Starring: Téa Leoni, Tim Daly, Željko Ivanek, Bebe Neuwirth and Keith Carradine Premise: A former CIA agent, comfortably retired to a life in academia, is called to duty by the U.S. president after his secretary of state is killed in a suspicious plane crash. Lowdown: Without question, one of the strongest pilots in this fall’s newdrama crop. Leoni is rock-solid in the title role, and the supporting cast — particularly Daly as a husband who’s supportive without sacrificing his own identity, and Neuwirth as a chief of staff whose loyalty must be hard won — is impressive. There’s a politicalconspiracy subplot in the opener that could become a distraction if it isn’t handled well, but for the most part, this is compelling stuff. Quotable: “What I really wanted to do was to create a (show with a) successful marriage, because I believe they exist. I’ve seen them. I think that the challenge of trying to create a woman in a strong position of leadership is to not show her life being broken everywhere else. That is sort of the common theme (on TV), and it is something that we, as women, have to overcome. To depict someone who can manage a home life, who has a successful active and realistic marriage — not a perfect marriage, but one that works — a working marriage, not a dysfunctional one, and be able to do the job — that’s the real challenge.” — writer/executive producer Barbara Hall, on building the blueprint for Madam Secretary. Bottom line: A well-structured and well-cast show; if subsequent episodes live up to the pilot, CBS may have found a very comfortable schedule mate for its Sunday stalwart, The Good Wife.