Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The West Wing - Closed

NBC.com > The West Wing

"I have to allow for the possibility that I'm not just writing the season finale, I'm writing the series finale." Aaron Sorkin

It was expected. Now it's official. The West Wing has been canceled. The Democratic Party--and moderate Republicans--are losing their biggest champion. Their most articulate voice. The strongest dramatic rendition of the Left's value and the Far Right's danger.

Only half my tongue is in my cheek. The other half is blowing raspberries at NBC. They've detonated one of the most eloquent shows on television.

A genuine reality show. Trust me, I've been there. It's dead on accurate. And incredibly intelligent. But apparently that's the problem.

The West Wing is too real -- and too esoteric. It addresses not only domestic politics, but substantive issues like nuclear power, the rights of women and minorities, pollution, education, affirmative action, the Supreme Court, abortion, political campaigns, congressional overreach and corruption, religion, radical right wing extremism, international politics ... and war.

You think people at the top of the political food chain don't deal with those issues every day? Don't talk like the characters on The West Wing? The smart ones do. Maybe not in the same slick, glib, sometimes over the top patter. But they argue and debate and govern with the same brains and brio and passion.

Behind the scenes in the real world the genuine articles knew how to speak with authority and clarity. Adlai Stevenson, Jack Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton -- and the Best and Brightest gathered around them. Brainiacs all. The West Wing is based on many of them.

They all had their idiosyncrasies and flaws. But they set the performance and expectation bar very high. Unlike the Low Road we've been driven to by George W. Bush and company, who even when obfuscating can't seem to put four words together into a coherent sentence.

When Aaron Sorkin left, The West Wing lost a lot of its pizzazz, its juice, its humor and snappy dialogue. But the power of the message remained: we have a right to expect--to demand--better than we're getting from the bozos at the real 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But that message wasn't compelling enough for the viewing public. They'd rather watch Project Runway. Skating with the Stars. Another ten iterations of CSI and Law and Order.

Hey, I like those last two shows, exclusive of their ever increasing blood and guts. Still, The West Wing even at its worst was superior to most of them -- certainly to The Biggest Loser.

The West Wing is glammed up TV fantasy to be sure. But every week it portrays a government where dignity and decency and honor rule the day. Its gift to us has been an enduring dramatic vision of what responsive and responsible politics could be--should be--in real life.

And now we're stuck with the real thing.

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Blogger James Aach said...

I can't speak about any other aspects of how politicians operate, but I can tell you that the nuclear energy scenario portrayed in the 1/22/06 show (including the President taking charge) was quite silly. For a look at how an nuclear accident might really proceed, see http://RadDecision.blogspot.com for a thriller novel on the topic, free to readers, that was written by a longtime nuclear engineer.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Sally Swift said...

Oh James, you couldn't be more wrong. Read it and weep: When I Was Walter Cronkite's Favorite Geek

10:32 PM  

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