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September 30, 2014 - Image 5

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Tuesday, September 30, 2014- 5

Lady Antebellums
smooth landing

Tea Leoni stars in
sanitized 'Secretary'


and D
do so
a bit
on a
I son
and G
the co
2013 b

athan Chapman aggressive, in-your-face style.
Or at least, that was the
)duces '747' with group's plan. Short of "Long
Stretch of Love," "Bartender"
Country trio and "Freestyle," the album is
still elegant country. A heavier
ByGREG HICKS kick and snare can't disguise
DailyArts Writer that. It spits a little more fire
relative to Lady A's conventional
lary Scott, Charles Kelley delicateness, but it's far from
ave Haywood are likely to the proclaimed gutsiness. Not
me nail biting this week, exactly an Eric Church record.
se quite And frankly, Jay Joyce
is riding B (Church's producer) would've
smooth been a more fitting producer
ff for 747 over Nathan Chapman, given
While what the group was shooting
group Lady for. Joyce is the current leader
failed to Antebellum in edgy country pop, after all.
out No. Capitol Nashville Arguably, however, Little Big
gs* from Town beat Lady A to the chase
the. Night in 2012, when the quartet hired
olden, the truth is, each of Joyce to reinvent its sound for an
A's albums have declined in added edge.
since Need You Now swept With all this producer talk,
untry scene. So, the group let's talk Nathan Chapman -
ed to switch gears for'ifs Lady A's produser replacement
release - not just for a for Paul Worley. For those
ent sound (like that of its unfamiliar, Chapman is
hit, "Downtown"), but an notable for being Taylor Swift's

Grammy-winning producer on
Fearless, Speak Now and Red.
Chapman certainly broughtmore
momentum to Lady A's sound
this time around (particularly
in the percussive/rhythm guitar
area), but also couldn't help
but bring a heap of his famous
country pop glitter. The usual
country piano-pop continues to
dance around Kelley and Scott
in (to name a few) "She Is" and
"747," making the Worley-to-
Chapman switch a distinction
without a difference.
Take the record for what it
is and 747 is a smooth landing.
As a typical Lady A-formulaic
manufactured record, it's an
attractive, emotionally grasping
LP - heartwrenching at "Damn
You Seventeen," yearning at "Lie
With Me," blushing at "She Is."
But don't expect the album to cop
an attitude in its sound. Lady A
shot for hardcore and Chapman
landed them at softeor:
The trio still shoots Crown
over Fireball, and name drops
Motown over Music City.

Daily Arts Writer
CBS's "Madam Secretary"
opens with mournful wails
echoing through a Middle East
mosque, famil-
iar cultural
signifiers that
immediately Madam
cue us to the S
following eeary
scene. Two Series
American teen Premiere
are arrested CBS
in Syria for
their anti-government activ-
ism. Cut to protagonist Eliza-
beth McCord (Tea Leoni, "Fun
With Dick and Jane") striding
through a slick college building
a thousand miles away.
The former CIA agent who
quit for ethical reasons has been
comparedto Hillary- Clinton,
yet beyond their hair color and
rapid-fire intelligence, there's
little resemblance. McCord
may also have her own share of
familiar cultural signifiers so
often found on primetime tele-
vision - blonde-haired, blue-
eyed, attractive - yet by the
first exchange with an entitled
student, it's clear McCord is a
new cut of character on TV. In
the vein of Jodie Foster, she's
got the husky voice, dry wit
and unflappable demeanor, and
when the presidential motor-
cade comes bearing her former
spy mentor/current POTUS
(Keith Carradine, "Dexter")
who wants her to step in as Sec-
retary of State, we know exactly
why he wants such a tenacious
person on his team.
Two months later, after she's
packed up her family and leaned
into D.C., McCord is stuck
approving seating arrange-'
ments for foreign dignitaries.
Unlike Clinton, McCord takes
no pleasure in these politi-

cal maneuvers, and when the
Chief of Staff (Zeljko Ivanek,
"Damages") suggests a person-
al stylist she brusquely waves
him away. That McCord would
need any fashion guidance is
wholly unbelievable; sure, she's
no flashy Olivia Pope, but we
can present a gorgeous wool
cowl-necked coat as evidence
to the contrary. Homegirl even
has time to do an artful scarf
wrap, even with more pressing
national matters like the kid-
napping of the aforementioned
junior anarchists. The work-
place scenes are peppered with
humor and showcase a wide and
diverse cast.
But beyond McCord, who
television viewers will eas-
ily root for, "Madam Secretary"
seems like it's poised to be a
spin on the well-troped D.C.-
meets-domestic drama. The
subplot of thekidnapped teen-,
agers is executed adequately'
The strength of these plots rests
on their timely prescience, in
this case the execution of three
western individuals'by IS.I.L.
in the past two months; but it's
not contributing anything new
or interesting in terms of politi-
cal commentary.
"Madam Secretary" itself.
is sanitized from any criti-
cal thought but a bland pro-.
government message, with
bureaucratic or Machiavel-
lian characters sidelined to the
peripheral channels of the insti-
tution. Do we honestly believe
all these television presidents
just genuinely want to make
real change? In the era of Hill-
ary and Bill Clinton, I want to
see more power players on the
screen who admit that they're
in it at least a little bit for the
game too. By the end of the epi-
sode McCord has saved the day,
which we knew would happen,
less because McCord is smart
and creative, and more because

