Sunday, May 14, 2006

The End of an Era

The cast of The West Wing Well, The West Wing came to a close tonight after a seven year run, and I sit here with an achy, hollow, mournful feeling. I’ve never been attached to a TV show like this, save for Star Trek and M*A*S*H in my youth. I didn’t even start watching West Wing till about a year ago. When it started, I knew that it would be my favorite show if I watched it (The American President is my favorite movie); but I didn’t want to commit to a series, since I watched next to no television. My first actual exposure to the show was the episode that came immediately following the events of 9/11/2001. The show was called “Isaac and Ishmael”, and of all Wing episodes, it is most universally reviled. It fell outside the timeline of the series’ universe; and was probably not the best introduction to the characters, though I still loved it. Nevertheless, I did not start watching. No, I waited till 2005, and I started watching at the behest of a few co-workers, and my father.

From the first 10 minutes, I developed a great affection for the characters, and the universe. It is idealism at it’s most noble, it’s most altruistic. And while I didn’t always agree with the politics, I always admired the Bartlet administration and their devotion to country, to their President, and to the greater good. I grew to love the closeness of the people, the incredible selfless friendships; most notably between President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (the late John Spencer), and also between Bartlet and his personal aide Charlie Young (Dulé Hill). The dynamics of this fictitious White House was the stuff of dreams; they were the leaders we wish we could have. They guided the nation in their universe with unswerving courage, and with unmitigated human frailty. They made many mistakes, and shared equal triumphs, but the show was about what could be, and my breath is taken away at the thought that if we could only just…

Favorite moments? Wow, too many to list. But here are a few shining times…
  • Pilot episode – President Bartlet dresses down the radical religious right in defense of Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford).
  • The State Dinner – President Bartlet stays with the radio operator of a tender ship about to be lost at sea in a hurricane.
  • In Excelsis Deo – Communications Director Toby Ziegler arranges for the funeral of a homeless Korean War veteran who died of exposure on the Mall.
  • In The Shadow of Two Gunmen – The Bartlet White House deals with an assassination attempt.
  • In This White House – Bartlet insists on hiring Ainsley Hayes, a Republican counsel after seeing her best the brilliant Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn on one of the "Meet the Press" type Sunday morning news shows. She learns about the Bartlet administration, and about herself. Great quote:
    “I said don't say that. Say they're smug and superior; say their approach to public policy makes you want to tear your hair out. Say they like high taxes and spending your money. Say they want to take your guns and open your borders, but don't call them worthless. At least don't do it in front of me. The people that I have met have been extraordinarily qualified, their intent is good. Their commitment is true, they are righteous, and they are patriots. [after a moment, with tears in her eyes] And I'm their lawyer.
  • Shibboleth – Bartlet bestows upon Charlie Young a special knife in honor of his friendship and loyalty. A VERY special knife.
  • Bad Moon Rising – White House Counsel Oliver Babish’s conversation with the President in the teaser is absolute GOLD.
  • Two Cathedrals – Bartlet confronts God in the National Cathedral. Perhaps one of the most powerful two-minute monologues in the history of television.
  • Bartlet For America – The President gives Leo a very intimate gift, a memento from the early campaign.
  • Posse Comitatus – Press Secretary CJ Cregg deals with the murder of her Secret Service bodyguard.
  • Inauguration: Over There – Bartlet’s speech to the staff in hiring new Deputy Communications Director Will Bailey.
  • Shutdown – the showdown between Bartlet and smarmy Speaker of the House Haffley.

Anyway, thanks to the cast and crew of The West Wing for making my life a more enjoyable place. I enjoyed visiting your world, and I’ll be back often. Oh, and Leo? Say Hi to my Dad for me, OK? I hope you two enjoyed the finale. *sniff* :(

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