A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the show features content that focuses on gender and politics. There is very little to object to other than comments made by Mac's adversary, who in the first episode jokes about human rights, a woman's ability to hold higher office, and menopause. One major plotline features a Nigerian woman threatened with violent death for having a child out of wedlock. A scene depicting her rescue that begins in a Nigerian prison is a little disturbing.
What's the story?
COMMANDER IN CHIEF begins with Vice President Mackenzie "Mac" Allen (Geena Davis) being pulled from a French musical performance to learn that the president, Teddy Roosevelt Bridges (Will Lyman) has suffered a stroke. The president's chief of staff (Harry J. Lennix) and the secretary of state implore her to resign her post, so that the more conservative speaker of the house, Nathan Templeton (Donald Sutherland) can take her place -- apparently, they don't object to her gender as much as they do her politics. Mac decides to comply with everyone's wishes -- that is, until her meeting with her chosen successor. Templeton's comments on human rights, women in politics, and Mac's inability to handle the military (despite her academic and political background as an expert in Middle East conflict) compel her to abruptly change her mind. With the whole world watching, Mac is sworn in as the first female and first Independent Party member to hold the office of president of the United States.
Is it any good?
Rarely does a program feature a woman in power, let alone president of the United States, and the writers deserve much credit for the show's appropriate balance of drama and humor. Any more drama would appear too heavy-handed and any more humor would detract from the show's position that a woman president is plausible and possible in the near future. Geena Davis displays the perfect mix of poise and professionalism -- she is intelligent and sensitive, yet she keeps her emotions in check (one of the key arguments some possess against having a woman in power). Donald Sutherland is outstanding, as is Harry J. Lennix as Mac's new chief of staff.
The show's only downfall is its constant references to previous presidents, their wives, and offspring, which often comes off as gimmicky. For example, Hillary Clinton (who owes the show a big thank you) is the number one target of ridicule by White House staffers for her less than domestic approach to being a first lady. But despite these minor flaws, the show could become this fall's biggest hit; many have compared Commander in Chief to The West Wing, a comparison that, based on the first show's subplot, has merit, although creator Rod Lurie (The Contender) hints that unlike President Bartlett's liberal stance, Mac will hold a more conservative position on issues such as teaching abstinence in schools. Parents might want to watch Commander in Chief with their children to explain the political references and discuss the overall ramifications of having a female in the White House.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of having a woman president in office. Do you think a female president could perform as well or better than a male president could? Parents might also want to discuss the inner workings of the U.S. government. How do personal beliefs play a role in making political decisions?