COMMANDER IN CHIEF - Complications Ensue
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Sunday, October 09, 2005

After everyone's glowing reviews -- glowing in the way that embers glow -- I took my time watching the Commander in Chief pilot. The show so quickly betrays the truth of the main character -- or any main character -- that it became unwatchable.

The driving question is: the President is dying. Everybody wants the Vice President to resign so they can get a Vice President that the President likes better.

I'm sorry. People are asking a politician to resign her office because it's the right thing to do. Someone who suffered through an election campaign. Someone with the strength to win a campaign.

Are you kidding?

I know there are mitigating details in there -- she's not a career politicians, whatever -- but those just make the story more ridiculous. This woman actually asks her kids what they think she should do. Like it's a serious question.

It's like The West Wing, if Aaron Sorkin had never read American politics, and didn't have Dee Dee Myers and Peggy Noonan -- real Washington insiders -- on staff.

The reason I'm going to watch a show called Commander in Chief is because I want to get a sense I'm peeking into a world I've never seen before -- a real world, full of life and death decisions. That's why I watch Grey's Anatomy and Over There. But if they're just going to make it up ... what's the point?

UPDATE: And, hah! This just in. Steve Bochco is going to run the show. Rod Lurie gets to keep his credit, but he's not in charge of the show any more. This tells me that Geena Davis has too expensive a deal to just kill the show. They have to keep it going somehow. So, bring in the biggest hired gun you can find...

UPDATE AGAIN: Jeff points out below: "The show's the highest rated new series of the season..." Which goes to show you: I don't know what the audience wants to see; I have opinions about how to tell stories. It may be that seeing a soft-hearted tough-minded Geena Davis as President is what people want to watch, and they're not that worried about whether it's realistic or not. After all, West Wing was always about too-good-to-be-true Democrats struggling against too-good-to-be-true Republicans, not the real nasty mess Washington really is. C-in-C doesn't float my boat, but then, I'm not a Desperate Housewives fan, either. Jeff is, along with millions of other people.

These are the sorts of things that make network execs sometimes seem thickheaded, when really they are almost always very smart people dealing with problems and data that you, the writer, will never have to deal with directly.

4 Comments:

If it's a realistic peek into things you're looking for, Over There shouldn't be on your list. Every vet I know that's come back from the giant sandbox has been pretty offended by that show's departures from reality.

By Blogger Bryan N., at 10:25 PM  

"too expensive a deal to just kill the show"? The show's the highest rated new series of the season. The second episode had higher ratings than the first, which almost _never_ happens. Even the lower-than-wished-for 18-49 demographics aren't that bad in the grand scheme of things. There's definitely stuff afoot with Rod Lurie but there's no way ABC was going to kill the show even if it wasn't Geena Davis starring in it.

By Blogger Jeff, at 11:07 PM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Christopher Coulter, at 7:13 PM  

Novelty-factor, I predict a big dropoff. People are galvanized by the political formulations and the Hillary-pitch send-up, and it has the Beltway in a tizzy, but I don't think it will last. The show is not true enough, doesn't have enough of a hook, more angst over reality, more setup over plot, it's like a cartoon cut-out version of the West Wing. And instead of telling a good story, it's too political, it's preaching at us. And it already has a perception as a 'liberal Blue state' send-up.

Even my die-hard TV addict type of friends are calling it quits (my silent unscientific trend indicator). The big-splash buzz adrenaline will get it big audiences at start, but eventually it has to run on protein. I don't see enough (at this point) to keep it going. The plot made me roll my eyes so much I am near blinded.

But you can't really compare Desperate Housewives and Commander. As C-in-C needs to be realistic. Whereas, with Housewvies, the more outlandish and maze-like the plot-twists the better people seem to like it, and the teasers at the end, keep you hooked. Housewives will succeed for the very reason C-in-C will fail, one is true to itself, the other is not.

By Blogger Christopher Coulter, at 7:17 PM  

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