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Published: Sunday, 10/9/2005

Woman in White House gets TV vote

It's not the best television show I've ever watched.

Then again, it's far from the worst.

True, it does lack the verve and sharp energy of earlier, Aaron Sorkin-era West Wing seasons - but it sure beats another hour of reality TV.

And certainly the prospect of a female president of the United States is nowhere close to reality.

Yet.

Maybe the burgeoning reality of a show like Commander in Chief - that version of the White House featuring Geena Davis as President Mackenzie Allen - is that it lets couch potatoes from coast to coast warm gradually to the idea of a female president.

Just small, bite-sized exposures, and even then only once a week.

Don't want to frighten the people too fast, right?

For those of you with real lives (and therefore little or no time for TV), this recap:

"Mac" Allen (naturally, she has an androgynous nickname) is the American vice president when the man in the Oval Office suddenly suffers an aneurysm and, shortly afterward, dies.

(Well, we couldn't expect the nation's first female prez to simply be elected to office, right?)

The dying president's fervent desire is that his vice president resign.

By stepping aside, of course, Mac Allen would pave the way for the speaker of the house to assume the office.

The speaker, deliciously played by Donald Sutherland, is definitely Not A Good Man.

Still, conventional wisdom has it that he will be a more commanding global figure than she; the old "any man is preferable to an excellent woman" scenario.

Under these circumstances, we learn precious little about Mac's politics. She is an independent (unlike her Republican running mate), but no matter - Commander in Chief is actually more concerned with the president's home life than her politics.

Well, all right.

If what we're getting is a kind of big warm-fuzzy on an X chromosome president from ABC's entertainment division (as opposed to the news operation), well, pop culture can actually go a long way in familiarizing people with new ideas in settings that are far from threatening.

As expressed by Marie Wilson, who heads The White House Project, which promotes women's increased political involvement: "You can't be what you can't see."

A recent poll found that nearly 80 percent of those surveyed were comfortable with the idea of a female president.

More than 16 million people watched the premiere episode of Commander in Chief; maybe it'll loosen up those Americans who told pollsters they're not yet comfortable with anyone in the Oval Office who wears pantyhose.

But maybe - if the title of former Clinton aide Dick Morris' new book, Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race, turns out to have even a speck of truth to it - TV would finally give us reality programming like nothing we've ever seen before.

Roberta de Boer's column appears here Sundays and in Second News on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Watch her on-air column Wednesdays during the 6 p.m. news on WTVG, Ch. 13.

Contact her at:

roberta@theblade.com

or 419-724-6086.



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