I tried to hate the West Wing. When my wife started ordering the discs from Netflix about two years ago I ignored them – I wasn’t going to go for anything so overtly ‘Network’. Oh no, not me.
I mean, Martin Sheen? Loooong time since Apocalypse Now kids. And the rest of the cast – John Spencer*? I was having flashbacks to watching LA Law with my parents on Saturday nights as a kid with nothing better to do. So my wife would roll through two or three episodes and I would sit on the couch reading, occasionally looking up at something that had caught my ear on the screen. My initial reaction for most of the first three or four seasons, what I did sit through, was that it was predictably over-dramatized. I still say if I had a dime for every time Martin Sheen takes off his glasses with one hand and squints his eyes in contemplative silence I’d never have to work another day in my life. However…
A funny thing happened around the time she hit seasons six and seven. It was the year before Obama’s election and the propaganda was starting – a whole host of hopefuls were gearing up to run for the Presidency** and we had the press to remind us every minute of every day. Meanwhile, on West Wing Jimmy Smits character, Congressman Matt Santos was introduced and began running as the Democratic presidential candidate. In spite of myself, surrounded by the blistering headlines narrowing the real world’s candidacy into the usual two-choices-no-choice-at-all, I fell in love with Santos as a candidate and wished that I could vote for him in our election.
Santos was an idealized candidate and a wonderful oasis to what was going on around me in my daily news-fed life, and seeing the way the writers had him sidestep conventional partisan politics got me invested in The West Wing big time. And suddenly I realized, the whole time I’d been sitting on the couch trying to ignore the show I’d actually fallen in love with the entire cast and the writing.
Oh the writing!!!
Oh hell yes ladies and gentlemen I am here to tell you that The West Wing has the best dialogue EVER written for television***. It is super quick, witty and urbane. And it moves – boy it cooks, so fast at times that the viewer, until they are used to the pace of the show, might even find themselves rewinding in order to re-watch certain scenes and get everything out of them the writers intended.
I’m still not as die hard as my wife – she’s watched the entire series once and is in the middle of re-watching it now. I watch with her when I can, but we are on completely opposite schedules and I still haven’t gotten the bug enough to make her wait to watch them with me. So I’m not the biggest fan, but hate The West Wing I could not.
Godspeed Aaron Sorkin. You fucking Rule!!!
* And Leo McGarry ended up being my favorite character on the damn show. There is a scene in which Spencer, whose character is a recovering alcoholic and pill popper, delivers a heartfelt reminiscence about ice hitting the bottom of the glass of scotch that, well, pretty much might be the best bit of dialogue I’ve ever heard on tv. Excluding Twin Peaks of course.
** Lyndon LaRouche hear me now and believe me later – if your douche bag cannon fodder disciples stop me just ONE MORE TIME outside of my local grocery with fliers of Obama sporting swastikas and hitler moustaches I am going to come and find you. Maybe we’ll have a nice conversation about lost causes and proper manners over some Glenfiddich. Or maybe we’ll play silence of the lambs…
*** Again, discounting Twin Peaks.