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Yes, but do they have a secret plan to fight inflation?
March 11, 2012 7:14 PM   Subscribe

"It’s been nearly 6 years since the series finale of The West Wing, and more than 12 since the one-hour drama, which [Aaron] Sorkin created and largely wrote, first walked and talked its way through NBC’s Wednesday-night lineup; and yet you might think the series never ended, given the currency it still seems to enjoy in Washington, the frequency with which it comes up in D.C. conversations and is quoted or referenced on political blogs. In part this is because the smart, nerdy—they might prefer “precocious”—kids who grew up in the early part of the last decade worshipping the cool, technocratic charm of Sorkin’s characters have today matured into the young policy prodigies and press operatives who advise, brief, and excuse the behavior of the most powerful people in the country."
posted by zarq (134 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
So if you're disappointed in President Obama... blame President Bartlet.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:23 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember during the first years of the Clinton administration it seemed as if every fictional portrayal of the presidency required a "Stephanopolous" character.

I'm glad that's over.
posted by Trurl at 7:39 PM on March 11, 2012


If only more people were inspired to go into politics to serve, rather than for personal gain.
posted by arcticseal at 7:40 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


People who loved a thing six years ago, still love that thing.

And I still listen to the Cure albums I bought at university.

Film at eleven.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:46 PM on March 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


How's that new album coming, His thoughts were red thoughts?
posted by m@f at 7:50 PM on March 11, 2012


'You can’t actually order delivery to the White House.' I was like, 'But they do it on West Wing!'

Sooner or later, everyone gets disillusioned with Washington politics.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:53 PM on March 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


I adored The West Wing, but it actually made less interested in going into politics, not more. What a huge pain in the ass it seemed to get anything done at all--and that was an optimistic portrayal.
posted by tzikeh at 7:55 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


How's that new album coming, His thoughts were red thoughts?

A fair call. I shall attempt to redeem myself.

I loved the West Wing, and now I work in public policy.

Part of the reason I still go on periodic WW binges is the sheer joy in seeing passionate, competent, dedicated policy makers who actually want to fix problems, going out and try to fix them, and actually succeeding (sometimes). And leaders that are willing to look past politics and try to do what's right.

It happens so rarely in real life in public policy development, that as fiction, it's nothing short of wish fulfillment on the order of being able to fly or having super strength.

Similarly, when I worked in child endangerment, I was devoted to Law and Order: SVU because, at least on the screen, the bad guys got caught and went to jail.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:58 PM on March 11, 2012 [18 favorites]


I just watched the show for the first time this year. It definitely holds up really well, it's a quality show with very interesting commentary on our politics. The continuing appreciation probably goes beyond nostalgia.

Josh Lyman: Victory is mine, victory is mine, great day in the morning people, victory is mine.
Donna Moss: Morning, Josh.
Josh: I drink from the keg of glory, Donna, bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:59 PM on March 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: " Josh: I drink from the keg of glory, Donna, bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land."

Yeah, but it's Donna's response that really makes that scene.

Donna: It's going to be an unbearable day.
posted by zarq at 8:00 PM on March 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


Good intentions don't help if the game itself is rigged.
posted by wuwei at 8:00 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


'You can’t actually order delivery to the White House.' I was like, 'But they do it on West Wing!'

No they didn't - they sent Donna out to get it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:01 PM on March 11, 2012


You're a son-of-a-bitch, you know that?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:02 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where's the Donna and CJ slash fiction?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:03 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


(And yeah, beyond the political commentary, just some of the most stirring TV ever made at times)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:04 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I sort of lost phase coherence with the West Wing a couple seasons in when Sorkin was on some obvious Coke binge and everything went crazy. Maybe sometime after the shooting and YoYo Ma's musical shooting? It all blurs together.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:13 PM on March 11, 2012


I always liked that West Wing was one of the only dramas about a fictional president that actually said which party he belonged to. Almost every other movie and TV show carefully danced around any specific party label to avoid offending half of the audience.
posted by octothorpe at 8:15 PM on March 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "Where's the Donna and CJ slash fiction?"

I don't know about that pairing specifically, but googling "west wing slash" turns up websites that say they have thousands of stories.
posted by zarq at 8:16 PM on March 11, 2012


I don't know about that pairing specifically, but googling "west wing slash" turns up websites that say they have thousands of stories.

Given the fan base, I imagine these stories involve the characters getting together to make hot, steamy [revolutionary education reforms].
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:19 PM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


If only more people were inspired to go into politics to serve, rather than for personal gain.

Almost everyone in Washington is there to serve. Don't believe me? Look at entry-level Hill salaries.
posted by downing street memo at 8:29 PM on March 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm exactly of the age group mentioned, and I remember being in a freshman at NYU and going to a meeting of Young Democrats. I was in the Dramatic Writing program at Tisch at the time, and I introduced myself as wanting to write for The West Wing, where as others said they wanted to be CJ or Josh.

I love that show. My personal biggest disappointment about it was finding out that big block of cheese day was an invention of Aaron Sorkin.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 8:30 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


And JustKeepSwimming goes on the list.
posted by tzikeh at 8:38 PM on March 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I rewatched some of the first season recently and I was shocked by how sexist it was. I was showing it to my a wife who's a DC lawyer but had never seen it, and it was embarrassing. The first seasons, at least, appears to have been made by men who don't understand women or see them only as love interests. Thinking about it, as much as I love CJ she doesn't become a powerful character until after Sorkin left.

I mean: the whole first season fails the Bechdel test! It was really disappointing.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:38 PM on March 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Good intentions don't help if the game itself is rigged.

Oh, everything's rigged. Didn't you know that?

And, no matter how much I enjoyed watching The West Wing (it was a lot), I could never for long deny the fact that I was escaping into the show to leave the ugly reality of the Bush administration behind.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:41 PM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


My personal biggest disappointment about it was finding out that big block of cheese day was an invention of Aaron Sorkin.

I... I am so crushed right now.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:42 PM on March 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


JustKeepSwimming: " I love that show. My personal biggest disappointment about it was finding out that big block of cheese day was an invention of Aaron Sorkin."

Yeah, the cheese definitely existed. The day was just an awesome idea of Sorkin's.

The day should exist.
posted by zarq at 8:45 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


anotherpanacea: The first seasons, at least, appears to have been made by men who don't understand women or see them only as love interests.

Every single episode in the first four seasons was written by Aaron Sorkin, and he has... issues. Serious issues. Subscriptions, even. None of his women characters are written well (c.f. Sports Night and A Few Good Men). When the cast is nearly 100% male, he does better, but even then the women's roles suck for the few minutes they're on screen. (c.f. The Social Network, Moneyball).

It's really problematic. In situations like this (i.e. otherwise excellent shows/movies with sexism/racism/etc.), I like to send people to How to be a Fan of Problematic Things.
posted by tzikeh at 8:46 PM on March 11, 2012 [18 favorites]


I mean: the whole first season fails the Bechdel test! It was really disappointing.

I take your general point—I've noticed Sorkin seems to have a thing about writing women who are a little unhinged (Dana in SportsNight, CJ, all the women in The Social Network)—but doesn't Mandy talk to CJ about her opposition memo?
posted by brett at 8:46 PM on March 11, 2012


The West Wing sorely lacked intern buggery which would have heightened the realism up a couple of notches.
posted by Renoroc at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Simple explanation for the enduring legacy of the West Wing: it was a staple for the staff of the Dean campaign in an almost religious way. More on that:

The campaign was run out of Burlington, Vermont which is, to put it politely, out of the way. When I went there to become employee 15 or so, I flew to Montreal, because there were no direct flights that got me closer than a 2-hour car ride from the city. Burlington is a nice town in the summer. The lake is breathtaking, and the people are the most cheerful, generous folk in the Northeast, as far as I'm concerned. But action-packed it is not, especially during the long, bleak winter. The day I showed up, folks were quite upbeat about the fact that it was the warmest it had gotten in two months: a scorching -9F. Which meant the local PD wasn't scouring the streets for people on foot, too unwise to get a ride to work from their neighbor, risking falling face down onto the sidewalk from the exhaustion of walking a couple miles in the cold and then being buried in the snow where they wouldn't be found till tomorrow. They told me this as I watched a couple pickup trucks drive merrily across the solid ice of Lake Champlain - once declared a Great Lake - from our office window.

It wasn't a place of unbridled excitement for a pretty decent chunk of the year.

