‘Madam Secretary’ becomes latest Hollywood obsession with the Beltway

Posted at 6:36 PM, Sep 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-19 18:36:16-04

WASHINGTON — Hollywood’s ongoing enchantment with politics continues with yet another political TV show; CBS’ upcoming “Madam Secretary.” The show tested the D.C. waters Thursday night with inside-the-Beltway’s media and political elites at a screening at the spacious U.S. Institute for Peace, aptly situated across the street from the real State Department.

“No, this show has nothing to do with Hillary or Madeleine or Condoleezza Rice or anybody else we know,” said actor Morgan Freeman on the Institute of Peace red carpet. “It’s fiction. We made it all up and we will continue to make it up.” Freeman’s production studio Revelations Entertainment is spearheading the project.

They might be making it up, but they clearly borrowed a little inspiration from real-life current events.

In the premier episode, Syria as a political flashpoint, social media sabotaging negotiation efforts, the 24-hour news cycle eating away at every staged move, women’s roles in leadership, and the inability for “Madam Secretary” to “have it all.” There’s also the requisite mix of sex and comedic relief in typical Hollywood (and D.C.) fashion.

Former Madam Secretary Madeleine Albright attended the premiere, sitting next to CBS’ Bob Scheiffer who made a cameo in the premiere episode. CNN’s Jake Tapper, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Politico’s Maggie Haberman, and Hillary Clinton’s right-hand woman Huma Abedin were all in attendance.

There have been two women secretaries of state since Albright served under President Bill Clinton — Rice and Hillary Clinton — which means women have made strides with leading roles in two male dominated industries — politics and TV.

There has been a surge in female-centered shows about the nation’s capitol. Think “Scandal,” “Homeland” and “Veep.”

Leading lady Téa Leoni looked every bit the part of her on-air persona of Madam Secretary in a slim blazer-pants combo that put other pant suits in the crowd to shame as she fielded questions and picture requests.

Actor Erich Bergen, who plays Leoni’s comedic lap-dog assistant on the show, weighed in on the L.A. obsession with D.C.

“It’s already addicting. Before it was on television portrayed fictionally, we were all news junkies, we were all interested in what was going on. I think it’s naturally drama — it’s like a hospital, it’s like a law firm, anything that has natural drama built in.

“We all think we know the U.S. government, we all think we know how it works. We all think we know what happens. We obviously don’t, so this sort of gives us fulfills our need to see what’s going on inside there.”

The premise and especially the premiere episode follow the formula set forth by other television dramas like “Homeland”: two young men are being dragged through a dank prison, a cacophony of Arabic filling the air.

Cut to the lofty campus of University of Virginia, where protagonist Elizabeth McCord leads a leisurely life as a professor. Jump to an untimely demise of the secretary of state that thrusts her into the national spotlight after the President personally begs her to fill the role.

The show takes off from there, navigating the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill and the State Department.