Commander is an archetypal liberal tale: A hero is challenged by blind prejudice but rises to show us that when we embrace equality and diversity, it all works out. While on a state visit to Paris, Vice President Allen learns her boss has had an aneurysm. The ensuing dialogue sounds like something that’s been translated into a foreign language and then translated back to English in a hurry (“So what happens now? Do I take the oath?” “Can you smell the history?”). Top aides urge her to resign. The world is too unstable, damn it; Americans need to see strength, not a woman. Allen agonizes, supported only by her dopey-but-redeemable husband Rod (Kyle Secor, who apparently didn’t fall off the face of the earth after Homicide: Life on the Street). Her potential Cabinet starts falling apart in a perfunctory sort of way. Her nemesis, the glowering Speaker of the House (played as well as the circumstances allow by Donald Sutherland), gives cynical, sexist diatribes, makes veiled threats — and smirks. Allen agonizes some more.
In all this Commander tries to capture something of The West Wing. But it never builds up the necessary speed or suspense.