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September 1, 2015

Commander in Chief: The Mom Who Came to Dinner

by Sarah Gilbert, posted Dec 1st 2005 4:34AM

commander in chief new guySteven Bochco's presence is writ large all over the new (and improved?) Commander in Chief. All in all, I think the changes are good - the dialogue is a little snappier and doesn't talk down to the American viewing public so much, the wardrobe is better, and the story just seemed to flow well. But I'm having a problem with some of the characters. I can't stand the new guy. He's not believable and just looks like a teen heartthrob (Mark-Paul Gosselaar will always be Saved by the Bell too me), not a polling nerd. Bochco is turning Templeton into a sympathetic character, and Jayne is nothing like her old evil self, appearing now as the nervous schoolgirl in her first lobbying job. I like the new her. It just doesn't fit - at all.

I question the decision of the producers to run a Thanksgiving episode... several days after Thanksgiving. And the storyline ("story by Steven Bochco" and his buddies, boy does he love to throw his name around in the opening credits - and give jobs to every other Bochco in the universe) - well, it seems as if they're trying to set up a dozen different plotlines at once.

First, Bochco sets up a flirtation between Kelly and Richard. He tells her her "vamping" polls well, as I continue to adore Ever Carradine and have absolutely no faith in her, in this role. She just can't do serious - I mean, come on. She's up against Alison Janey, for God's sake. She could at least have a deep voice. As it is, she looks like she'd be believable as one of Mac's kids. Anyhow, he tells her to cut her hair - but he asks her to do it sexy? What? She shouldn't look sexy. The curly style is cute, but it doesn't do a thing to make her look more credible. Ick. And the hand-holding thing at Thanksgiving - far too giggly for the White House. Dontcha think?

The mother-in-law comes to visit, and we're set up to view Mama Allen as the alpha mother. (As I joked to my husband, I'll bet Barbara Bush never tried to cook Thanksgiving dinner for George!) That's great, but, if she was an alpha mom, wouldn't it stand to reason that Rob wouldn't like her? He loves her, and it's he who convinces Mac to ask her to come to stay. I guess they'll have to add her to the cast list.

I can't believe that I've gone on for several paragraphs and haven't even made a dent in the storylines. There's Templeton and his wife, painted in the most lovely light in their own gigantic, stately home. He adores her, she is omniscient. And he's going to ask Jayne to come back? Hmmm, not sounding like the old Templeton at all. There's Becca wearing goth-like eyeliner - that thread is lost quickly with barely a mention. And suddenly, Horace has gone from sullen, angry and trying to avoid schoolwork at all costs - to working hard on his French homework and asking Grandma for help. The old Horace wouldn't have been doing his homework at all. There's Jim and Jayne, still lovers until he becomes all principled and cuts things off. Boy wasn't that all neat and ladylike? Are relationships really that easy?

Mac has "important" things to deal with - an independent review panel recommended closing the base in her home state of Connecticut, and one of her old friends (and, evidently, flirt-buddies) from law school wants her to commute the sentence of a retarded woman on death row in Texas. She accepts the base closure, gracefully and with Rob's gentle approval, and then sneaks in a Thanksgiving-morning phone call to the Texas governor, looking guilty - like the wifey caught calling her manicurist to schedule a too-expensive spa visit - when Rob finds her on the phone. Pschaw.

Good thing at least the costumes have improved. All except that dumb jumper. Her suit in the press conference, with the slightly oversized collar and the belt and the French blue silk shirt - damn. That was awesome. Her suit the previous day was yummy, too. But what's with that glen plaid shift over a turtleneck? No president - no woman over 30 - should ever be caught in a jumper. I even questioned my ownership of a similar garment when I was 22, and finally shoved it to its permanent position at the back of my closet. Geena's jumper should be sold on eBay to a teenager, it just doesn't belong on a respectable adult.

All in all, I'm reserving judgment. I think I really don't like the new kid on the block. And I think Ever Carradine should be (but won't be) replaced. Can't someone just bring back Once and Again, and Ever can get back together with Sela, and everyone will be in their rightful place once (and) again?

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I totally agree with Jimmy. Bring back the ball busting Mac!!

December 01 2005 at 10:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought this a good episode. I loved Polly Bergen as the liberal mom. I think she will bring some interesting clashes to the White House. I'm not liking the sympathetic Templeton all that much. There were times when the character was a bad stereotype of Republican politicians, but that's also what made him fun. This neutered guy is just boring. I'm also liking the stronger Rob, but I hate the way the producers are weakening Geena Davis' character in the process. She defers to the First Gentleman way too much for the leader of the Free World. She seems to run every decision by him and then looks sullen when she makes a decision he doesn't approve of. I don't like this. I liked the ballsy Mack of the first few episodes. I know Bochco can writer stronger female characters than this; he's done it on both Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue.

December 01 2005 at 10:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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