I have a confession to make: I’ve never watched The West Wing. It’s always been high on my list of Shows I Should Watch One of These Days, but I’ve never actually gotten around to it. I assume that since creator Aaron Sorkin also made Sports Night that it was a good show, but you know how most programs are pitched: “It’s not really about crime/medicine/vampires/whatever, it’s about people?” I always got the impression that The West Wing really is about politics, and that’s kind of a turn-off for me. So having put off that show for all these years, I wasn’t particularly excited about Commander in Chief, ABC’s political drama about a woman who’s thrust into the presidency in spite of the fact that she’s an Independent taking over for a Republican. And, you know, female.

The Formula:
Commander in Chief = The West Wing + Murphy Brown

The trump card here is the casting: Geena Davis as President Mackenzie Allen. It’s not that she’s a majestic, six-foot-tall redhead; or that she has an Academy award; or that she’s a near-Olympic-caliber archer. It’s that in spite of all these things, she manages to convincingly play everywomen, perfectly normal people thrust into pressured situations; she’s like a female Jimmy Stewart without the vocal tics.

Davis is pitch-perfect in the role of President Allen, trying to manage her cabinet and her family all at once while taking in stride the hostile forces (represented by her surly daughter (Caitlin Wachs) and Donald Sutherland as the eeeevil Speaker of the House) that press upon her from all sides. Refreshingly, the pilot managed to avoid having one of those moments where a woman in an unfamiliar position makes a minor mistake that’s supposed to reflect her doubts about her ability, but actually just makes her look like a incompetent amatuer; Allen has many problems, but knowing how to do her job is not one of them, even when that job is leading the free world.

The show’s in a sketchy time slot (9pm EST, opposite The Amazing Race and House), I’m not sure how much mileage the producers can get out of the concept, and the political speechifying promises to be fairly snoozy, so the prospects for Commander in Chief as a whole are just fair-to-middlin’. But when Davis pulls up that Amazonian frame of hers and delivers those snoozy speeches, I’m all but ready to vote for her myself.

(Also: ABC gets points for formatting the show’s site as a cheesy political hack blog.)