Commander in Chief (TV series)

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Commander in Chief
Commander logo.jpg
Created by Rod Lurie
Starring Geena Davis
Kyle Secor
Donald Sutherland
Harry J. Lennix
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 18 (List of episodes)
Running time 42 minutes
Production company(s) Battleplan Productions
Steven Bochco Productions (from episode 8)
Touchstone Television
Distributor Disney–ABC Domestic Television (episodes 9-26)
Original channel ABC
Original run September 27, 2005 (2005-09-27) – June 14, 2006 (2006-06-14)

Commander in Chief is an American 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. The series was the first major network television series to have a female lead character as the President of the United States.[1]

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 and Deterrence, and may have been inspired by The West Wing, a popular political drama on rival NBC.

The network replaced Lurie with Steven Bochco as show runner,[2] 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.

Cast and characters[edit]

The characters of the President and Vice President were named after the two actors who played those roles in Rod Lurie's previous political thriller, The Contender. Teddy Bridges, named for Jeff Bridges who played President Jackson Evans, and Mackenzie Allen, named for Joan Allen who played Laine Hanson, his Vice Presidential nominee.[citation needed]

Main characters[edit]

Other characters[edit]

Actor/Actress Character Position
Peter Coyote Warren Keaton Vice President of the United States (resigns in Episode 15)
Polly Bergen Kate Allen President Allen's mother and White House hostess
Mark-Paul Gosselaar Richard "Dickie" McDonald Campaign Advisor
Matt Barr Mike Fleming radio commentator
Anthony Azizi Vince Taylor Special Aide to the President
Natasha Henstridge Jayne Murray Speaker's chief of staff


The Cato Institute and Reason magazine charged that the series glorified the "Imperial Presidency" and that it favored using government force to impose the personal values of some Americans on others who disagreed with them and to impose the values of those Americans on the rest of the world.

General criticisms included that the series was so centered on Allen's gender that this became the focus of the show instead of the character's capability. However, a counter-argument[who?] is that the series was trying to depict realistically what the general public's reaction to the first female president would be and such an occurrence would probably also focus public scrutiny on a female president's gender rather than her policies. Negative comparisons have also been drawn[3] with 24's black president David Palmer, as while in that show a black president was depicted as having been voted into office under normal circumstances, Commander in Chief's storyline showed a female president only coming into the presidency because the existing president dies in office.

However, in interviews on the show's website, various cast members said that, as time went on, there was supposed to be less focus on the President's gender and more on the fact that she was an Independent, especially when she would have run for election. On the day the series premiered, Davis was reported to have said in an interview, "This is a show about every aspect of the life of a person who is president, the personal side and the public side."[4] A November 2005 review in USA Today noted the show's focus was more on Allen's family than world or national political events; in the same review, Allen's leadership style was compared and contrasted favorably with that of Josiah Bartlet of The West Wing.[5] A reviewer for United Features Syndicate wrote that "While 'Commander' avoids the overt wonkery of 'West Wing,' it also fails to give its audience much credit for knowing history or current events."[6]

The episode Ties That Bind generated further controversy and negative press in its fictional depiction of the bordering suburb of Hyattsville, Maryland, as having one of the fastest growing crime rates in the United States. It also indirectly depicted the town as being an urban ghetto dominated by poor minorities. The city and Prince George's County were very upset at ABC and somewhat surprised as well at this depiction; in reality, the city is ethnically mixed, middle-income and mostly suburban in density and character. On May 1, 2006, ABC formally apologized to both the city and county.

The Traditional Values Coalition, FrontPage Magazine and conservative commentators have gone on record complaining that the show was really a thinly veiled attempt to lay groundwork for a possible 2008 Presidential run by prominent Democrat Hillary Clinton.[citation needed] This charge has been denied by Lurie, Davis and ABC.


The series had good ratings initially, but they waned in the weeks to come.

The series went on hiatus after its January 24, 2006 episode. In its place, ABC promoted a new Arrested Development-type show titled Sons & Daughters. Commander in Chief was scheduled to return on April 18. However, on March 29, ABC announced that it would instead return on April 13 and move from its Tuesday 9 p.m. slot to a 10 p.m. 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.[7] However, the reality show saw its ratings drop by half and proved to be a weak lead in to Commander in Chief.[citation needed]

The show's return on April 13 was met by low ratings in its new time slot. Preliminary ratings available on April 14 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.[citation needed]

ABC pulled the series from its lineup on May 2, 2006, and on May 13 announced that the show had been cancelled. The remaining three episodes of the season were broadcast after the ratings year had ended.