So for the hour or so of downtime we'd get a night, because presidential campaigns are like that, there was TV and sex. Sex meant that a volunteer, or rarely a new staffer, had come aboard and you clicked with them. So mostly, there was TV. This downtime problem isn't seen in most other political organizations, because most major campaigns are run out of big cities - Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington itself.

Fortunately, there was the West Wing. And I say fortunately, because it provided two benefits. First, it was about political staff. It was about us. For every candidate or elected official, there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of staffers who are actually doing the work. And we were - and are - invisible most of the time. There's a term: "making news." That's when a staffer makes the papers rather than the candidate. It's a firing offense in many campaigns. We're supposed to be invisible. So having a political-operative Nichelle Nichols in all the Donna Moss characters was a big deal for us.

Second, it was an on-screen counterbalance to everything else we, as our particular campaign, saw day in and day out. We were working, after all, at the height of the Bush Administration. The guy came out of 9/11 with like a 98% approval rating. And we were saying that he was wrong on almost everything. He hadn't yet but was going to invade Iraq. He'd just pushed through No Child Left Behind. How do you become the first people to oppose something named No Child Left Behind? And, with the exception of Kucinich, who didn't have much of anything in the way of a running campaign, we were out there saying it alone. Except for the West Wing.

Every week, the show would dutifully trot out a storyline that portrayed a vision of the world run by progressives, not neo-cons. And since the world was being run by neo-cons, this was the only place to see it. Dean staffers sitting in an iced-in flophouse with an inflatable mattress watching bootleg DVDs of West Wing next to the space heater because you were the five people tonight who didn't get sex... it helped you want to get up the next day and do it again.

There are other things about it too. It made people aware of "process stories," which of course, we were. We were one big process story. Martin Sheen endorsed Howard Dean making Dean the "West Wing candidate" for a little while. If I sat around thinking about it, I could probably think of a couple more reasons why it was integral to our campaign. It was more than a little important.

Of course, the rest of that story is public record. We lost, except we didn't, because obviously the governor of a state with a population less than the City of San Francisco won't be the president, but he can break the record for most money raised in a primary by using the Internet. So instead he'll be the Chairman of the DNC. And he'll go on to win back the House and Senate, if only for one cycle.

But he'll staff all those campaigns and organizer slots with his kids from Vermont - the ones raised on a steady diet of West Wing and cold nights. And they'll go on to run Obama's tech team and staff the Hill and run EMILY's List and get political appointments to important positions all over DC and all the other not-the-candidate jobs. And of course, we're not kids anymore. Now those kids mostly run the world. And West Wing got them out of bed on many a cold day when the temperature alone could kill, ignoring the months on end of four hours of sleep.

So yeah, if you know who was watching back then, it's easy to see why West Wing endures.
posted by kochbeck at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2012 [112 favorites]


To make a substantive contribution: It's been a long time since I watched The West Wing, and almost a decade of cynicism and growing older have probably blunted the transcendant feeling I used to get watching people who were just like me - smart, witty, and liberal - live in this world that I previously didn't know existed, trying to and occasionally succeeding in making the world a better place. But as silly as it sounds, I owe that show a lot.

When I first started watching the DVDs in 2005, I was a waiter at a prestigious Southern country club - a job that was good for the wallet, but not so good for the soul. I used to come home, at midnight, in the most foul moods after absorbing the abuse of managers, members or both. I would pop the DVD into my computer, careful not to wake my roommates, and bask in another world where people like me were the norm, and where work actually meant something. I wanted to be there, so badly, and be a part of this amazing, exciting, hopeful environment. My hometown is only a few hours - but seemingly worlds away - from Washington, and I remember obsessively Google Mapping (in the pre-Street View days) locations on the show and planning out my future life. I bought my roommates Pinback tickets once at Black Cat, and purposefully got us lost on the way there, just because I wanted to drive around the neighborhoods that I hoped I'd one day call home.

And now? I have it all (beautiful DC apartment, lots of great, smart, goodhearted friends) except the job in politics; I did a short stint on the Hill (I quit because, quite honestly, I couldn't afford it), worked in policy-related PR for a few years, got tired of the cynicism and left politics entirely. I sometimes hate DC for reasons you might imagine; but when I go for runs and see the Capital lit up at night, I'm reminded of the uncynical kid I used to be, watching the West Wing and wanting to be a part of it all. Who knows; maybe I'll make another run at it one of these days. But I do know that without that show, none of this would ever have happened.
posted by downing street memo at 9:04 PM on March 11, 2012 [18 favorites]


I wonder how the folks raised watching The Thick of It will end up.
posted by Artw at 9:15 PM on March 11, 2012 [21 favorites]


The West Wing sorely lacked intern buggery which would have heightened the realism up a couple of notches.

Sorkin already did his presidential sex scandal riff. Might as well consider it a prequel to The West Wing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:17 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have quite as much of substance to add except for the fact that this is one of the (surprisingly few) DC stereotypes that is more or less completely true – even the Republican staffers seem to be fans of the show.

There's a fake President Bartlet Twitter Feed, and it's awesome.

Running around the Capitol at night is indeed a truly awesome experience (as is the Washington Monument, but those footpaths are poorly-lit and scary). Occasionally, I'll leave work from my office deep beneath the Capitol Building through the "front" entrance that opens onto the East front of the Capitol Building, where I am instantly reminded of the grandeur of the place, as well as the fact that my social status there is roughly equivalent to that of one of the servants at Downton Abbey. Working on the Hill is certainly an experience, but a sustainable career it ain't. Because my job is nonpolitical, I manage to make ends meet, but for most, a job on the hill doesn't even cover its own costs.

I suspect that legislative salaries correspond to the quality of the laws produced by that legislature, but that's a discussion for another day....
posted by schmod at 9:24 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every single episode in the first four seasons was written by Aaron Sorkin....

I think Rick Cleveland and a few other folks might have a bone to pick with you there, tzikeh.
posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 9:29 PM on March 11, 2012


Just because I can:

Me and John Spencer, four years before his death.

Is it weird to desperately miss someone you barely knew?
posted by tzikeh at 9:29 PM on March 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Almost everyone in Washington is there to serve. Don't believe me? Look at entry-level Hill salaries.

Boy, I'm not usually one of the cynical ones around here, but the first thing that makes me think of is "developing connections to make yourself marketable to regulated industries, and the start of the infamous revolving-door career." Am I really wrong?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:31 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Shotgun Shakespeare: I think Rick Cleveland and a few other folks might have a bone to pick with you there, tzikeh.

Fair enough; I remember the Rick Cleveland brouhaha. So let's go with 90%. It was still pretty much unprecedented that anyone wrote that many episodes of a single show, for four seasons, until David Milch came along with Deadwood (which should have had its fourth and fifth seasons HBO COCKSUCKERS).
posted by tzikeh at 9:31 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every single episode in the first four seasons was written by Aaron Sorkin, and he has... issues.

I haven't looked into it, but I'll take you on your word at Sorkin's attitudes about women. But it's also undeniable that Sorkin is a really good writer, and the first four seasons are far, far better than after he left the show. When I watched the show originally I didn't know who Aaron Sorkin was, but when he left--I didn't know about that, either--I noticed that WW's quality kept going down, down, down....around the time Jimmy Smits showed up and CJ was dealing with her dad's Alzheimer's and that conservative blonde with the twangy accent arrived, it had already jumped the shark. I gave up on it well before the end. The writing and dialogue just didn't have that spark. The thrill was gone.
posted by zardoz at 9:34 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


developing connections to make yourself marketable to regulated industries, and the start of the infamous revolving-door career.

You are wrong. No one - no, not Republicans either - goes off to make ~$25k (if you're lucky) in a city as expensive as Washington with the expectation of some non-specific payoff that usually comes 5-10 years of 60+ hour weeks after you start your career. Yes, eventually, if they want to do things like "pay rent on time" or "pay off credit card debt" or even things like "get married", Hill staffers need to take the (real, valuable) experience they have and make some money, and that's typically somewhere in the government-industrial complex that typifies much of Washington beyond the National Mall.

Everyone hears about the Hill staff that go on to become lobbyists and revolving door-ists, but no one hears about the ones that quit and join the private sector (me), quit and move back to their hometowns or go to grad school, stay and spend years working for the same congressman, or even the ones that join the government-industrial complex but at a junior level. It's those folks that make up the bulk of Washington, not the headline stories of trips from industry to politics and back again.
posted by downing street memo at 9:47 PM on March 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


around the time ... that conservative blonde with the twangy accent arrived, it had already jumped the shark.

