Ouch! NY Times TV Critic Says CBS's Version of Secretary of State Hillary Is 'Hillary With a Human Face'

September 20th, 2014 2:21 PM

CBS is putting its Hillary-inspired drama "Madam Secretary" on Sunday nights next to "The Good Wife." In Friday's New York Times, TV critic Alessandra Stanley discussed the two shows and slammed Hillary.

"Hillary Rodham Clinton is the obvious inspiration, but this is Hillary with a human face," she wrote. During the Cold War, reporters would suggest a kinder, gentler Marxist regime was "communism with a human face."

Stanley continued: "Téa Leoni, who has a husky voice and a loose, engaging manner, is an unusually likable beauty. As Elizabeth McCord, she has all the brains and determination of the original and none of the political ambition and baggage." Leoni's character is "dragged reluctantly into high office and spends her time there making the world a safer place, not planning her next move in Iowa."

Stanley wasn't completely insulting Hillary. She doesn't see her in any way as an idealist or un-calculating. She found Hillary in the other CBS show:

And that’s why a closer model for Mrs. Clinton can be found in a different what-if scenario, namely that of “The Good Wife,” the series about a politician’s wife whose husband is brought down by a sex scandal. She stands by his side for a while, then leaves him and restarts her legal career from scratch.

Alicia Florrick, the betrayed wife played by Julianna Margulies, has guile as well as gumption. She is sympathetic but also devious and not beyond using connections, deceiving friends and twisting the truth to get what she wants, including, last season, her own firm.

Stanley may have put it in a less insulting way back on September 3, but she was still making a point that the CBS version of Hillary was too idealistic:

But what is especially striking is that in an age of deep cynicism about Washington, the new portraits of women in high office are painted in rosy shades of respect and admiration. While many of their more self-serving colleagues pursue ignoble agendas, network heroines in top positions are multitasking do-gooders trying to keep the nation safe.

That may be welcome news to Mrs. Clinton, who has not yet announced whether she will run for president in 2016, and who is still floating high on suspense and raised expectations. But it’s a little dull for viewers in the mood for a juicier and more realistic drama à clef...

Elizabeth is an idealized version of Mrs. Clinton, with all the smarts and drive and none of the ambition. Unlike the real Mrs. Clinton, this secretary of state didn’t run for president; she didn’t even want to be in the cabinet. Elizabeth is a former C.I.A. analyst turned college professor with a husband, two children and a horse farm who is dragooned into public service. “You quit a profession you love for ethical reasons,” the president tells her. “That makes you the least political person I know.”

Earlier: Kristine Marsh on the "Hillarywood" trend