Can Geena Davis’ administration be saved?
ABC’s’’ Commander in Chief’’ started with massive approval ratings. Thanks to the 16 million viewers who tuned in for the debut, ‘‘Commander in Chief’’ was the only new series this season to crack the Nielsen Top 10.
But the polls — um, ratings — have been trending down.
On Nov. 29, the massively promoted addition of Mark-Paul Gosselaar to the cast swelled the audience back up to 13.6 million. But ‘‘CiC’’ still finished third in its 8 p.m. Wednesday time slot behind NBC’s ‘‘The Biggest Loser’’ finale and Fox’s ‘‘House.’’
So what’s the rub? It’s obvious people were drawn to the concept of a female chief executive. They wanted to like the show. But the weekly serving of hokum and sanctity is proving tough to swallow.
After a gripping pilot in which Mackenzie Allen (Davis) inherited the Oval Office, ‘‘CiC’’ devolved into a dull and predictable mix of international and very domestic affairs. (‘‘How do you expect me to root out that terrorist camp in Lebanon when my teenager just got caught cribbing his history paper off the Internet?’’)
The show’s creator, Rod Lurie, clearly envisioned ‘‘CiC’’ as an exploration of a woman trying to balance her career and her home life on the world’s largest stage. But making her such an involved mom also makes her a rather implausible leader.
The other sticking point is that President Allen and her staff all seem so faultlessly noble and principled. That simply doesn’t jibe with the Washington we know, where if you’re not under indictment, you’re clearly not trying very hard.
Maybe the saintly quality of her character explains why Davis seems to be having trouble getting a handle on the role. She delivers her lines so stiffly, it sounds as if she just underwent a dental procedure requiring Novocaine.
After a handful of bland episodes, ABC deposed Lurie and replaced him with veteran TV producer Steve Bochco (’’Hill Street Blues’’).
The most salient change has been bringing in Gosselaar as political consultant Dickie McDonald. When your audience is 61 percent female, as ‘‘CiC’s’’ is, it makes sense to augment the stud quotient.
But the whole show needs to be opened up to reflect the complexity of Washington and the constant demands on the president. As it is now, the entire federal government consists of Donald Sutherland.
ABC has some time to work on more changes: The next fresh episode isn’t scheduled until Jan. 10.