This Is Why Madam Secretary Had To Be Canceled

CBS' Madam Secretary was a timely and thoughtful primetime series that dramatized the ins and outs of a fictional State Department led by Elizabeth McCord (Teá Leoni). The show also covered how doing so affected Elizabeth's family life and relationship with her on-screen husband, Henry (Tim Daly).

It was, as critic Margaret Lyons of The New York Times noted, not as "hip" of a political drama as Homeland or House of Cards, but it was always watchable, as Henry and Elizabeth earnestly parent their kids or the State Department staff tussles over diplomacy and ethics. But in reality, the same characteristics that made the show a binge-worthy distraction might also be the same reasons Madam Secretary was really canceled. And no, it's not because Leoni and Daly ended up dating in real life

The series first premiered in 2014 and ended its run with a truncated 10-episode sixth season in 2019. Although fans were sad to see it go, the show had run its natural course. In fact, keeping the show on the air would have been pushing it just a little too far for a few reasons. 

There was a natural end to 'Madam Secretary'

Listen, the show was called Madam Secretary, not Madam Stays-In-Office-Too-Long. The show could only have lasted as long as Elizabeth McCord (Teá Leoni) was in office anyway, and in the best of times, that's as long as a president is in office, from four to eight years. The final season addressed this issue, jumping forward in time to a future in which Elizabeth ran for office and won the Oval Office. 

CBS president Kelly Kahl said in a statement, via TVLine, that they wanted to "send show the off with a great deal of respect and celebration" and they somewhat pulled it off. Though even the most dedicated fan has to admit that President McCord was way less interesting than Secretary of State McCord. And ratings did dwindle in the final two seasons, TVLine reported, bringing in 4.8 million total viewers for the Season 5 finale, which was its second-smallest audience ever. The Season 6 series finale brought in around 4.5 million, per TV Series Finale, proving that interest was low in the show after a certain point. 

That doesn't mean the show wasn't good all the way through, but given how the political climate in the real world changed throughout the course of the show's six-season run from 2014 to 2019, the Madam Secretary universe might have felt a little too earnest for some viewers caught up in actual current events. 

'Madam Secretary's lead actress appreciated the show for what it was

Still, Madam Secretary had a good run and its six seasons will always be ripe for a rewatch on Netflix or another streaming service. In fact, Teá Leoni, who played Secretary McCord, wasn't interested in taking it too much further.

Leoni told TV Insider in December 2019, "If the name of the show had been Madam President, I wouldn't have been interested. The president decides between options that other guys bring; I wanted to be the person bringing the options. Being secretary of state was a fantastic way to show the negotiations and compromises and, most of all, the humanity behind those decisions. President is just a little too generic for my liking."

So, don't worry: There doesn't seem to be any bad blood between the cast and network post-cancellation. Sometimes, it's just better to get out while you're ahead and that seems to be exactly what Madam Secretary did.