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A CurtainUp Review For "Streaming" Enthusiasts
Madam Secretary & The Crown
By Elyse Sommer
New: Madam Secretary
The Original Review With Update About Season 6 now available on Netflix
Being the editor and critic in chief of a theater-zine like Curtainup doesn't leave much time to see, let alone write about, what's being offered on screens in movie houses or any other screens. — especially the multi-episode offerings from streaming networks like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Acorn, and a constantly growing list of other organizations catering to those who appreciate a finely produced and performed absorbing show in a way that insures a convenient and up close viewing experience.
With more and more theater professionals have divided their time between film work and live theater, with the former actually making the stage work financially possible, we've long tried to cover the synergy between stage and screen entetainment with our Talk about Large and Small Screen Shows at CurtainUp feature. But with the ever growing influence of streaming networks and the popularity of multi-episode offerings with audiences whose preferred length for attending a show on or off Broadway tends to be 90 minutes, we've decided to add a special review feature for "Streaming" Enthusiasts.
While access to content from several streaming organizations can make a substantial dent in one's discretionary spending budget, it's still cheaper than tickets for a show on Broadway; nowadays even off-Broadway. What's more, for "streamers" a close-up of an actor's expression is not limited to having a prime seat ticket. That said, though multi episode storytelling does allow for complex plotting and diverse physical presentations, there's nothing like the never really frozen live feature.
After several months of immersing myself in the binging experience I did note that these eight or more episode show do have a tendency for a slump to set in and trigger the urge to fast forward a scene here and there, something you can't do at a movie or play seen in a "regular" venue. Granted, TV viewers can do this by taping an episode.
Below our first of these multi-episode shows or "bingers" — review of The Crown, a lavishly produced Netflix original and Madam Secretary first serialized on TV which also became available on Netflix where it gained enough new audiences to produce a final Sunday night TV season.
Elizabeth McCord and her Husband, Henry (Tea Leoni and Tim Daly), a noted religious scholar and teacher, have nothing in common with the Richard the Third -like Frank Underwood and his equally deplorable spouse. The McCords not only have a happy and healthy relationship with each other and their children but are committed to do-the-right-thing public service. She's a former CIA analyst and was happy as a college professor until the secretary of state died in a suspicious plane crash and her former CIA colleague who's now President, Conrad Dalton, recruits her for the job. Husband Henry has also been recruited by the National Security Agency to apply his ethical know to their problems. Dangerous work that provides plenty of opportunity for tense interludes.
Besides picking up the mantle of West Wing's liberalism Madam Secretary borrows from the format of the much loved The Good Wife— not only by having a smart, charismatic female lead but by adapting the setup of a weekly legal procedural intertwined with the personal story. In Madam Secretary that means giving Elizabeth a political-crisis-of-the-week.
Each episode calls for Elizabeth to apply her diplomatic skills to trouble shooting a variety of global issues that have gone awry, saving lives, and keeping important national or international agreements from falling through. This being very much a story championing female empowerment, one episode even has her dealing with the inappropriate sexual behavior of a nutty dictator.
The way these torn from the headlines situations are dramatized and resolved does tend to be less than realistic. But who cares about problems being resolved too easily and with intelligence, when it's all so bracingly upbeat, well staged and performed. Leoni and the others inhabiting the key roles are terrific. Given my many years as< i> Curtainup's Madam Edtor and Critic-in-Chief, it wwas also lots of fun to spot so many actors I've seen in plays and/or musicals popping up in occasional and frequent guest roles.
As for actors I haven't previously seen on stage. . . that includes the show' s star, Tea Leoni, and the young thespians playing the McCord offspring ( Wallis Currie-Wood and Katherine Herzer as daughters "Stevie and Alison, and Evan Roe as son Jason). I did see Henry (Tim Daly), just a year ago in Downstairs a play Theresa Rebeck wrote especially for him and his sister Tyne Daly
Most of the actors playing characters who are regularly in Elizabeth's orbit — including her boss, President Dalton—, have musical creds. Keith Carradine is a seasoned songwriter and singer as well as actor. His POTUS doesn't get to sing, but the show's writers have smartly provided a few fun musical riffs for Nadine Tolliver (Bebe Neuwirth) Elizabeth's chief of staff for the first three seasons, publicist Daisy Grant (Patina Miller ), and executive assistant Blake Moran (Erich Bergen). Ultimately, what's really great to see is how smart and dedicated all these characters are, with Dalton's right-hand man Russell Jackson (the superb , Zeljko Ivanek) managing to make an often hostile character admirable and more hero than villain.
As I've already stated, without Netflix to expand the audience, Season 5 and the soon to come Season 6 finale of Madam Secretary probably wouldn't have happened . That windup season during which Elizabeth is no longer Madam Secretary but Madam President will run parallel with the actual 2020 presidential campaign and Donald Trump focused on winning a seonc term..
True to the series structured to echo real history but taking liberties with it, the Dalton administration was not affiliated with either party. And so, the former Madam Secretary too will be campaigning as an independent, even though no Independent has ever made it into the Oval Office.
Whatever happens to this fictive candidate, I fervently hope that a candidate with the charisma and savvy of Leoni and her character will make us all feel good about our country again.
The Crown, Seasons 1 and 2. . .including an update of season 3 with a new cast!
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Madam Secretary, Created by Barbara Hall
The Secretary of State's Family
Tea Leoni-Elizabeth McCord
Tim Daly-Henry McCord
Wallis Currie-Wood -Stephanie "Stevie" McCord
Katherine Herzer -Alison McCord
Evan Roe Jason McCord
Keith Carradine-President Conrad Dalton
Zeljko Ivan -Dalton's chief protector,Russell Jackson
The Secretay of State's Staffers
Sara Ramirez - Kat Sandova
l Patina Miller - Daisy Grant
Erich Bergen- Blake Moran
Sebastian Arcelus -Jay Whitman
Bebe Neuwirth Nadine Tolliver
Go to https://www.imdb.com for full cast and other credits
The Crown Created by Peter Morgan (Seasons 1 and 2))
Cast Membersbr> Claire Foy- Queen Elizabeth II
Matt Smith- Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Jared Harris -King George
Victoria Hamilton- Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Alex Jennings- David, Duke of Windsor
Lia Williams- Wallis Simpson
Vanessa Kirby- Princess Margaret\
Ben Miles- Peter Townsend
Matthew Goode-Antony Armstron-Jones,Earl of Snowdon
John Lithgow- Winston Churchill
Harriet Walters-- a Clemmy Churchill
Stephen Dillane-Graham Sutherland
Jeremy Northam- Anthony Eden\
Harry Paton-Smith- Martin Charteris
John Lithgow- Winston Churchill
Harriet Walters-- as Clemmy Churchill
Clive Francis- Lord Salisbury
Greg Wise- Lord Mountbatten
Anton Lesser- Harold MacMillan
Reverend Billy Graham-Paul Sparks
Update: The Crown Season 3
Olivia Colman-Qwueen Elizabeth
Tobias Menzies - Prince Philipt
Helena Bonham Carter- Princess Margaret
Josh O'Connor-Prince Charles
Erin Doherty-Princess Anne
uis Mountbatten (Charles Dance--Lord Mountbatten
Ben Daniels-Anthony Armstrong Jones
Jason Watkins-Harold Wilson
Marion Bailey-the Queen Mother
Emerald Fennell- Camilla Shan
Andrew Buchan- Andrew Parker Bowles
Derek Jacobi-Duke of Windsor
Geraldine Chaplin -Wallis Simpson