A.V. Club, it never knows whether it wants to be "The West Wing" or "24." Here's a description of the season finale, which deals, lightly, with the death of Sutherland's wife.
[T]heir second scene is quiet and gentle, a father reconnecting the son who, not so long ago, blamed him for his mother’s death.
If you don’t remember that, never fear, because neither does Designated Survivor. Oh, also, there was that whole subplot where maybe Leo wasn’t actually the President’s kid? Remember that one? Or remember how the whole case against the late Alex Kirman was linked to her mother, who lives in D.C., despite the fact that the show went out of its way in the last few months to tell us that Trey Kirkman (Breckin Meyer) was the family’s only relative? Moving on.
Yikes. Well, you can't fault it for lacking ambition. ABC gave "Designated Survivor" the ax after two seasons. Yet, this being 2019, Netflix crunched the numbers and decided it was worth resurrection. A new season is filming for the streaming service now.