Commander in Chief TV Series Overview


Introduction

Commander in Chief is an American political drama television series that focused on the fictional administration and family of Mackenzie Allen (portrayed by Geena Davis), the first female President of the United States, who ascends to the post from the Vice Presidency after the death of the sitting President from a sudden cerebral aneurysm.

Background

The series began broadcasting on ABC on Tuesday, September 27, 2005, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, although most countries outside North America began screening the series in mid-2006.

The show was #1 on Tuesday nights until FOX’s American Idol started in January. The show was also the #1 new show of the season until CBS’ Criminal Minds surpassed it. Its major competitor in the 9:00 p.m. timeslot was FOX’s House, which aired after American Idol.

The series was created by American director Rod Lurie, director of the films The Contender (2000) and Deterrence (1999).

The network replaced Lurie with Steven Bochco as show runner. But after he failed to increase ratings, he was also replaced with Dee Johnson while further declining ratings brought about a hiatus, a timeslot change and ultimately cancellation – announced May, 2006, with the final episodes airing the following month.

Outline

MacKenzie Allen becomes the first woman American president after she ascends to the job following the death of president Teddy Bridges.

Cast

  • Main
    • Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis):
      • Mac is a former member of Congress from Connecticut and chancellor of the University of Richmond.
      • An Independent placed on the Republican presidential ticket alongside Teddy Bridges.
      • It is a common belief she was the reason Bridges won the election.
      • Mac becomes the first female vice president, a very popular one at that, and, upon Bridges’ death, she becomes the first female president of the United States.
      • During the first season, Mac decides she wants to run for re-election, with her political strategists stating her campaign is likely to secure her the middle fifty percent of voters.
    • Nathan Templeton (Donald Sutherland):
      • Templeton is a Republican congressional leader from Florida and The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
      • He was Bridges’ choice to succeed him as President, and thus he harbours significant resentment towards Mac, who refused to resign from her position.
      • He and Mac slowly become more acquainted with one another over the course of the series, and begin to develop a political kinship.
      • He has his own intentions to run as a Republican candidate in the next election.
      • He is married, with no children.
    • Jim Gardner (Harry Lennix):
      • Jim was Bridges’ chief of staff, and was asked by Allen to continue into her administration.
      • A loyal supporter of his Commander in Chief, Gardner finds himself resented by her husband, Rod Calloway, who served as her vice presidential chief of staff.
      • Gardner becomes Vice President of the United States following the resignation of Keaton.
    • Rod Calloway (Kyle Secor):
      • Calloway is Mac’s husband.
      • He was her vice-presidential chief of staff, and thus was initially resentful of Gardner.
      • During the first season, Calloway encourages Mac to give him an office in the West Wing, and a real role in the administration.
      • He later returns to a more traditional First Person role, though Mac’s mother continues to act as hostess.
    • Kelly Ludlow (Ever Carradine):
      • Brought into Allen’s administration from her vice presidential residential staff, Ludlow was the VP’s communications director.
      • She is promoted to Press Secretary ahead of the incumbent Deputy Press Secretary, though later proves herself particularly capable in this role.
      • As the series progresses, Mac offers her a more in-depth role in the administration, and thus keeps her apprised of numerous political developments.
    • Richard McDonald (Mark-Paul Gosselaar):
      • Dickie is a campaign advisor and political strategist hired by Rod Calloway into Mac’s administration.
      • He idolises the President, and believes her unquestioning principles to be unmatched in Washington.
      • He often irritates senior staff by focusing only on the political outcomes of personal situations, although he states he does so in order to secure Mac the middle fifty percent of voters.
    • Horace, Rebecca, and Amy Calloway (Matt Lanter, Caitlin Wachs, and Jasmine Anthony).
      • Horace, Rebecca, and Amy are Mac and Rod’s children. Horace and Rebecca, aged sixteen, are twins, and Amy is six years old.
      • Rebecca frowns on her mother’s choice to assume the presidency and holds more conservative political views than her mother, though Horace is more supportive.
  • Recurring:
    • Vince Taylor (Anthony Azizi); a special aide to the President.
    • Jayne Murray (Natasha Henstridge); the Speaker’s Chief of Staff.
    • Warren Keaton (Peter Coyote); the Vice President of the United States who resigns in episode fifteen.
    • Kate Allen (Polly Bergen); Mac’s mother and the White House hostess.
    • Mike Fleming (Matt Barr); a guy from Becca’s High School and her boyfriend later on.
    • Joan Greer (Julie Ann Emery); a Secret Service agent.

