“Madam Secretary” offers an entry-level understanding of Washington DC. By watching the show, you understand the importance of democracy.

Barbara Hall hit a stroke of genius when she decided to create the show “Madam Secretary.” The show’s six seasons and 120 episodes tell the tale of a reluctant hero on her journey to defend democracy, and displays the struggle between work and family. It also gives the viewers a peak behind  the White House veil. 

Elizabeth Adams McCord, played by Tea Leoni, is a former CIA operative and college professor who lands the Secretary of State job because of her merits and mind rather than political agenda. She’s our heroine and all-the-more lovable because of her protests against the traditional way of “Good-Ole-Boys-club” politics. 

When I saw my parents watching the show in the living room a few months ago, I scoffed. I could not fathom why in the leisure of the night and amid a global pandemic, they would choose to wind down by watching a CBS political-drama. My mom encouraged me, “Just watch one.” Out of respect for her, I watched the pilot.  

All it took was one, and I became hooked. Not only does the story center around a phenomenal and playful marriage between Elizabeth and Henry McCord, but it also explains politics that I had never grasped before.

It’s the approachability of the show that is Barbara Hall’s genius. 

“…I think that our primary objective when we create television shows is to entertain people, but you want to do it in a way that has something to bear on larger questions. If we’re going to pull the curtain back on something, like the State Department, which can be far too dry or educational, you have to give it a fantasy element that invites people to participate,” said Hall per Vulture interview. 

Hall allowed people to understand the antics behind D.C. parties, classified and unclassified information and gave a basic course in political jargon using entertainment and storytelling. 

That “fantasy” element she speaks of is the character of Elizabeth McCord. Hall admits, her hairstyle swere inspired by the former female secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright. Other than that, Elizabeth McCord is a fictionalized character, representing people’s ideal public servant in Capitol Hill. 

“…I wanted to create a character that when people watch her as she approaches her job, they might say, ‘If I was Secretary of State, that’s how I would get it done.’ And I think we all have those fantasies about taking on Washington. So, I really wanted her approach to be legitimate because she isn’t a politician, but she has a lot of hands-on experience, having come from being in the CIA,” said Hall later to Vulture

Madam Secretary’s character is poised under pressure, wise, a believer in democracy and has a strong moral compass that grounds each move. 

In an interview with CBS News, Téa Leoni said that, “I think that the dirty little secret on this character is that she is hopeful, not cynical.”

The very reason you should watch at least one episode is simple: when we look at our current political divide, we see it to be bleak. “Madam Secretary,” on the other hand, stands for hope in the political sphere. 

I’d like to encourage you to sit down and watch the “Pilot” episode on Netflix or other streaming platforms. Optimistically, my thought is that some of your hope for the future of our democracy will be regained through one episode of this drama. Sure, it’s a tall order. But if the fictional Elizabeth McCord can punch the Philippines President in the face for sexually assaulting her, keep her job and continue leading this nation, anything is possible.