Ainsley Hayes was in seasons 2 and 3 before Emily Procter went off to "CSI: Miami." Virtually every word she spoke was written by Sorkin.
posted by Etrigan at 10:04 PM on March 11, 2012


downing street memo: "You are wrong. No one - no, not Republicans either - goes off to make ~$25k (if you're lucky) in a city as expensive as Washington with the expectation of some non-specific payoff that usually comes 5-10 years of 60+ hour weeks after you start your career."

This.

You get a political job in Washington because: The cost of even getting a legislative job is insane. It's just not worth it by almost any measure.
posted by schmod at 10:09 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Add: Its a high-status job for certain classes.
And your parents are wealthy / connected (how else are you going to get that job in the first place!)
posted by stratastar at 10:17 PM on March 11, 2012


Every single episode in the first four seasons was written by Aaron Sorkin, and he has... issues. Serious issues. Subscriptions, even. None of his women characters are written well (c.f. Sports Night and A Few Good Men). When the cast is nearly 100% male, he does better, but even then the women's roles suck for the few minutes they're on screen. (c.f. The Social Network, Moneyball).

I would dispute you A Few Good Men: there is a single female character of note -- Galloway, played by Demi Moore in the film -- and she does not come across as loopy or demented. The character is decently well-written, but mostly because her being female is irrelevant. I haven't watched the flick in years, but I cannot recollect anything that would be different if the role were a man, save that Jessep would not get to spout off a leering, misogynist remark. It was the first thing by Sorkin I ever saw and I recall being surprised twenty years ago that there was no romantic subplot there, because, y'know, that's what movies do.

And the question of Sorking writing all the episodes has been dealt with above, but as noted, he wrote a hell of a lot of them. Better still, the first year of West Wing was also the second year of Sports Night, most of which he wrote as well. I dunno that he ever made any public comment at the time about that workload, but years later in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Matthew Perry's head writer loses his entire writing staff and is gamely writing every episode of the show until the replacements are hired. There is a line from a concerned onlooker to the effect that "no one can write ninety minutes of televison a week -- he'd be insane or dead inside a month."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:25 PM on March 11, 2012


And your parents are wealthy / connected (how else are you going to get that job in the first place!)

You're not terribly wrong about this, but connections per se aren't necessary for getting a Hill job. Where being rich does help is financing your life while you're up there, working for free or for peanuts. DC ain't cheap. The only people I knew who were able to make sustainable careers out of Hill work had either wealthy families that were chipping in to help with living expenses or had a million roommates in run-down houses in sketchy neighborhoods. (Neighborhoods that, with the gentrification of DC, are slowly going away).

This has obvious distributional implications, but it speaks to the corruptness of that system, not the motivations of the individuals in it.
posted by downing street memo at 10:26 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the feminism front, Studio 60 is a terrible show, but isn't the network VP in that show a woman (Amanda Peet, no?) And isn't she always running circles around the Perry/Whitford characters? Not contesting the awfulness of The Social Network and occasional hamfistedness of The West Wing, but Sorkin's record isn't all bad, I don't think.
posted by downing street memo at 10:29 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the feminism front, Studio 60 is a terrible show, but isn't the network VP in that show a woman (Amanda Peet, no?) And isn't she always running circles around the Perry/Whitford characters?

Well, yes, until the Whitford character stalks her until she agrees to have a relationship with him.
posted by mightygodking at 10:37 PM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ouch. Never got that far in the show. Comment revoked.
posted by downing street memo at 10:39 PM on March 11, 2012


I remember reading somewhere (maybe even in VF) that the typical routine daily morning briefing by Rahm of Obama and his senior staff lasted about a minute or something crazy short and I thought to myself, that's shorter than the equivalent scene on The West Wing...
posted by Bwithh at 10:42 PM on March 11, 2012


downing street memo: On the feminism front, Studio 60 is a terrible show, but isn't the network VP in that show a woman (Amanda Peet, no?) And isn't she always running circles around the Perry/Whitford characters?

Yes, that's the false feminist premise--he also did that in Sports Night. Dana Whitaker was the take-no-prisoners producer who could keep those two men in line, so Sorkin could back up his "feminism" by saying "Look, a woman in a position of power!", but her personal life was a disaster. (Bill Maher is a prime example of a false feminist.)

One of Sorkin's favorite go-to insults is having one man compare another man to a woman in order highlight that their opinion that the other man is being needy and/or pathetic. In Sports Night, when Dan is reminiscing about the first time he and Casey were on air together, which really means something to him, their exchange went like this:
Dan: I remember what you were wearing. Do you remember what I was wearing?

Casey: I remember not thinking at the time that you were a woman.
ricochet biscuit: I would dispute you A Few Good Men: there is a single female character of note -- Galloway, played by Demi Moore in the film -- and she does not come across as loopy or demented.

But note how she's basically always wrong, even though she's the one with experience--and Kaffee--who has no trial experience--is the one who pulls magic out of his ass to be *brilliant at everything*.

The character is decently well-written, but mostly because her being female is irrelevant.

It's always relevant.
posted by tzikeh at 10:46 PM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


mightygodking: until the Whitford character stalks her until she agrees to have a relationship with him.

Ugh. Yeah. I'd purged that from my memory.
posted by tzikeh at 10:47 PM on March 11, 2012


On the feminism front, Studio 60 is a terrible show, but isn't the network VP in that show a woman (Amanda Peet, no?) And isn't she always running circles around the Perry/Whitford characters?

Oh, god, but remember Harriet Hayes, and how her character was basically an excuse for Aaron Sorkin to berate and chastise Kristin Chenoweth on national television? Like, every single episode?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:08 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're not terribly wrong about this, but connections per se aren't necessary for getting a Hill job. Where being rich does help is financing your life while you're up there, working for free or for peanuts. DC ain't cheap. The only people I knew who were able to make sustainable careers out of Hill work had either wealthy families that were chipping in to help with living expenses or had a million roommates in run-down houses in sketchy neighborhoods. (Neighborhoods that, with the gentrification of DC, are slowly going away).

This has obvious distributional implications, but it speaks to the corruptness of that system, not the motivations of the individuals in it.


This, absolutely. I worked on the Hill without having any family political connections, and I think that was true of many, if not most, of my coworkers - I saw this more among the interns, really (and the ones who weren't really committed to the work definitely weren't going to be at the top of the list for hiring later on). But money is definitely a factor. It broke my heart when terrific potential interns I had interviewed had to turn down the position because it was unpaid (and this contributed to my feelings that internships in general are an insidious, class-system-reinforcing thing). Personally, I (while living in a group house in a semi-sketchy neighborhood when I was on the Hill) benefited from having been able to live at home during the campaign internship that eventually led to my Hill job, and also from not having any debt. I did know some preening, power-hungry, douchey young people on the Hill (and I can't really explain their motivations), but I met a lot of very serious and decent people as well.

Anyway...yeah, pretty much everyone I knew on the Hill was obsessed with the West Wing - including certain members of Congress. I love that zarq referenced "the president's secret plan to fight inflation"in the title of this thread - my boss made regular use of this catchphrase. Among parts that rang particularly true to me were the "walk and talk" and Big Block of Cheese Day - when you're a junior Hill staffer, you end up devoting a lot of time to dealing with off-kilter constituents, every day kind of might as well be Big Block of Cheese Day. Also, although Seasons 5 and 6 are entirely execrable, I would like to defend Season 7 as a really solid recovery.
posted by naoko at 11:33 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what would you recommend as a feminist replacement for this show? I was just thinking about watching this again as I had seen the first two or three seasons and remember really enjoying them. If there's a similar show that I'd be better off watching instead, I'd like to hear about it.

worth an askme?
posted by ODiV at 11:46 PM on March 11, 2012


But it's also undeniable that Sorkin is a really good writer, and the first four seasons are far, far better than after he left the show.

Eh, the first two seasons were great, 3-4 were... more iffy. And 7 ended up being pretty good, though not to the heights of 1-2.

It was still pretty much unprecedented that anyone wrote that many episodes of a single show, for four seasons, until David Milch came along with Deadwood (which should have had its fourth and fifth seasons HBO COCKSUCKERS).

For better or worse, JMS also wrote an unbelievable percentage of Babylon 5 eps. A good chunk of season 1, most of season 2, literally every episode of 3-4, and all but 3 in season 5.