Production

  • Starting with the episode Rubie Dubidoux and the Brown Bound Express, Steven Bochco replaced Rod Lurie as head executive producer and showrunner.
    • Bochco’s changes included a staff of new writers and a new title design similar in style to that of NBC’s The West Wing.
  • Beginning with the episode State of the Unions, Dee Johnson replaced Steven Bochco as head executive producer and showrunner.
  • Part of the Greater Richmond Children’s Choir (GRCC) of Richmond, Virginia was the French Choir in the pilot episode, making an ironic connection between real life and fiction since Mackenzie Allen was Chancellor of the University of Richmond when Bridges tapped her as his running mate as seen as a flashback in the pilot, the scenes in Paris were also filmed at the University of Richmond.
  • Former Clinton Administration National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was signed on as an advisor to the show.

Filming Locations

  • City Hall – 200 N. Spring St., Downtown, Los Angeles, California, US.
  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards – 333 W. Camden Street, Baltimore, Maryland, US.
  • Raleigh Studios – 5300 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, California, US (studio).
  • University of Richmond – 28 Westhampton Way, Richmond, Virginia, US.
  • Washington, District of Columbia, US.
  • The Huntington Library – San Marino, California, US.
  • Intersection of North Vermont Avenue and Russell Avenue, Los Feliz, California, US.

Release

Commander in Chief received generally positive reviews, although Davis’ performance was largely praised as being a “successful comeback vehicle”.

Ratings

The series had good ratings initially, but they waned in subsequent weeks.

The series went on hiatus after its 24 January 2006 episode. In its place, ABC promoted a new Arrested Development-type show titled Sons & Daughters. Commander in Chief was scheduled to return on 18 April. However, on 29 March, ABC announced that it would instead return on 13 April and move from its Tuesday 9.00 pm slot to a 10.00 pm slot on Thursdays, directly competing with CBS hit Without a Trace and longtime NBC standby ER. Some media experts thought that ABC was hoping the show could be saved by gaining viewers from the surprise reality hit American Inventor aired right before Commander in Chief. However, the reality show saw its ratings drop by half and proved to be a weak lead in to Commander in Chief.

The show’s return on 13 April was met by low ratings in its new time slot. Preliminary ratings available on 14 April indicated that only 8.2 million viewers (2.4 rating/7 share in the 18-49 demographic) tuned in for the show’s return. CBS’s Without a Trace dominated the hour with 18.6 million viewers. NBC’s ER, airing a repeat, beat Commander in Chief in the 18-49 demographic (2.6/7 versus 2.4/7), although it had about two million viewers less overall.

ABC pulled the series from its lineup on 02 May 2006, and on 13 May announced that the show had been cancelled. The remaining three episodes of the season were broadcast after the ratings year had ended.

Unaired Episode

The episode Little Shop of Horace was scheduled to air on 21 February 2006, after “Wind Beneath My Wings” (episode 12), and a promo was released.

Mac weighs her options on how to deal with a situation in Africa when she learns genocide is taking place in a country there, and it becomes clear there are no easy solutions. Meanwhile, at Dickie’s suggestion, Mac considers firing her current Cabinet – many of them holdovers from Teddy Bridges’ administration – and bringing in her own in order to start with a clean slate going into her re-election campaign. At the same time, Rod makes a scheduled appearance at a joint US-Cuban children’s gymnastics convention, where a freak accident sparks an international situation, and Horace asks Rebecca’s friend, Stacey, for help with his homework – but the two end up doing more than just studying.