we've seen this plotline many,
many times.
It does have a strong pro-
female narrative though. Just
as McCord makes ambitious,
deliberate decisions - in the
political sphere, she and her
professor husband Henry (Tim
Daly, "Private Practice") have
a seemingly modern relation-
ship - McCord would "wear
the pants in the relationship,"
if that outdated slogan has any
real bearing in the world any-
more. "Madam Secretary" also
starts from the assumption that
McCord can have the family
and the job, though it may not
always be the case. The show is
careful in examining the subtle
workplace strife that comes
from being a strong female
leader; it doesn't indict McCord
for being a "bitch" with its nar-
rative. Though it does give her
;sonehuman vulnemability - in
avdothestic scene, McCord wor-
ries to Henry that he might not
find her attractive anymore for
being "too masculine." Indeed,
I spy stormy waters in their
marital sea ahead, with the foxy,
co-eds who idolize Henry and
his theology lectures (OK now,
that's maybe the most unbeliev-
able part) forecasted to make a
late-voyage appearance.
In the end, "Madam Secre-
tary" has a so-so plot with a
great performance from Leoni.
Is it worth watching? Leoni
certainly is a deft actress, and
it's enjoyable to watch McCord
glide through the corridors of
power in a motivational kind
of way. As a criticism, we don't
really see McCord strain, which
is an odd contradiction for
my praise of it's strong female
focus, but just as we relegate
expectations of effortless con-
trol to inspirational figures like
Sheryl Sandberg, we often like
to have our television charac-
ters with a side of struggle.

'Blacklist' keeps pace

NBC show garners
impressive ratings in
season premiere
DailyArts Writer
Last season "The Blacklist"
proved to viewers that it's a
show filled with excitement and
intrigue, and
the premiere
of the second
season has , The Blacklist
continued to Season Two
provide view- Premiere
ers with what NBC
they've come
to expect.
Coming off of its great first sea-
son, "The Blacklist" has much to
prove in its second year, and so
far, it's definitely delivered. By
asking tough questions and going
through hellfire to find answers,
the season two premiere is no
different. The episode is filled
with the usual explosions and
gunfire and, as always, viewers
are left wondering what could
possibly happen next.
Raymond "Red" Reddington
(James Spader, "The Office") is
on the hunt for yet another per-
son who is hunting him. This
time, he's still looking for Berlin
(Peter Stormare, "The Big Leb-
owski"), who was introduced
last season, and Lord Baltimore.
Red has his hands full in the sea-
son opener. He is standing by his
rules set last season, refusing to
talk to anyone in the FBI except
for agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan
Boone, "Law and Order: L.A.").
The relationship between
Keen and Reddington is the
center of the show and provides
some of the most entertaining
interactions. Keen is led to a
woman, Rowan (Krysten Rit-
ter, "Breaking Bad"), who is


That's a drug exchange handshake i we've ever seen one.

somehow connected to Lord
Baltimore. She's more connected
to Lord Baltimore than anyone
is aware of though, since she is
Lord Baltimore. Due to her Dis-
sociative Identity Disorder, even
Rowan herself is unaware of her
double identity.
"The Blacklist" is great at
shocking its audience, and the
reveal of Reddington's wife in
the premiere surely provided
the series' signature twist that
audiences have come to expect.
Reddington's wife (Mary-Louise
Parker, "Weeds") is taken hostage
by Berlin, despite Keen and the
FBI's best efforts to prevent the
Reddington, who generally
remains calm under the most
intense situations, actually shows
concern for his ex-wife and seems
to be distraught. It's clear that
Red is up against one of his tough-
est and most heartless enemies
when Berlin sends Red a package
in the mail, containing one of his
ex-wife's fingers. Berlin is going
to be a test of whether Red is truly
capable of taking anyone down, as
he constantly claims he is.
The return of "The Blacklist"
leaves Agent Keen dealing with
the emotional trauma of discover-

ing her husband was an impostor
and the stress of working under
a new boss. She seems to have
channeled all her energy into her
work, and based on Berlin's ven-
detta against Red, it's a good time
for that. The episode does end
on a happy note, a much-needed
departure from the series's char-
acteristically dark tone. The task
force's director makes his return
at the end of the episode, and he is
greeted by awarm welcome.
Berlin is clearly a villain who
is here to stay, and it will be inter-
esting to see how the character
develops and how Red, Keen and
the rest of the FBI agents deal
with one of their biggest chal-
lenges yet. If the season pre-
miere is any indication of what's
to come this season, viewers can
expect exciting things. If NBC
continues to provide viewers
with fast paced, action-filled epi-
sodes such as this, "The Black-
list" will continue to garner big
ratings (it reached over 12 mil-
lion viewers for the season pre-
miere). Hopefully it keeps up this
level of intensity and exhilara-
tion, because if it does, the show
will surely continue to receive
the acclaim and praise it has
earned thus far.


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