(And wait, looking at Deadwood on Wikipedia it seems like Milch only wrote a handful of eps?)
posted by kmz at 11:47 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Making me think about The West Wing during the current political discussions just isn't fair. Bartlet/Seaborn '12! After Bartlet finishes a second term, we can move on to a Seaborn/Knope ticket.

Bradley Whitford was the Class Day speaker for my graduating university class, and he was awesome, with a properly funny and idealistic speech. He came to Step Sing the day before, where all the seniors sing school and popular songs for some reason, and all I could think of during the entire event is "Holy shit I am singing Don't Stop Believin' with Josh Lyman!!" He was super gracious and posed for pictures afterward, and like tzikeh I'm going to post this picture of us just because I can. (I wonder if he knows that a cardboard cutout of him has accompanied the '07s every year in the Reunions parade?)
posted by ilana at 12:29 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had the privilege of accidentally walking onto the set of the West Wing. I had never seen the show at that point, but later became an enormous fan. It was the very end of "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II", probably the second best single episode after "Two Cathedrals".

I was flying into LAX on a Delta flight late one evening. When I came off the plane, they had an area roped off in the terminal right next to the jetway I came in on (I think you can see it in the background of the scene). LAX was filling in for another airport (O'Hare?) in the show. Martin Sheen and Bradley Whitford were practicing their scene. All the crew had "West Wing" buttons on their lapels. I would recognize everybody in the cast now, but the only one I recognized then was Martin Sheen. I stood around for a couple of minutes, watching them before going to get my bags.

I wished I had seen the first season at that point.
posted by Xoc at 1:32 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


> If only more people were inspired to go into politics to serve, rather than for personal gain.

Or to screw over people they don't like.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:27 AM on March 12, 2012


From the article, emphasis mine: ...Ezra Klein, 27, another policy savant, who launched a blog when he was 19 and whose meritocratic rise—he is now a writer for The Washington Post and a contributor on MSNBC and Bloomberg View...

Isn't the author looking to use a different M-word here? Not to knock Mr. Klein, but I think meteors make for a better descriptor than merit. /nitpick
posted by Chichibio at 5:04 AM on March 12, 2012


Similarly, when I worked in child endangerment, I was devoted to Law and Order: SVU because, at least on the screen, the bad guys got caught and went to jail.

Wait, you mean SVU isn't a show about endemic institutional corruption where the bad guys don't even know they're the bad guys, much less face any consequences?

I may have missed the point, then.
posted by atbash at 5:34 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am another huge West Wing fan. I adore it and sometimes go on binges where I watch all 4 seasons (I refuse to acknowledge that the others exist) in a few days. I quote it obsessively and, although I didn't make politics my career, I credit it with my political obsession. ( I have been reading Ezra Klein since he started Pandagon on blogspot, and watched him invite Jesse Taylor over and then snatch up Amanda Marcotte from her own blogspot blog, Mousewords.).

I also credit West Wing with my absolute revulsion to libertarianism. I believe that government can and should be a force for good in the world and that things only get worse when we all deny our mutual responsibility to one another. That's what I learned in high school civics, and by reading Hobbes, Locke, and the Federalist Papers in college, but it is also absolutely the message of the West Wing and a great one for so many of us to have received as we were forming our ideas of the world as young adults.

That said, it makes me weep that even in political fantasy we can't have feminism. We can have a liberal democrat with a PhD from New Hampshire as president, but CJ still needs a Duke Law grad to explain policy to her while making cracks about her intelligence and Josh can't come up with a more creative insult than calling someone a woman and the only black guy we could find to work here is the son of a single mom from the ghetto who is the president's personal aid (and yes, they half-heartedly acknowledged this was an issue, but they didn't cast a black guy as Sam Seaborn from the beginning and Josh isn't the brilliant daughter of Taiwanese immigrants).

It's no different than how in most science fiction the world has somehow progressed almost magically in technology in a few hundred years, but gender roles have remained unchanged and white folks still are a huge majority. There is no such thing as a non-sexist West Wing, anymore than there's a feminist Star Trek (although I'll give you Battlestar Galactica, but that is of course a different galaxy).
posted by hydropsyche at 5:40 AM on March 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ezra Klein has a lot of faults and a lot of blind spots, but his rise is as due to merit as anyone else in DC. Pretty sure the dude went to UC-Santa Cruz or something (not HYS or other typical DC elite feeder schools) and he got where he is, as mentioned, by starting a blog. A lot of that set just got lucky by happening to come of age when blogging really got started as a medium, but elite connections didn't really play a role in his rise to prominence.
posted by downing street memo at 6:00 AM on March 12, 2012


My West Wing fan story isn't as impressive as getting a job in DC or anything. Or even working in politics. No, I simply watched so many episodes of The West Wing while in my last few weeks of pregnancy that when my son was born, I realized when sitting down to nurse him and turning on the DVD that... he got really quiet when that theme music started playing. And stayed pretty quiet. Indeed, I'd watched so much West Wing that my newborn son recognized Josh Lyman's voice as clearly as he did his own father's.
posted by sonika at 6:03 AM on March 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


I must say my favorite TV show of all time. Yes, I have the whole run on DVD. Yes I go on binges. Yes I can quote you chapter and verse. Yes I annoy the people on a daily basis while looking at a news story, and saying how this already happened on the West Wing.

Let’s see. Today? Front page story on gas prices? That would be season six, “The Hubbert Peak” where Josh drives an SUV into a hybrid due to his reptilian brain.

I don’t recall exactly when I first caught it; probably about the beginning of season 4, when it became must see TV in the age of Bush. Toward the end of that season, I got a chance to sit in on a focus group about the show, run by one of the consultants, who is now a cable TV staple.

The vibe I got was that they were sort of drifting story-arc wise, and wondered what the hell people wanted to see. One of the things he kept going back to was saying “YOU guys didn’t like that thing with CJ’s Dad right? I mean…no more of that kind of story right?” (Season 4, The Long Goodbye).

While most focus group stuff is simply logged and interpreted later, this guy was literally walking into the next room on his cell, talking with what I assume were producers/writers, telling them “No, No…they want it darker….we have to make it darker!”

Going around the table, he was fishing for ideas, and I told him that they should really make Will Bailey more visible because he…. And he just stops me, and says “hang on…” then sits down at his laptop and starts typing my ideas, to make Bailey a bigger part of the show because he sort of represents the idealism of a young Bartlet, and as yet, is not saddled with tons of DC baggage etc. He kept pumping until I was pretty much dead. I don’t know how much I influenced anything, but if I did, it is flattering, and something I can secretly be proud of.

With that much said, I hooked my young son on the show, and for better or worse he learned more about government from it than he had in school. It became family viewing time, and has instilled a vision in him that I admire.

We started taking our family vacations to DC, and even visited Senator Obama’s, office and were given a tour of the Capitol by an unfortunate intern on his last day. As he asked if anyone had any questions, and my son’s hand shot up.

“Yeah, you know, in that second debate with Alan Keyes, what do you think the Senator meant when he said….”.

The poor intern just looks at him, then looks at me, leans up next to my ear and says, “Just how goddamn old IS this kid anyway?” He was 9.

By 7th grade he had plotted his course in life. He was going to go to Northside Prep (the BEST HS in Chicago, if not the state) and run for student council. After that he was going to go to Georgetown and study PolySci. Then he was going to get his Law degree form the JFK School of Government at Harvard. Then he was going to work in the White House.

“But what if there is a Republican in office man?” I asked. He answered with a quote from the show.

“Doesn’t matter Dad. I can do more in one day in the White House than most people will in their whole lives.” He has an autographed picture of Obama, hanging over his bed.

His plans are going pretty well. He IS enrolled as a freshman at Northside Prep, and is on the student council, and the debate team, and the Mikva Challenge.

Last year, he spent months volunteering for a local alderman race, even skipping school on election day to hand out palm cards at out local voting location, which is right across the street from the school. This year he is volunteering for Obama 2012, phone banking, running database stuff, and ringing doorbells. He also has been out canvassing for Tammy Duckworth in the IL 8th district, for her Congressional re-election campaign. His only doubt so far, has been reconsidering Harvard, and just staying at Georgetown for his Law degree instead.

Aside from being just brilliantly written, and a respite from Bush, it is something that inspired not only my son, but our whole family to care more about politics as something other than professional wrestling in cheap suits.