The episode was written by Tom Szentgyorgyi and directed by Carol Banker.

Home Media

On 28 April 28, 2006, Buena Vista Home Video formally announced the release of Commander In Chief: The Complete First Season. However, following the show’s cancellation, it was decided that it should be split into two volumes.

In Italy, the 5 DVD boxset was released on 01 December 2006 and it contains all original episodes dubbed in Italian plus voice tracks in English and Spanish and also special features the Pilot episode with comments by Rod Lurie and deleted scenes.

Commander in Chief Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Creator(s): Rod Lurie.
  • Director(s):
    • Rod Lurie … (4 episodes, 2005).
    • Vincent Misiano … (2 episodes, 2005).
    • Jesse Bochco … (2 episodes, 2006).
    • Bobby Roth … (2 episodes, 2006).
    • Daniel Attias … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Chris Long … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Daniel Minahan … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Jeremy Podeswa … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Jeff Bleckner … (1 episode, 2006).
    • Dan Lerner … (1 episode, 2006).
    • Steve Shill … (1 episode, 2006).
    • Rick Wallace … (1 episode, 2006).
    • Greg Yaitanes … (1 episode, 2006).
  • Producer(s):
    • Rod Lurie … executive producer (19 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Alex Shevchenko … associate producer (19 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Geena Davis … co-executive producer (17 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Marc Frydman … executive producer (17 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Dee Johnson … executive producer (17 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Steven A. Cohen … consulting producer (16 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Stuart Stevens … consulting producer (16 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Alison Cross … co-executive producer (11 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Joel Fields … co-executive producer (11 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Tom Szentgyorgyi … co-executive producer (11 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Rick Wallace … co-executive producer (10 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Dayna Kalins … producer (8 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Jeffrey Downer … supervising producer (7 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • James Spies … producer / line producer (7 episodes, 2005).
    • Ali Adler … co-executive producer (5 episodes, 2005).
    • Anya Epstein … supervising producer (5 episodes, 2005).
    • Crystal Nix Hines … consulting producer (5 episodes, 2005).
    • Sascha Schneider … producer (4 episodes, 2006).
    • Steven Bochco … executive producer (2 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Loucas George … line producer / producer (2 episodes, 2005).
    • Kenneth J. Silverstein … co-producer (unknown episodes).
  • Writer(s):
    • Rod Lurie … (creator) (19 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Dee Johnson … (7 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Steven Bochco … (5 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Steven A. Cohen … (5 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Joel Fields … (5 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Alison Cross … (3 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Stuart Stevens … (3 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Cynthia Cohen … (2 episodes, 2006).
    • Tom Szentgyorgyi … (2 episodes, 2006).
    • Ali Adler … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Richard Arthur … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Anya Epstein … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Crystal Nix Hines … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Dahvi Waller … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Alex Berger … (1 episode, 2006).
  • Music:
    • Larry Groupé … (11 episodes, 2005-2006).
  • Cinematography:
    • Christopher Faloona … (11 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • David J. Miller … (6 episodes, 2006).
    • James L. Carter … (1 episode, 2006).
  • Editor(s):
    • Christal Khatib … (7 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Jonathan P. Shaw … (2 episodes, 2005-2006).
    • Lauren A. Schaffer … (2 episodes, 2006).
    • Sarah Boyd … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Christopher Nelson … (1 episode, 2005).
    • Warren Bowman … (1 episode, 2006).
  • Production: Battleplan Productions, Steven Bochco Productions (from episode 08), and Touchstone Television.
  • Distributor(s): Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
  • Original Network: ABC.
  • Release Date: 27 September 2005 to 14 June 2006.
  • Running Time: 42 minutes (per episode).
  • Rating: TV-PG.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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