Picks and Pans Review: Commander in Chief

updated 10/03/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/03/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

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Is Geena Davis qualified to lead America? Anyone who looks so commandingly crisp in power clothes could probably get the 22nd Amendment revoked and stick around for an added term. And go shoe-shopping with Condi Rice. Draping a long overcoat over her long silhouette, Davis looks as if she has the height to match her head against the men on Mount Rushmore. There's probably more to her performance as the first woman President than these externals, but Davis is an actress of real physicality. That's what drives her through the premiere, anyway, unswervingly as a limo down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The show itself is a diverting, silly potboiler, a bold cartoon with none of the staffers' anxious beetle scuttling that gives NBC's venerable The West Winga sense of verisimilitude. This is more like The Federalist Papers as written by Star Jones. Vice President Mackenzie Allen upgrades to the Oval Office after the President, a Republican, dies of an aneurysm. Her problem is the GOP doesn't like her, never liked her—she's an independent who was picked solely to give some novelty to the ticket—and now party leaders want her to step aside so the job can go to the Speaker of the House. He's played by Donald Sutherland with a rooster's comb of white hair and an amiable wiliness: It wouldn't take much to imagine him chortling over a list of names he'd like to see (in the recent words of one religious leader) taken out. Allen refuses to step aside and gives a speech of stirring blather to Congress.

There's some dramatic tension and gender comedy involving her husband and ex chief of staff (Kyle Secor), now relegated to First Lady. At one point he stares at a portrait of Nancy Reagan with a look of dread. He obviously had greater policy aspirations than hugging Gary Coleman.


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