Monday, May 15, 2006

Farewell, West Wing: Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc

Last night packed a tremendous amount of must-see TV into a single night, with the Dixie Chicks appearing on 60 Minutes, the Survivor Season Finale, and the West Wing Series Finale, it was impossible to watch it all - thank God for TiVo.

Although I am a fierce supporter of The Dixie Chicks, and regular readers of PTF know that I believe there is no finer reality TV show than Survivor, there are few places where my passion for politics and pop culture intersect as they do with The West Wing.

As an artist, I have always been a big fan of Aaron Sorkin, who creates some of the most intelligent and well-written television I've ever had the privilege to view. Thomas Schlamme created a visceral visual style to the show which was energetic and captivating. As a political junkie, I've always been a big fan of the Bartlett Administration - face it... if you're anywhere close to being a Democrat or even a centrist, how many times have you sat back and wished that Jed Bartlett were the actual President, only to be shocked back to reality by the hollow leadership we currently find in The White House?

And I'll admit it - I slowly drifted away as Sorkin and Schlamme handed over the helm to John Wells, opting instead for viewing the earlier seasons over and over again on Bravo.

It was the tragic death of John Spencer that shocked me back into regular viewing of the show. It was widely reported that even though ratings had slipped, The West Wing was going to continue on, with Arnold Vinnick taking over behind the desk of the Oval Office. Once Spencer died, however, those responsible took it as a sign that it was time to call it quits, and ended the series with Matt Santos winning the election, fearing the death of McGarry and the Santos loss would be too much for West Wing fans to endure at the end of the series.

Maybe neither of these is actually true, though. Maybe it was simply time. A two-term President serves for eight years. The series ran from 1999-2006. While a new Administration begins with pomp and circumstance, full of hope and new ideals, it typically limps to a conclusion, particularly in the case of a two-term presidency. The West Wing earned nine Emmys in its first season, and won Best Drama awards for four straight years. It's last seasons, however, saw a lack of the same energy and vitality that it once had, and last night's final episode, while not being brilliant, did what it had to do in bringing things to a fitting end. No pomp and circumstance, but it left with its head held high.

I still believe that even the sub-par seasons of The West Wing eclipse 90% of everything else produced for television. And the series will stand the test of time, no doubt. Where else can you find such an amazing array of talent, even beyond the initial casting? Beyond the inaugural regulars, The West Wing has been graced by the likes of Alan Alda, Jimmy Smits, John Goodman, Matthew Perry, Kristin Chenowith, Mary Louise Parker, Oliver Platt, Janeane Garofalo, Tim Matheson, Timothy Busfield, Mark Harmon, Christian Slater, Ron Silver, Karl Malden, John Amos, Anna Deveare Smith, Lily Tomlin, Marlee Matlin, Glenn Close ... and those are just the names I could conjure in thinking about it for a few minutes. There are dozens more I know I'm leaving out. Name me another show on television with that kind of star power?

So thank you to Sorkin, Schlamme, and Wells. Thank you Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Janel Maloney, Dule Hill, Richard Schiff. Thank you John Spencer.

Of course, now that The West Wing has concluded, we'll have to hold our collective breath and pray that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip will measure up to the likes of Sports Night and The West Wing. It's got Sorkin behind it. It's got Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Timothy Busfield, and Judd Hirsch behind it, lest we forget Daily Show newcomer and little brother of Rob Corddry, Nate Corddry (will he be the next TDS breakout, following in the footsteps of Carrell and Colbert?). And it's got NBC banking heavily on it, which can be a good thing in these situations.

We'll see. In the meantime, farewell, West Wing. See you on Bravo.

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Posted by FleshPresser at 11:49 PM /


  • Anonymous NYCinephile posted at 12:16 PM  
    Nice to stumble across another enthusiastic tribute from a fellow Pennsylvanian.

    I'm also intrigued to see if Studio 60 meets the standard of quality maintained by TWW.

  • Blogger Lizbeth posted at 12:31 AM  
    A dear friend of mine is an AVID fan of the West Wing. So I started to watch. Everyday i wake up i turn on the reruns that i missed. It is a BEAUTIFUL and FANTASTIC show.

    I hope to borrow the dvds from him and watch all of it.
    i also am hoping for Studio 60 to be good.

    Sigh. So good to see other west wing fans :)

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