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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 Madam Secretary follows a former CIA agent who becomes a professor and then Secretary of State -- and who's also a wife and mother. The show offers strong role modeling of a woman in power and is refreshingly light on iffy content, making it a great choice for families with teens. Many plot lines involve violence, but it's usually described rather than shown, and what is shown has very little blood. You'll also hear infrequent use of "hell" and "damn" and see brief scenes of implied sex (bare shoulders, rumpled bedclothes). There's some social drinking, too.
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What's the story?
When the U.S. Secretary of State is killed in a plane crash, the president (Keith Carradine) visits college professor Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni) -- a former CIA agent he once mentored -- and asks her to take the job. But becoming MADAM SECRETARY brings big changes for Elizabeth both personally and professionally, uprooting her husband (Tim Daly) and children and continually challenging her integrity.
Is it any good?
This isn't the first time that TV drama has explored the concept of women in the White House (Commander in Chief, anyone?), but Leoni's portrayal of a working mom in power feels both refreshing and on point, never dwelling on the fact that she's a woman with a tough job but instead focusing on the fact that she's really good at it. Leoni shines as a smart and relatable heroine, and she’s joined by a stellar supporting cast that includes Daly, Bebe Neuwirth, and Zeljko Ivanek.
For fans of The West Wing, Madame Secretary will feel happily familiar, and it's a great pick for families with teens who can process some of the show's more complicated political plots. The fact that Morgan Freeman serves as the show's executive producer has some giddy that he'll make an appearance as a future or former president. But who's to say that Madame Secretary herself won't give the White House a run for its money?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Madam Secretary's obvious nod to the experiences of real-life secretaries of state Madeleine Albright (the first woman in U.S. history to hold the position), Condoleezza Rice, and Hilary Clinton. How does Elizabeth McCord compare?
How does Madam Secretary compare with other series about powerful women in politics? (Think The Good Wife, Scandal and the ill-fated Commander in Chief.) What does it do differently in terms of story and character?
What are the real-life challenges for women who hold high positions in traditionally male power structures? How does Madam Secretary attempt to address them?