Thanks for that Sorkin.
posted by timsteil at 6:06 AM on March 12, 2012 [37 favorites]


I am another huge West Wing fan. I adore it and sometimes go on binges where I watch all 4 seasons (I refuse to acknowledge that the others exist)

The only problem with that is that (SPOILER ALERT) not acknowleding past season 4 leaves Zoe Bartlett out wandering in the wilderness somewhere with her kidnappers. I bought season 5 episode 1 and 2 on Amazon because I couldn't deal with not resolving that storyline.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:23 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I rewatched some of the first season recently and I was shocked by how sexist it was. I was showing it to my a wife who's a DC lawyer but had never seen it, and it was embarrassing.

I can't rewatch it either. It's not just the sexism, but the entire concept of a show with uncomplicated heroes feels dated. Sorkin's characters are like people on a job interview who say their biggest problem is that they're workaholics. Some of the writing is lovely, and the banter is snappy, but I can't get past characters who are so good and right all the time with villains who are two dimensional at best. I'll be curious that after a decade of more morally complex characters how Sorkin's new HBO show works.
posted by gladly at 6:24 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Whitford] was super gracious and posed for pictures afterward, and like tzikeh I'm going to post this picture of us just because I can.

I love Bradley Whitford, I really really do, but it kind of blows my mind that he can have hair that bad and still be as successful as he is. So many of those Hollywood dudes are doing whatever they can to keep as much hair on their head as possible or wearing horrible rugs, Whitford's like, fuck it, I've got the talent, they can just deal with my crazy hair.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:46 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the feminism front, Studio 60 is a terrible show, but isn't the network VP in that show a woman (Amanda Peet, no?) And isn't she always running circles around the Perry/Whitford characters?

Well, yes, until the Whitford character stalks her until she agrees to have a relationship with him.


It should be noted that this plot-line was introduced after the show began tanking, apparently in an attempt to accelerate longer story-arcs about romantic interests in the hopes of bringing viewership up. Sadly, it was the wrong way to go about doing it, and ended up being creepy instead of romantic.

A truly troubled show which never had the chance to find its voice or its audience. I loved it, but yeah, this was a real problem.
posted by hippybear at 6:47 AM on March 12, 2012


They actually tried to cast Whitford as Sam and not Josh initially because he wasn't seen as having the "sex appeal" necessary for Josh, who was supposed to be "sexier" than Sam. True fact.

(This does nothing to explain why then Rob Lowe was cast as Sam, making him the "sexy one" by default. But not everything can be explained in the "making of" specials at the end of the Season One DVD set.)
posted by sonika at 6:51 AM on March 12, 2012


When I went there to become employee 15 or so, I flew to Montreal, because there were no direct flights that got me closer than a 2-hour car ride from the city.

I guess it's a little late, but there is an airport in Burlington.
posted by Shepherd at 7:21 AM on March 12, 2012


This does nothing to explain why then Rob Lowe was cast as Sam, making him the "sexy one" by default.

It's hard to imagine a pairing where Rob Lowe does not end up "the sexy one" by default.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:33 AM on March 12, 2012


Josh was Rahm Emmanuel and Sam was Stephanopoulos. I've never considered either of them sexy, but I understand there is some disagreement among my demographic about that one.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:35 AM on March 12, 2012


I wonder if the show might not have some more pernicious effects. First of all, there's a good argument to be made that as a progressive, Bartlet was a mediocre presdient at best. From the article:
While the ability to rhetorically shame conservatives made him an appealing fantasy, the substance of Bartlet’s policies ranged from uninspired on issues like health care to downright destructive on Social Security and education. Bartlet had a lackluster economic record. He gave away a seat on the Supreme Court to the far right, and he consistently favored symbolic cultural victories over real opportunities to make life better for American families.
Further, the story seems to be written in a universe where giving a sufficiently inspiring speech is sufficient, seemingly be magic to deliver 218 votes in the House and 65 in the Senate, the existence of the GOP be damned.

So when I hear progressives, including some actual political operators with whom I am personally acquainted, getting frustrated with politics, I wonder if perhaps the fantasy was a bit too compelling. Or if the fact that reality doesn't conform to Sorkin's fabulism very well is more discouraging to people than it would otherwise be. Because, as observed, Obama does seem to correspond pretty closely with Bartlet in a macro sense, but it turns out that speechifying* does not actually get Boehner to be less stubborn or the Senate to be less of a shitshow. And while Obama's policies are actually more distinctly progressive than many of Bartlet's, we've still got a chorus of people attacking him from the left and... holding up Bartlet as a counter-example.

The whole thing is just weird.

*Something at which I consider Obama to be overrated anyway.
posted by valkyryn at 7:40 AM on March 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's hard to imagine a pairing where Rob Lowe does not end up "the sexy one" by default.

My point exactly.

(Though for me, I'll take Josh Lyman over Rob Lowe in any role any day of the week. Hell, I'd take Bradley Whitford out of character over Rob Lowe, but that could just be because I can't dissociate Lowe from Benjamin in Wayne's World - the first role I ever saw him in and I watched that movie twelve thousand times when I was a kid. If Rob Lowe were an ice-cream flavor in my mind, he'd be pralines and dick.)
posted by sonika at 8:17 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


You should watch the most reason seasons of Parks and Recreation. Rob Lowe's character is delightfully sweet and weird and funny not at all a dick. It's very refreshing.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:19 AM on March 12, 2012


tzikeh: " Every single episode in the first four seasons was written by Aaron Sorkin, and he has... issues. Serious issues. Subscriptions, even. None of his women characters are written well (c.f. Sports Night and A Few Good Men). When the cast is nearly 100% male, he does better, but even then the women's roles suck for the few minutes they're on screen. (c.f. The Social Network, Moneyball)."

I agree that Sorkin has issues, and that they show up on screen. However, I also think there's an argument to be made that certain female characters were shown in an in-depth, non-caricature way throughout the run of the series. Donna, despite being a subordinate who takes a great deal of shit from Josh -- and at times being used solely for comic relief, -- was often shown as the voice of intelligence, reason and integrity. Mrs. Landingham could have been a one-note character, but over time viewers learned how much influence she'd had on Bartlet's development, the way he used her incisive mind as a sounding board, and how lost he found himself without her.

hydropsyche: "CJ still needs a Duke Law grad to explain policy to her while making cracks about her intelligence"

Her character was presented in the pilot as someone who did not have a political background, who had been asked to join the campaign as a communications expert. To help shape and promote their message to America. I'm convinced that this is the lens through which her arc during the first two to three seasons needs to be viewed.

So at times her role on the show was to ask questions or be briefed on topics as a proxy for the viewer, which would move the story along. And part of her arc involved learning and navigating the Washington good old boys network.

If you view her as an outsider to politics, some of what CJ dealt with during the first three seasons makes a bit more sense, I think. A great deal of her arc had to do with her colleagues, the press corps and trust. She had to work harder to earn not the respect of her coworkers, but to get them to trust her or follow her advice, because they didn't initially trust her instincts when it came to diplomacy and political infighting. Her competence is never in question. Plus, as the administration's liaison to the media, they sometimes had to keep things from her.
posted by zarq at 8:23 AM on March 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


But it's also undeniable that Sorkin is a really good writer,

We were watching Moneyball the other week and finding it, frankly, dull. Not a lot of character differentiation, that is to say, the speech patterns are all the author's, not the characters'. I kept thinking, this reminds me of something, but what?

The great aha! moment was seeing who wrote the screenplay. Bingo. This was all West Wing type dialogue decompressed over a two hour movie.

Thing is, I could never watch West Wing for more than a few minutes without getting irritated and changing the channel. It wasn't the self righteousness of the characters (though that didn't help), or the black/white take on all the issues, or the lack of good lines for the Bad characters.*

My problem with Sorkin is that he's all about the dialogue, and the dialogue is all about Sorkin. It's too unrelentingly clever, all pirouettes and backward flips without a break, just rubbing your face in his virtuosity. You (or at least I) can never get too far away from the the fact that you are watching Aaron Sorkin! At Work! I can see why an actor would eat his stuff up, and clearly millions love it. I just can't. I get the same feeling I get when watching an actor who mugs on camera, or listening to a guitar shredder, or a singer who insists on excessive trills and such instead of just singing the damn song. Dazzling for a bit, then grating, then it makes you wonder if the performer is capable of anything else. Like art. Which ultimately matters more than technique or craft.

So- yeah, I do deny he is a good writer. He is a flash writer, but that flash covers up a ham fisted one dimensional approach to characters and situations. Not filling, not nutritious.

