While I watch a lot of TV, I usually never watched primetime dramas; I’d always preferred to watch comedies (and even those I’ve shied away from over the last ten years or so). There was a time when I watched Law and Order SVU, because I liked the stories and it was a really good show to watch, but even that didn’t last too long.
However, one TV drama that I had never watched, and never really cared to watch at the time it was on TV (assuming that it had a massive political bias) was The West Wing. All I really knew about the show before really sitting down and watching it was that John Spencer died while the show was filming its final season, and that led into a discussion of the resulting situation. I didn’t know anything about the characters, or really about the content of the show.
Ironically, last year, one of the new shows that I watched was the ill-fated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – created by Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme – who also created West Wing, and Sports Night (all three of which have a season 1 finale titled “What Kind of Day Has it Been?”). It was an alright series, but after a couple of weeks I lost interest – mostly because it was on at 9pm on Mondays, but also because the storylines were somewhat confusing and hard to get into.
Then, Snoskred got hooked into the show, big time. Eventually, I was convinced to, ahem, procure, a couple of episodes – you know, take the show for a test drive. I think it took about three for me to be sucked in.
The thing about The West Wing is that it is an intelligent program. It’s not filled with the double-innuendo that you see in most comedies nowadays, and it’s not filled with blood and guts and murder investigations, like most modern dramas. It’s a show that goes very far to give an insight into the world of Washington and of politics. As someone said in a review of Studio 60 on Amazon – “Could it actually be that if “West Wing” was first being premiered this fall that it would also not last one season?”
Unfortunately, I think that would be the case – in early 2006, the West Wing was not performing very well on its way to the end of the series; in fact, NBC put it on Sundays at 7 – against the Simpsons and Extreme Makeover Home Edition and whatever was on CBS at the time, mostly to just let it finish its run. Today’s TV is all about the ratings – not the quality. Luckily, we have had the priviledge to have quality television in the West Wing.
Part of the reason I’ve loved watching the show so much is that the writers knew how to tug at all of your emotions – from humor to fear to just times where you want to cry (the end of season 2 was the first time that I really cried at the show, and the final episodes of the series were awfully difficult to watch). Another great thing is that, in the final season, they knew that the show was coming to an end, so John Wells did an excellent job to close the series – letting you know what the characters would be doing in the future, and even bringing back an old friend and putting them back into the fray. It was, really, a great way to end a show, and it reached a logical end with the end of a Presidency, and the beginning of another.
Yes, the show did have some less-than-stellar moments; an episode from season 5 – “Access” comes to mind with that, but almost all of the 150+ episodes were of excellent quality. Like Snos said at one point – it’s hard to believe that people had to wait four and a half months between seasons hwen the situations at the end of one season make it necessary to watch the next one, two or even three episodes. At one point, I even watched half of one season in one day, and I think that if you were determined, you could watch all 7 seasons in a sitting, but that would take a massive effort. 🙂
The only thing that I missed out on with the way that I, ahem, procured, the series was the commentary tracks to the episodes that they put on the DVD sets. One day soon, I hope to be able to get the full series DVD set; that will be a major acquisition for me, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go and buy it for yourself. However, if you just want to take the “test drive”, I think you know where to find these things. 😉
Now, I have to find another show to watch at lunchtime….anyone have a suggestion? 😉
And, I want to leave you with a couple of my favorite scenes from the show –
First, from Season 3, President Bartlet calls the Butterball Hotline and tries to not reveal that it’s him….
And this other clip from Season 3, CJ lays down the law to Josh –