2/282/2015 Variety by Ted Johnson
“Madam Secretary,” which returns on Sunday on CBS after a brief hiatus, has made a mark for what it isn’t — a tick-tock thriller or dark serialized drama that is part of the current wave of D.C.-set shows.
The show stars Tea Leoni as a CIA analyst who is unexpectedly nominated to the top role at the State Department.
Executive producers Barbara Hall and Lori McCreary tell Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM that the show avoids polarization — even though it has featured very-close-to-reality storylines about negotiations over Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the standoff over the Texas border with Mexico.
“Certainly there is an aspirational aspect to the show that this is the way we would like to think the way things could be resolved, because we do want to stay within the realm of reality and we do want to invite people into the process,” Hall says.
“We have to be very careful so we have an actual calculus for that,” she adds. “We are saying the story is about one election cycle in the future, maybe four or five years, something like that. So we are writing about current events, but it is a little bit of a projection.”
The writers do generate ideas from the headlines. Hall says that when she first heard about the controversy surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, she thought, “We should do that.”
The show, one of this season’s biggest new successes, already has been renewed for next year.
“I wanted to create a discussion about politics that didn’t have to be so polarized and polarizing,” Hall says. “So it is actually our mission not go there, and not to present platforms and positions and campaigns.”
McCreary and Hall talk about how the show has to be careful in its depiction of real-life countries, with movies like “The Interview” sparking international incidents from North Korea and “Homeland” drawing objections from Pakistan. “I think we feel more responsibility than pressure,” Hall says.
McCreary says the “spark of a tiny idea” for the show came from Hillary Clinton’s 2012 testimony over the attacks in Benghazi, but Hall created an original premise that diverged from Clinton’s tenure and background. It focuses extensively on the relationship between Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, her husband Henry (Tim Daly) and her children.
Hall believes that they are past the initial media questions of whether the show is in anyway based on Clinton, but it remains to be seen if it will come up again if Clinton runs for president in 2016.
Harold Ford Jr., honorary co-chair of the industry group Broadband for America, warns that the FCC’s net neutrality action will have a “chilling effect on the ecosystem.”
Comedian Chris Bliss talks about the Let Freedom Laugh concert in Washington on Saturday, with Lewis Black headlining a benefit for Bliss’ campaign to install monuments to the Bill of Rights at statehouses in all 50 states.
“PopPolitics,” hosted by Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. ET on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124.