Madam ★ Secretary Debuts With a Crisis But Without Her Ops Center and Gray-Haired Advisors

— Domani Spero

 

Last week, CBS’ new kid in the block, Madam Secretary had its premiere screening event at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C.  The cast and crew were joined by special guest Madeleine Albright.

 

Last night, the show finally aired, sandwiched between 60 Minutes and The Good Wife.  Twitter reacted with excitement, ugh and in between; take your pick. Here are our favorite reactions:

 

In the long history of the Secretaries of State of the United States, from Thomas Jefferson in 1790 to-date, the appointees have been predominantly male, white and old. It doesn’t look like like we’ve ever had one appointed in their 40’s nor have one with kids running around Foggy Bottom’s corridors. And we’ve never had one who did a minor make-over and with a short skirt, stopped the presses.  So this secretary of state is a tad unrecognizable.  But, okay, we’ll go along with the premise for now. We’d have liked to see her at the UNGA this week, but the UN’s TV magnets from  Iran and Venezuela will not be around this time, so never mind.

The pilot episode involves a couple of young American hostages held in Syria.  They were released in exchange for $1.5 million in kind (medical stuff and such), which may still be considered ransom payment.  According to  TVGuide, the second episode deals with a fiery attack on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, and the third deals with an Edward Snowden-inspired whistle-blower/hacker causing havoc throughout the State Department. TVGuide promised that each situation will be resolved rather neatly.  By a secretary of state who is perfect in every way. Now, where’s the fun in that?

Here is a photo tweeted last week with the lead star Téa Leoni who played Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, and her staff during an official dinner for the King of Swaziland and his merry wives. What’s wrong with this picture?

 

The most glaring one, of course!  Where are the rest of the Swazi guests, or more to the point, why are the secretary’s staffers sitting in on the principal’s table drinking champagne instead of more important D.C. invitees? Pardon me, they’re all note-takers?!

The staffers except for a couple look like they just got out of A-100 or the campaign trail.  Where did the SecState’s gray-haired advisors go?  Nooooo, not the broomroom!  Will Secretary McCord go to PTA meetings and curriculum nights?  Will she cook her own dinners or have take outs?  And who’s doing the laundry?  The pilot episode also showed us the secretary of state in her pajamas, are we going to see her with scrunchies next?

Next week’s episode is reportedly about an attack on U.S. Embassy Sana’a. Let’s see if the show will bring in the Secretary’s Ops Center and if anyone will be dragged before Congress for talking points. We’re watching. We want to know how long she can have it all.

The reviews are in, here are some of them:

The Hollywood Reporter: Leoni and Daly are a great couple, and if Madam Secretary does one important thing and nails it in the pilot, it’s making their marriage and family believable. Knowing that Elizabeth is grounded and sensible and funny at home — meaning she’s handling the mother and wife thing just fine, unlike so many women on TV who are great at their jobs and a disaster in their personal lives — gives hope that the series can be multidimensional.[…] And while it’s fun to see Leoni put out some international terrorist fires behind the scenes — while figuring out a way to get her point across delicately at State Department dinners that she’d rather not have — other parts of Madame Secretary need work.

Vox: Madam Secretary seems terrified the audience will miss something, to the degree that all of the characters might as well be walking around wearing index cards emblazoned with any given scene’s subtext glued to their foreheads. It is not a subtle show, and it mistakes copying the surface moves of Good Wife — to say nothing of other quality TV dramas — for being able to match that show’s depth. There’s promise here, but it’s already rapidly deteriorating.

TVline: The show’s biggest challenge will be making Elizabeth’s home life as compelling as her work life (something the pilot struggled to do despite some nice chemistry between Leoni and Daly). Also, the government cover-up subplot will likely elicit a collective eye roll from conspiracy-fatigued TV viewers.

Variety: “Madam Secretary” has enough interesting pieces, as well as a great big world of trouble to mine, to have significant potential. The premiere, however, doesn’t bode particularly well for being able to maximize those assets, and as they say in diplomatic circles, the devil is in the details.

USAToday: [U]nlike Good Wife, Secretary seems to fear that anything but the most straightforward plotting will lose us. Twists are too few, solutions too simple, and knowing moments too often canceled out by silly ones.

Some good news though for aspiring actors — according to Politico, in addition to real-life news events, we should expect some cameos from real-life Washingtonians. The Madam Secretary people threw in an invitation,  “We would love to have people from Washington come through, and real people in the media, to make the world — to ground it in reality, because we want this to feel like a recognizable version of Washington.”

What are you waiting for? Go. Call. Now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshot: Top 30 State Department Contractors (Based on Highest Dollar Amounts)

— Domani Spero

 

According to State/OIG, after several media reports were written about the use of confidentiality agreements that limit the ability of contractor employees to report fraud, waste, or abuse to Inspectors General or other oversight entities, it sent a letter in August 2014 requesting information from the thirty companies which have the highest dollar amount of contracts with the Department of State. The list does not indicate their rank in any particular order:

Screen Shot 2014-09-21

Screen Shot 2014-09-21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Department/USAID OIG Published Reports — August 2014

— Domani Spero

 

All reports in pdf files hosted at http://oig.state.gov and http://oig.usaid.gov. A very short August list from State/OIG:

USAID/OIG August reports:

 

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