All in the Family


In an era that has made a catchphrase of the term “family values,” it’s no surprise that a few new TV hits capitalize shamelessly on the theme of kinship. ABC’s schmaltzy woman-president drama Commander in Chief may have practically nothing in common with Fox’s thriller Prison Break, or UPN’s hilarious sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, but all three shows give new meaning to the maxim that home is where the heart is.

In the case of Commander in Chief, the home is the most famous address in the country: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That locale begins to percolate with cutesy conflicts accompanying the political ascendancy of Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis)-a politician who could make good money moonlighting as a model for Maybelline lip gloss. Most of the show’s dilemmas revolve around the dual role of Mac (her nickname) as both president and mother. Will the family hang together when the teenage daughter’s missing diary becomes fodder for the Secret Service? Can America stand strong when its chief executive has to hiss to her six-year-old daughter, during a national security crisis, “Amy! Mommy’s on the phone!”

Commander in Chief also addresses the more general challenge a career woman faces in a culture still swayed by chauvinism. Weighing in as villain in this regard is the bleary-eyed Speaker of the House, Nathan Templeton (Donald Sutherland), whose devious plotting against Mac reeks of misogynist spleen....

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.