Why you need a guilty pleasure
As someone who loves her work, sometimes it’s all too easy to drift into a zone of imbalance without feeling the effects right away. It’s one thing when you hate what you’re doing and resent your need to burn the midnight oil, but when you love what you do, well, then work sometimes feels like play and it makes it even harder to know when it’s time to shut it down for a while.
There are clues, though. When I start to notice that my nightstand reading is entirely nonfiction or that my favorite magazines are still unopened, it’s time for a shift. When I’m spending all my unscheduled time catching up on email and I’m starting to feel drained and cranky…I know I need a little guilty pleasure. I’m using the term “guilty” loosely here because I don’t actually feel guilty about it anymore; I just need to remember to make it a priority!
A few Fridays ago, I found myself noticing all these signs and then some, so after I got the kids to bed, I was ready for a little reboot.
Starting with the basics – a bowl of popcorn with olive oil and sea salt, a good Malbec, and the remote control – it was time for a new show. I literally couldn’t remember the last TV show I’d watched (thank you summer nights and kids who won’t go to bed before dark) but that was about to to change.
When I’m looking for a new show to lose myself in, which seems to happen about once a year, I’m a creature of habit with a winning formula to guide me:
Strong Female Lead + Handsome Co-star + Political Drama = New Favorite Show
Therefore, in the last decade (give or take), my favorites have been gems like these:
- The West Wing
- House of Cards*
*handsome leading man questionable, with all due respect to Kevin
and with that formula in hand, I discovered my newest guilty pleasure….Madam Secretary!
Oh. My. Goodness. I cannot even tell you how much I love this show.
Madam Secretary has one season under it’s belt (find it on Netflix) and Season 2 is just beginning on CBS.
Bess McCord (Téa Leoni) is the Secretary of State, and a whip-smart former CIA analyst, married to Henry McCord (Tim Daly), a religious scholar and professor at Georgetown who is former NSA. The two of them have rich personal lives in addition to thriving professional ones, thanks in no small part to the three children they are raising. Moreover, in this depiction, the Secretary’s strong policy moves are balanced by her incredibly heartfelt interactions with the people affected by them. The show does a remarkable job of introducing us to the woman behind the Seal.
Beyond that, it does an amazing job of making foreign policy accessible to viewers. While this isn’t a “ripped from the headlines” format, every episode has a “situation” to be resolved that explores a plausible foreign policy topic. Each episode also delves into the home life and the everyday moments that transpire in the State Department and West Wing in between the course-of-history-altering negotiations and political maneuvering taking place there. As a result, we get to see the relationships behind the policy. Especially this one.
There is so much to love in this show; if you’re in need of a new guilty pleasure yourself, I highly recommend this one!
That said, I’m one of those people who can’t ever seem to just watch a show. In this case I’ve been mulling over a few points I’ll invite you to consider with me.
1) With three female Secretaries of State in the last twenty years (Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton), this is one high level political role in which we’re now as likely to find a woman as a man. That matters so much when our daughters are looking for examples of what’s possible for them.
2) Fictionalized shows like this one can play a significant role in educating the general public about issues in which they might not engage otherwise. While yes, the topics are painted in broad brush strokes, I’m wondering if shows like this play a role in demystifying complex topics for viewers. Can they spark curiosity about important issues like micro-lending, access to education, or clean water for the developing world in a way that makes people want to learn more?
3) Téa Leoni is a fabulous actress, and one who happens to have taken a long break from acting to raise her children before returning to her craft in 2014. When she decided to suit up again, one of the best roles of her life was available to her. I love that she is in this role at 48 and that she was brave enough to take a hiatus when it was right for her family, trusting that she could come back at the top of her game. Boy, has she ever.
Finding this show has been a great reminder that getting outside of the everyday grind isn’t something we should feel guilty about at all. Frankly, we need these breaks of pure joy and entertainment to recharge and re-energize ourselves.
I’m making no apologies for the time I’m spending with the Secretary of State.
But it leaves me wondering, are you making enough time for downtime? If not…
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