No. Prod. Title Airdate
1 101 Pilot September 27, 2005
2 102 "First Choice" October 4, 2005
3 103 "First Strike" October 11, 2005
4 104 "First Dance" October 18, 2005
5 105 "First...Do No Harm" October 25, 2005
6 106 "First Disaster" November 1, 2005
7 107 "First Scandal" November 8, 2005
8 108 "Rubie Dubidoux and the Brown Bound Express" November 15, 2005
9 109 "The Mom Who Came to Dinner" November 29, 2005
10 110 "Sub Enchanted Evening" January 10, 2006
11 111 "No Nukes Is Good Nukes" January 17, 2006
12 112 "Wind Beneath My Wing" January 24, 2006
13 113 "State of The Unions" April 13, 2006
14 114 "The Price You Pay" April 20, 2006
15 115 "Ties That Bind" April 27, 2006
16 116 "The Elephant in the Room" May 31, 2006
17 117 "Happy Birthday, Madam President" June 7, 2006
18 118 "Unfinished Business" June 14, 2006

TV film and second season[edit]

Shortly after the cancellation of the regular series, rumors began to arise that a TV movie would be produced in late 2006. Soon after, there were a number of reports confirming the TV film, one of which was made by Geena Davis to The Stage.[8] The TV film was set to enter production, but columnist Matt Roush reported "on excellent authority" in TV Guide that it is no longer in the works.[9]


  • 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.
  • 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[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominee Result
2005 Satellite Awards Best Actress – Television Series Drama Geena Davis Nominated
2006 GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Drama Series Commander in Chief Nominated
2006 Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Television Series Drama Geena Davis Won
2006 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Donald Sutherland Nominated
2006 Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Drama Commander in Chief Nominated
2006 Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing in Television Short Form Episode: "Pilot" Nominated
2006 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Drama Series Commander in Chief Nominated
2006 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Harry Lennix Nominated
2006 People's Choice Awards Favorite New Television Drama Commander in Chief Nominated
2006 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Geena Davis Nominated
2006 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series Geena Davis Nominated
2006 Young Artist Awards Best Young Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Caitlin Wachs Nominated
2006 Young Artist Awards Best Young Actress Age Ten or Younger in a Comedy or Drama Jasmine Jessica Anthony Nominated
2007 Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Supporting Visual Effect in a Broadcast Program Episode: "The Wind Beneath Her Wings" Nominated
2007 Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Model and Miniatures in a Broadcast Program Episode: "Air Force One" Nominated

DVD release[edit]

On April 28, 2006, Buena Vista Home Video formally announced the release of Commander In Chief: The Complete First Season.[10] However, following the show's cancellation, it was decided that it should be split into two volumes.[11]

In Italy, the 5 DVD boxset was released on December 1, 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.[12]

DVD Name Ep # Region 1 Region 2 Description
The Inaugural Edition, Part 1 10 June 27, 2006 N/A Episodes 1 - 10
The Inaugural Edition, Part 2 8 September 5, 2006 N/A Episodes 11 - 18, Interview with Geena Davis, Unaired Scenes, Bloopers, Exclusive Creator Commentaries.
The Complete First Season 18 N/A January 29, 2007 Interview with Geena Davis, Unaired Scenes, Bloopers, Exclusive Creator Commentaries.

International broadcasts[edit]


  1. ^ Kristina Horn Sheeler; Karrin Vasby Anderson (8 August 2013). Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-1-60344-983-0. 
  2. ^ Gay, Verne. "He's not blue about leaving network TV". The Boston Globe, September 5, 2007. Accessed 2 July 2009.
  3. ^ Alston, Joshua (2008-02-11). "Diversity Training". 
  4. ^ Jay Bobbin (Zap2it), "Geena Davis becomes ABC's 'Commander in Chief'," Albany Times Union, On TV section, p. 3, September 25, 2005.
  5. ^ Bill Keveney, "Study in leadership styles," USA Today, November 1, 2005.
  6. ^ Kevin McDonough, "Davis begins term as President," United Features Syndicate, Albany Times Union, p. n/a, September 26, 2005.
  7. ^ Maynard, John (2006-03-30). "Pulled After Approval Ratings Fell, 'Commander in Chief' Returning". 
  8. ^ Thomas, Liz (2006-06-30). "Geena Davis confirms Commander in Chief telemovie". 
  9. ^ Roush, Matt (2006-10-27). "Roush on Commander in Chief". 
  10. ^ Lacey, Gord (2006-04-28). "Commander in Chief - David Takes Office in October". 
  11. ^ Lacey, Gord (2006-05-25). "Commander in Chief - One Set Become Two Volumes". 
  12. ^ "Una Donna Alla Casa Bianca Stagione 1". 

External links[edit]