Try watching A Few Good Men and follow it up by watching the far superior and far more thought provoking Breaker Morant to which it bears some no doubt purely coincidental resemblance. It's a difference between writing for children and writing for adults.

*("You can't handle the truth" being an exception, but even that line is open to discussion. And perhaps I do WW an injustice on this point, not having watched it all.)
posted by IndigoJones at 8:24 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love that it somehow works that Josh is the sexy one anyway. I for one was absolutely convinced of Bradley Whitford's sexiness - Lemon-Lyman indeed.

Psst, timsteil - HKS, while definitely full of burgeoning politicos, is Harvard's public policy graduate school, not its law school. He could, of course, do a dual degree with HLS, if he were interested.
posted by naoko at 8:24 AM on March 12, 2012


You should watch the most reason seasons of Parks and Recreation. Rob Lowe's character is delightfully sweet and weird and funny not at all a dick. It's very refreshing.

I have!

And it's not that I dislike Rob Lowe. I don't. I just also don't want to bang him.
posted by sonika at 8:45 AM on March 12, 2012


In terms of character development on the show, my biggest gripe is with Toby in Season Seven. And that can't even be blamed on Sorkin. I mean, his self-righteousness was inevitably going to go too far and bring him down, but Sweet Christ on Toast did the writers ever beat him into the ground.
posted by sonika at 8:48 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Zarq, CJ wasn't a political novice, before Bartlet for America she had run Emily's List and had worked for a bunch of congressmen (I believe, thinking back to the post-Josh shooting flashback episodes). She went to Hollywood after a stint in politics.

That the show is moralistic I can see, but I don't understand the criticisms of TWW as simplistic. The characters don't unilaterally make workable policy; they grind away in a simplfied-for-TV version of the consensus process that characterizes actual government. I don't see much black-and-whiteism either; a Republican joins the staff and both sides realize the other isn't so bad, the Stackhouse filibuster is initially characterized as the action of a a backwoods, intransigent conservative until we realize that he's holding out for autism funding, (spoiler) the President's daughter gets kidnapped, he temporarily resigns, a Republican president takes over and doesn't reverse the last five years of legislation, etc.
posted by downing street memo at 8:54 AM on March 12, 2012


Her character was presented in the pilot as someone who did not have a political background, who had been asked to join the campaign as a communications expert. To help shape and promote their message to America. I'm convinced that this is the lens through which her arc during the first two to three seasons needs to be viewed.

So at times her role on the show was to ask questions or be briefed on topics as a proxy for the viewer, which would move the story along. And part of her arc involved learning and navigating the Washington good old boys network.


I don't disagree with any of that. I just think it's very Aaron Sorkin to make the character who is less informed and needs to be lectured to a woman.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:55 AM on March 12, 2012


You (or at least I) can never get too far away from the the fact that you are watching Aaron Sorkin! At Work! I can see why an actor would eat his stuff up, and clearly millions love it. I just can't.

I had the same problems with Sorkin's writing, as well. Part of it is that I couldn't help but think I was being constantly pandered to and that Sorkin had pretty much designed something meant for the specific purpose of appealing to earnest policy wonks of the sort I used to be. But based on his appearance in 30 Rock, I figured he understood what his limitations as a writer were and decided that they "worked" on some level for a certain audience and realized it was fine for him to work within his niche.
posted by deanc at 9:00 AM on March 12, 2012


On the subject of alleged sexism in WW, I'm not terribly familiar with the finer points of the argument, but isn't there a similar thing with Joss Whedon's stuff (add that to the ever-growing list of things I really like on their own merits that, due to nitpicky concerns, MetaFilter says I should just outright hate. Phooey)?

At any rate, can we argue about that some?
posted by Maaik at 9:09 AM on March 12, 2012


But it's also undeniable that Sorkin is a really good writer, and the first four seasons are far, far better than after he left the show.

He's good, but the President's Daughter Gets Kidnapped was incredibly clunky.

After he left, it took the show a season or so to find its new feet, but once it did, it was incredibly good, yet different from Sorkin's voice. Except for that stupid final arc that landed Toby in jail.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:13 AM on March 12, 2012


I loved the West Wing, and I actually managed to land a job in government in first a communications and then a policy role, and I learned that working in government sucks. Government is driven by personality and institutional politics, and most of the successful government workers I met at the management level were very "beta" worker bees. The personalities that drive the organizations are typically fucking nightmares.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's good, but the President's Daughter Gets Kidnapped was incredibly clunky.

Though the speech in Season One where Bartlet sets it up as a hypothetical is one of the most brilliant minutes in television, for sure.

Just, yeah... didn't necessarily need to be acted out. Better as a speech.
posted by sonika at 9:24 AM on March 12, 2012


Except that Obama is no Santos....
posted by mfoight at 9:26 AM on March 12, 2012


downing street memo: "Zarq, CJ wasn't a political novice, before Bartlet for America she had run Emily's List and had worked for a bunch of congressmen (I believe, thinking back to the post-Josh shooting flashback episodes). She went to Hollywood after a stint in politics. "

I remember that she worked for Emily's List. I don't remember the Congressmen. (You could be right -- I just don't remember them!) But this, from In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, is what I was referring to:
TOBY
C.J., Jed Bartlet is very impressed with you.

C.J. looks up at him, startled.

TOBY
He likes the work that you did with that girl's group with the stupid name.

C.J.
Emily's List?

TOBY
Yes.

C.J.
That girl's group with the stupid name?

TOBY
Yes.

C.J.
Emily's List -- "early money is like yeast".

TOBY
Yeah.

C.J.
"It helps raise the dough".

TOBY
I get it.

C.J.
They raise money for women candidates. 'Early money is like yeast, it helps raise the dough.' For the candidates.

TOBY
I really do get it.

C.J.
Bartlet's impressed with me?

TOBY
Very impressed. And one of the big keys to his game plan is bringing you on as Press Secretary.

C.J.
He's never heard of me, has he?

TOBY
No.

C.J.
Toby...

TOBY
I'm here on instructions from Leo McGarry.

C.J.
McGarry wants me.

TOBY
Yes. Come join the campaign.

C.J.
Toby. Does he know I've only ever worked statewide? Does he know I've never worked on a national campaign before?

TOBY
Yes. It's Graduation Day.

C.J.
You really think I can do this?

TOBY
Yeah.
posted by zarq at 9:32 AM on March 12, 2012


And it's not that I dislike Rob Lowe. I don't. I just also don't want to bang him.

Can we not do this? It's creepy.
posted by ODiV at 9:57 AM on March 12, 2012


Sexual desires are creepy?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:11 AM on March 12, 2012


When we're rating the bangability of people overtly, yeah. I don't want to know who you guys want to sleep with. Keep your "I'd hit that" comments to yourself.
posted by ODiV at 10:16 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


1. That part of this thread is about Whitford & Lowe and the casting of a man with sex appeal. That is just a nicer way of saying 'bangability.'
2. I see men commenting about thinking women are attractive on this site ALL THE TIME. But it's creepy when it's about a dude?
posted by troika at 10:24 AM on March 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


1. Yeah, the sex appeal thing seemed fine and on topic, but getting into who you would personally sleep with seems like a fairly good line to me. If this isn't actually a line and I shouldn't be making these comments, then I'll stop.
2. I try to call that shit out when I see it too.
posted by ODiV at 10:31 AM on March 12, 2012


Just, yeah... didn't necessarily need to be acted out.

The general idea isn't bad, but the ham fisted way they did it was and the neat, happy ending came off a lazy and weak.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:33 AM on March 12, 2012


Except that Obama is no Santos....

Yes, it's good to remember that The West Wing takes place in imaginary fantasy fairy land. It's easy for the Santos character to "be good" because he does not live and operate in the real world.

One does not become President without possessing (and using) the political insights of Machiavelli. Indeed, during my time in government I was struck by how how much more similar it was to the Sopranos (in terms of the almost feudal or tribal reliance on patronage and loyalty within bureaucracies, all in an amoral pursuit of empire-building) than it was to The West Wing.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:35 AM on March 12, 2012


The general idea isn't bad, but the ham fisted way they did it was and the neat, happy ending came off a lazy and weak.

If I understand things correctly, Sorkin wrote the end of season 4 (she's gone!) when he knew he was leaving the show, right? Was that storyline his middle finger- bye guys, have fun writing your way out of this one?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:43 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reading the comments about how governments are staffed by underpaid interns who toil for the greater good with only the love of humanity in their heart then the answer to the question "why is it still popular" is the same as why it was popular in the first place.

