Commander in Chief (TV series)

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Commander in Chief
Commander in Chief logo.png
Created by Rod Lurie
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
Original network ABC
Original release 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 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,[1] 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.



  • 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, Mac is the first female vice president, 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 House. He was Bridges' choice to succeed him as President, and thus he harbors 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 idolizes 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.



Reason magazine charged that the series glorified the "Imperial Presidency"[2] 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.[2]

Negative comparisons were 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.

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

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 was 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.
  • 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[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. ^ Gay, Verne. "He's not blue about leaving network TV". The Boston Globe, September 5, 2007. Accessed 2 July 2009.
  2. ^ a b Healy, Gene (October 18, 2005). "Geena Davis Is Not My President". Reason. 
  3. ^ Alston, Joshua (2008-02-11). "Diversity Training". Newsweek. 
  4. ^ Jay Bobbin (Zap2it), "Geena Davis becomes ABC's 'Commander in Chief'," Albany Times Union, On TV section, p. 3, September 25, 2005.
  5. ^ Keveney, Bill (November 1, 2005). "Study in leadership styles". USA Today. 
  6. ^ McDonough, Kevin (September 26, 2005). "Davis begins term as President". United Features Syndicate. Albany Times Union. 
  7. ^ Maynard, John (2006-03-30). "Pulled After Approval Ratings Fell, 'Commander in Chief' Returning". The Washington Post. 
  8. ^ Thomas, Liz (2006-06-30). "Geena Davis confirms Commander in Chief telemovie". 
  9. ^ Roush, Matt (2006-10-27). "Roush on Commander in Chief". TV Guide. 
  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]