I always like a good binge over Christmas – no, not on babysham or egg nog, but on a box set or two.
Last Christmas it was Game of Thrones, which somehow I had avoided over the years. I got to the end of Season Three, by which time I was thoroughly confused by the plot (is there one), and by the fact that the show has so many characters that I rather lost track of who they all were and who had been killed off.
This year I thought I’d try Madam Secretary, a US series about a female Secretary of State, obviously designed to be a replacement for the late lamented West Wing. I was searching for it on Netflix when I came across another political series called Secret City, which is a Netflix Original and filmed in Canberra. It’s more Bodyguard than West Wing, and has a big spy element to it.
When I saw that my namesake Alan Dale, who played Jim Robinson in Neighbours was playing the Aussie Prime Minister in the show, I thought I’d give it a go. It’s cliffhanger-tastic and runs over two series, and I can highly recommend it.
So I then moved on to Madam Secretary on Amazon Prime. This ran for six series, and I was hooked right from the start. As in West Wing, there’s a lot of walking and talking but the plot lines are superb, and as in the West Wing they often run over more than one episode.
The main character, Elizabeth McCord, comes to the job after her predecessor’s plane crashes in the Atlantic. She’s a former CIA agent who drifted into academia, and the thread that runs through the series is her battle with moral dilemmas.
She likes to think she runs an ethical foreign policy, but quickly realises that this is impossible. The action is split between her role as Secretary of State and the conflicts that it poses with her family life and relationship with her husband, Henry, who also turns out to be a secret agent.
The story lines regarding Russia and Iran are superb, if sometimes a little far-fetched, and I was actually watching an episode about a potential war with Iran when I found out about the killing of Soleimani.
Madam Secretary is so good that it's kept me from starting Season 3 of Occupied! There are 6 series and 120 episodes of Madam Secretary and I'm still only on Episode 43...
Adapted from an article which originally appeared in my ConservativeHome diary column, which I write every Friday.