NEW YORK - ABC's "Commander in Chief" would seem to be a pretty straightforward drama.
The president dies. The vice president (played by Geena Davis) succeeds him in the Oval Office. And, omigosh, she's a woman!
But there's more going on here, suspicious minds are thinking: "Commander in Chief" isn't just this fall's most-watched new series - it's a sinister scheme by Hollywood lefties to hype Hillary Clinton for the White House.
Could "Commander in Chief" (9 p.m. EDT Tuesdays) really be a weekly infomercial for Hillary?
"Keeping with the modern liberal tradition of subliminal socialist indoctrination (through U.S. television), `Commander in Chief' seeks to accomplish more than prime-time entertainment," warned a writer named J.B. Williams on the National Ledger Web site, while the blogger Colossus pronounced the show "a nefarious plot to advance the notion of a Hillary Clinton presidency."
A warmup act for Hillary? Best-selling feminist author Naomi Wolf applauds it. In London's The Guardian, she hailed "Commander in Chief" as not only well-timed for Clinton's widely anticipated 2008 run, but also as "truly addictive, political pornography." (Are the rest of the show's nearly 17 million viewers that aroused?)
Granted, Hillary Clinton and Mackenzie Allen (the show's presumed stalkinghorse for Hillary) do share the same gender. Other parallels, however, seem more of a reach.
- "Mac" is a U.S. congresswoman-turned-university official and a Republican-turned-Independent. On the other hand, Hillary is a lifelong politico and Democrat; a former first lady who is now a U.S. senator.
- Mac's road to the White House began as a vice presidential candidate chosen to boost the women's vote for her Republican running mate, who then, after just two years in office, obligingly expired. Hillary can't count on that measure of support.
- Mac is 6 feet tall and isn't married to former President Clinton. Hillary isn't, and is.
- Mac, lest we forget, is make-believe, and idealized - maybe to a fault, from Hillary's perspective. Noting that President Allen is "smart, beautiful, dressed to the nines, completely competent," Boston Herald columnist Virginia Buckingham wrote: "If I were Hillary Clinton, I'd be running scared. Perfect is not the bar she ought to want set for her."
OK, here's one similarity identified by James Dobson's Focus on the Family in a "CitizenLink" e-mail. "The name of the lead character, `Mackenzie Allen,' sounds remarkably, poetically like `Hillary Clinton,'" it stated, exercising poetic license.
Did "Commander in Chief" creator Rod Lurie really set out to be Hillary's advance man?
"This is not a You-Go-Hillary show, this is a You-Go-Girl show," Lurie said last week. "I just want to see women in the process, whether they be Democrats or Republicans or Independents. If there's any social agenda to the show, it's to be enthusiastic about the idea of a woman president - and an Independent president. She's an Independent, which is sort of a big deal."
Trying to change the subject? Not so fast!
Some conservatives are in a lather over Mackenzie Allen's nemesis, the Republican speaker of the House (Donald Sutherland). The RedState Web site complained that this underhanded power broker was designed to bash all Republicans as "manipulative, back-stabbing, power-hungry politicians."
But Lurie pointed out that President Allen's own chief of staff - a man of solid character - is a Republican.
He added that "Commander in Chief" has its roots not in Hillary's campaign strategy but in "The Contender," a film he wrote and directed in 2000 about a vice presidential aspirant. (It starred Joan Allen ... for whom he named Mackenzie Allen.)
But what about "Commander in Chief" writer Steven Cohen, who worked for Hillary Clinton as the then first lady's deputy communications director?
Sure, said Lurie, who mentioned another of the show's writers, Crystal Nix Hines, who previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Yet another, Stuart Stevens, ran the 2000 and 2004 media campaigns for President Bush (and has ridden bikes with him).
"I promise that if there was no Hillary Clinton, there would still be a `Commander in Chief' - I want to have a hit show that people enjoy, and really, that's it," explained Lurie, whose surprising exit from his top 10-ranked series was announced a couple of days later.
Now, what will conspiracy theorists read into that turn of events? The official explanation: Under a two-year deal with Touchstone Television, Lurie has given up his job running "Commander in Chief" to concentrate on developing new series, while TV veteran Steven Bochco ("NYPD Blue" and "L.A. Law") takes the production reins of a show that had fallen dangerously behind schedule.
Just another shakeup in the TV biz? Or is there (hmmmm) more to the story? Try and stop suspicious minds from hashing over what it might be.