Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bye Bye West Wing

Last night I watched the West Wing Finale, which aired this past Sunday night. The show ran for seven good long years, and spanned the two term fictitious presidency of Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen). The last two seasons also delved into the presidential election and saw it through from primaries to inauguration.

West Wing was one of those rare shows that had about as good a run as a TV show can hope for. It had several sustained quality years, but wasn’t dragged in the dirt like many a respectable show because the network didn’t try to suck as much mileage out of it as possible. Granted, some of this was due to the fact that logistically it wouldn’t have been believable to extend the Bartlet presidency. But in theory, they could have continued on with Matt Santos as president. That however, would have been a mistake, and I’m glad they didn’t go there.

Many people wrote off the show a couple years back when creator Aaron Sorkin left to go work on other endeavors. But I stuck around to watch the last two seasons, and I’m glad I did. Yes, the show morphed a bit, but not in a negative way, and the quality did not decline. The fast paced dialogue and quick wit of the characters remained, and I thought it was fascinating to watch the campaign trails of Matthew Santos and Arnold Vinick unfold. Say what you will about the insidious politics spouted by the show, but I thought they created a real and sympathetic character out of Republican candidate Arnold Vinick.

I can understand why West Wing wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly if one’s political viewpoints did not align with those espoused by the administration depicted on the show. But I think the show surpassed any limits its political tone might have implied by creating something of outstanding quality. Week after week it presented intelligent, well written, well acted episodes, that raised the bar for network television. The show succeeded not only because it presented important and interesting issues in a polished manner, but because it had created a cast of memorable and dynamic characters. Bartlet and his family, CJ Craig, Josh Lyman, Toby Ziegler, Leo McGarry (John Spencer RIP), and on and on. They also consistently brought on fresh faces with interesting stories behind them, like Janeane Garofolo or Mary Louise Parker for instance. The show was able to sustain itself for as long as it did because it creating compelling characters that had unique relationships with one another.

Even though I know it was West Wing’s time to go, I will still miss it. There’s not exactly an excess of smart television out there, and The West Wing leaves some big shoes to be filled.


Blogger Dial-Up Princess said...

Yes the show was awesome and will be missed.

9:42 AM  
Blogger DoorFrame said...

Lost recap!

9:48 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

I know, I know, I was in Boston all weekend, I'll do my best to pump one out today....

11:18 AM  

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