Because the people who like it are created out of solid delusion hewn from the purest, crystalline privilege.
posted by fullerine at 10:59 AM on March 12, 2012


I'm actually in the process of working my way through West Wing for the first time. I bought the box set just after Christmas and am now up to the middle of season 6 (Santos, Hoynes et al. are duking it out over the Democratic nomination). I came to it completely cold, other than seeing a few dialogue clips on youtube and vaguely knowing that it had been very popular in the US. And, wow, I had no idea that TV could be this good.

My problem with Sorkin is that he's all about the dialogue, and the dialogue is all about Sorkin. It's too unrelentingly clever, all pirouettes and backward flips without a break, just rubbing your face in his virtuosity.

This is the show's biggest selling point for me. It's a world in which intelligent, articulate characters discuss complex topics, express their friendship through playing with language and genuinely witty banter and, when attacking, never resort to unimaginative obscenities but instead use stinging one-liners and conversational traps. Many of the jokes and references are unashamedly aimed at an educated audience, and they are rarely if ever laboured. The political machinations are mostly smoke and mirrors of course, but I still find the depiction of complex game-playing fun to watch.

A lot of TV seems to be about telling stories with aspirational characters and situations, taking us into worlds and lives that we'd like to live in. We're invited to lose ourselves in lives that are more glamorous than ours, or more wealthy, or more athletic, or more brave, or more mysterious, or more violent. The West Wing invites us to a world that's more intelligent, more articulate and better educated. And I love it. It's an uninterrupted 40-minute stimulation of whatever part of my brain it is that gives a happy little wriggle in response to those rare flashes of conversational brilliance that we all manage occasionally but that virtually no-one in real life can sustain for extended periods.

Perhaps it'll get old if I see too much of Sorkin's other work, but for the moment I'm loving it.
posted by metaBugs at 11:00 AM on March 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Was that storyline his middle finger- bye guys, have fun writing your way out of this one?

I remember something going with the writing, either Sorkin said "fuck you" or the producers said "give us something good to start with, a real bang" and then flubbed the handling of it.

The idea was interesting, looking at what happens when there isn't a VP and the President is more or less directly threatened, would the Constitution work? John Goodman played the House Speaker well, the tension between his staff and the White House was great, but it just petered out at the end. Sort of like "Hey, that was neat idea, but we're tired now and want to move on from Aaron's shit."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:06 AM on March 12, 2012


Reading the comments about how governments are staffed by underpaid interns who toil for the greater good with only the love of humanity in their heart then the answer to the question "why is it still popular" is the same as why it was popular in the first place.

It's certainly not money. But people are ignoring the dynamic that the "currency" of DC is all about your proximity to power and your perceived hold on power.

But, really, no one comes to DC to "get rich." After 15 years working on the Hill, you find yourself with few transferable skills, good only for fundraising or lobbying outside of the legislative chambers. And you either do that or move back home to take over the family business or something. downing_street_memo might put things in over-idealistic terms, but he/she understands the dynamic better than people who claim that people descend on Capital Hill with dreams of cashing in on the revolving door. Because they have huge egos that need to be gratified using the otherwise-almost-worthless local currency of the town? Sure. But money? No.
posted by deanc at 11:32 AM on March 12, 2012


So... how'd we all like Game Change?
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, really, no one comes to DC to "get rich."

Well, depends. Mostly on what you mean by "rich" but not-so-secretly by what you mean "DC." It seems like a lot of people assume that the Hill and the White House are the government, when a much much larger number of us work for the bureaucracy (hi!), and frankly our salaries are not starvation level. It's not as dynamic as the aforementioned parts of the government (oh, what I would do for an intelligent conversation just one a day!), but it's where a lot of the actual work gets done.

Sure, Congress and the President's office shape laws and policy, but only in a general sense. The actual grunt work of writing regulations to enforce that policy and engaging with industry and citizens' group to find out what's feasible and then navigating the political minefields of getting programs enacted, that's all done here in the Departments and it usually has very little to do with elections, poll numbers, or even public figures. And I'd say a good 75% of my coworkers drive in from nice houses in the suburbs. Annnnnd while I certainly didn't plan on ending up here when I came to DC, here we is.
posted by psoas at 11:50 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it'll get old if I see too much of Sorkin's other work, but for the moment I'm loving it

I watched Sports Night after loving West Wing, and it really does highlight Sorkin's weaknesses: the profesionally-competent woman who falls to pieces in love, for instance, and the dialogue that all sounds the same, people who are super-smart and articulate being extra-clever for the fun of it. That can be part of the pleasure of Sorkin (the clever dialogue, not so much the professional dork women), but I can remember a few moments on Sports Night when it went so far over the top it was light tripping a spotlight, shining on the invisible wires holding the whole thing up and revealing its ridiculous fakeness. There's one speech Dana gives to Casey when they're finally breaking up for the last time that is basically constructed backwards (something like, "In the third place, you did blah blah blah, which in the second place means blah blah blah, which something something in the first place!" I couldn't find a video of it on YouTube, alas) that totally popped the show's bubble for me--it was a speech that I could not imagine any actual person giving, no matter how clever and articulate, because its structure and twist could only have been worked out on paper, and then only for the pleasure of showing off.

Having watched Sports Night kind of ruined my next attempt to re-watch West Wing, because while the flaws were toned down in WW, I was sensitized to them and they leapt out at me. I loved WW and hope to watch it again when Sports Night has faded a bit in my memory.
posted by not that girl at 11:50 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the subject of alleged sexism in WW, I'm not terribly familiar with the finer points of the argument, but isn't there a similar thing with Joss Whedon's stuff...?

Whoa, did I miss a humungous change in culture here? I'm no huge fan myself, but when the hell did Whedon become an agreed-upon example of sexism?
posted by psoas at 11:55 AM on March 12, 2012


John Goodman played the House Speaker well, the tension between his staff and the White House was great, but it just petered out at the end. Sort of like "Hey, that was neat idea, but we're tired now and want to move on from Aaron's shit."

Totally agree! Sad he didn't get a little more to chew on during his brief time as President.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:11 PM on March 12, 2012


Mostly on what you mean by "rich" but not-so-secretly by what you mean "DC." It seems like a lot of people assume that the Hill and the White House are the government, when a much much larger number of us work for the bureaucracy (hi!), and frankly our salaries are not starvation level.

There's really no way for me to pass judgment on what qualifies as "rich" without sounding like a horrible snob, but it isn't like working up the GS scale on your way to being a Program Manager at a government agency is the path to riches and living in a big house in McLean. One of the things that "Burn After Reading" got right was portraying John Malkovich's fabulous Georgetown lifestyle has being basically subsidized by his doctor wife and George Clooney's subsidized by his TV-star wife.

The idea that anyone works on the Hill or gets a civil service job in DC because they have dreams of dollar signs is ridiculous on its face. There are much easier ways of going about that if that's what you want. People come here because they get to do what they want to do, particular by satisfying your wonkish itches and a desire to be close to where "things" happen. If you had any financial ambitions to start with, DC is the place where those ambitions go to die in favor of something more steady.
posted by deanc at 12:20 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


psoas: "Whoa, did I miss a humungous change in culture here? I'm no huge fan myself, but when the hell did Whedon become an agreed-upon example of sexism?"

No idea. The same Joss Whedon that wrote this? Or said this:
"...equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and women who’s confronted with it.

posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on March 12, 2012


The idea that anyone works on the Hill or gets a civil service job in DC because they have dreams of dollar signs is ridiculous on its face.

Not necessarily.

If they have dreams of CEO-style affluence, then yes, it's crazy. If someone in the government is doing that, there's corruption involved. The GS scale maxes out around $129k (before cost-of-living adjustments).

But if they have dreams of a solidly middle- to upper-middle class lifestyle, where they get paid around as much as they would in the private sector with hugely better benefits and job security... then it's a pretty sensible and common dream. Federal employees are all but impossible to fire, and five weeks of vacation is not uncommon for people with a lot of seniority. The bureaucracy employs countless bean-counting white-collar workers with impossible to define job descriptions which any organization which had efficiency as a requirement would have axed years ago. Many of these people get paid high-five to low-six figures.

Is that "rich"? Not in the way I use the word, certainly. But it's approaching a standard deviation above the median income. So the idea that someone with a nondescript white-collar job might decide to do the same thing for the federal government because the pay is better is actually pretty compelling.
posted by valkyryn at 12:49 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reading the comments about how governments are staffed by underpaid interns who toil for the greater good with only the love of humanity in their heart then the answer to the question "why is it still popular" is the same as why it was popular in the first place.

It's popular because it's fucking cool. You know the impulse that spurs people to follow politics absurdly closely, even when most of the microdevelopments they obsess over are irrelevant to their actual lives? It's the same one that spurs idealistic or, yes, power-loving people to come to DC. I'm more charitable to the power-lovers than others; proximity to the political process can be intoxicating and to a certain degree it's understandable.

To invoke privilege seems so obvious as to be banal; we're talking about the exercise of power here. There's always going to be some degree of privilege inherent in a system that expects folks to work for free or peanuts for long stretches, but even if we fixed that there's privilege involved in the notion that one's opinions, beliefs, and hopes matter to the point where one try and convince the country that they're important, too.
posted by downing street memo at 12:49 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reading the comments about how governments are staffed by underpaid interns who toil for the greater good with only the love of humanity in their heart then the answer to the question "why is it still popular" is the same as why it was popular in the first place.
Because the people who like it are created out of solid delusion hewn from the purest, crystalline privilege.


The privilege critique is fair, but it seems to me there are probably worse things privileged young people could do with their time than attempting (if sometimes poorly) to be public servants.
posted by naoko at 12:50 PM on March 12, 2012


No idea. The same Joss Whedon that wrote this? Or said this :

This is getting a bit off-topic (though weirdly simpatico with another recent thread), but while I love Joss Whedon and I believe he truly does try, it's not like his shows and movies haven't had problematic portrayals of sex, race, sexuality, etc. The constant use of slut-shaming words, the whole premise of Dollhouse, etc.

The essay linked by tzikeh above is quite apt. I still liked a good chunk of Dollhouse. I still love Firefly despite the lack of speaking Asian roles. I still love Buffy despite the celluloid closeting of Tara/Willow.

And I'd say he's still way ahead of the game compared to Sorkin.

(And that Equality Now speech is one of my favorite things ever.)
posted by kmz at 12:56 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


valkryryn, I understand what you're saying here, but think about how long you have to toil in the belly of the bureaucracy before you make "high-five" figures (in a city, by the way, where "high-five" figures basically means you can live alone in your own apartment - I'm at around $90k, and I can live alone without a car, but that's about it). Keep in mind that if you choose to live in the city, a two-earner couple in the high-five figures might be able to afford a 2br without a car; if you want to live out in the burbs, you might be able to buy a little house in Manassas or something and enjoy a miserable two-hour commute downtown.

Very, very, very few people are getting rich here, and the ones who do manage to do that after years and years of low-paid work in politics or media. Just like there are better ways to get rich, there are also better ways to make an upper-middle class living in America.
posted by downing street memo at 12:57 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I should say, very few people are getting rich in actual government. Lots of people are making money by providing services to the government (some needed, some bloat).
posted by downing street memo at 1:09 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whoa, did I miss a humungous change in culture here? I'm no huge fan myself, but when the hell did Whedon become an agreed-upon example of sexism?
To the extent to which there's a backlash against Whedon, it's less "this dude is totally sexist!" and more "this dude who is widely considered a feminist hero is not perfect!" For some people, his lack-of-perfection is damning, but for more people it's something worth remarking on but hardly a mortal sin.
posted by craichead at 1:23 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's Livejournal definition of sexism. Everything is considered sexist unless it meets extremely narrow criterea that, should any work of art actually meet them, would probably mean that it was unintelligible and shit. There are special charts to tell you how much of a bad and wrong person you are for questioning this BTW.
posted by Artw at 1:59 PM on March 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


And it's not that I dislike Rob Lowe. I don't. I just also don't want to bang him.

Can we not do this? It's creepy.


What? If you would read the umpteen comments before that, this was a comment that was a conclusion to a longish conversation on the relative merits of Rob Lowe as "the sexy one" and not a one-off "I find this particular human being bangable yes/no." Out of context, I agree with you. In context, it made perfect sense within the greater scheme of the conversation and this seems like a pretty arbitrary thing to pick out as "creepy."

And also, yes, I hope you're picking out similar comments about women celebrities as they're far, far more prevalent around here and usually way more involved than "I do or do not find this person to meet my standards for banging."
posted by sonika at 3:00 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was thinking that who you would like to bang or not would be a fairly good line to leave uncrossed, but then again I could be hypersensitive to it and not properly taking context into account. I'll cut it out if I'm annoying people and not in line with community standards.

Yes, I do try to call out comments like this no matter who they're directed at and have said as much already. Would you like me to go digging for examples or something?
posted by ODiV at 4:04 PM on March 12, 2012


ODiV: "Would you like me to go digging for examples or something?"

May I respectfully request that if continuing this is important to you both, you take the conversation to Meta so it doesn't totally derail this thread? Please?
posted by zarq at 4:09 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, take your sex crazed talk where it belongs: out back in the seedy alley.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:46 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


sonkia: In terms of character development on the show, my biggest gripe is with Toby in Season Seven. And that can't even be blamed on Sorkin. I mean, his self-righteousness was inevitably going to go too far and bring him down, but Sweet Christ on Toast did the writers ever beat him into the ground.

Richard Schiff hated that plot development so much that he decided to play it that Toby was covering for someone else, and it was so important to maintain that cover that he was willing to take the fall for it. There's an interview online about this, but I'm not quite awake enough to go find it. He said it during an interview about a one-man show he was doing after TWW ended.
posted by tzikeh at 5:09 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Richard Schiff hated that plot development so much that he decided to play it that Toby was covering for someone else, and it was so important to maintain that cover that he was willing to take the fall for it.

That makes a lot of sense as it's not so much out of character for Toby so much as just... taking things twenty seven thousand steps way too far. It somehow makes it better as a fan of the show hearing that Schiff hated that story arc even more than the viewers did.
posted by sonika at 5:21 PM on March 12, 2012


So back when I was at the college newspaper, the staffers a year older than me were obsessed with The West Wing, and were forever snarking about this or that real-life political-celebrity intrigue. They loved scoops and scandals, all that "who's first" journalistic intrigue à la Romenesko, and I despised all of that talk as insidery, boys'-club bullshit—wanking, plain and simple. (As Firas Durri once said, "pundits always talking about seth godin or steve jobs or tom friedman are misusing their megaphone by staying in tiny slice of reality/ideas"—the basic concept obtains regardless of the talking heads in question.) What I didn't realize at the time was that the other editors were trying to emulate Sorkin's fast-talking, ultraclever dialogue.

A few years later, I started dating my future husband, and he gave me a proper introduction to the show, and a whole other political worldview that founds its apotheosis in that dialogue. And I got it. That show taught me a lot about professionalism and professional honor, things I'm not entirely sure my former colleagues took away from it. And as someone else said above, it really kind of debunked a lot of libertarianism for me.
posted by limeonaire at 5:44 PM on March 12, 2012


I should say, very few people are getting rich in actual government.

You live in DC. Tons of the federal workforce doesn't. That $90k you're pulling down would probably be $80k in my current city, and lemme tell you, you can live like a king on $80k in Fort Wayne, Indiana. If I left my job as a second-year associate in a litigation firm and started as a federal judicial clerk tomorrow, I'd get about a 10-20% raise.

The way the GS table tends to work is that people at the middle and bottom make at least as much as they would in the private sector, but get much better benefits and job security. Even people at GS-1. But the people at the top tend to be professionals, many of whom could do better elsewhere. That judicial clerk job? Yeah, I'd get a raise now, but if I stuck with my firm and made partner, I'd be making multiples of a step 10 GS-15, a position I'd never reach as a clerk. But the accounts receivable lady down the hall from me? She'd do better with the federal job, hands down, for her entire career.

Again: not rich. But at least as much cash and better benefits, i.e., total compensation is higher, and intangibles are better. Federal jobs are, hands down, desirable.
posted by valkyryn at 6:39 PM on March 12, 2012


It occurred to me reading the above discussion of civil servant pay that I have no idea if White House staff are on the GS pay scale or not - Hill staff are not and it seems like at least some White House staff wouldn't be either, but I don't actually know for sure. Anyone?
posted by naoko at 7:03 PM on March 12, 2012


They are not.
posted by downing street memo at 7:06 PM on March 12, 2012


Seriously, if some young kid shows up to DC with an unpaid Hill internship he or she works into a 20k/yr Staff Assistant position because his or her big dream is to have some mid-level staff position in the civil service that will pay $90k/yr by the time he's about 50... well, good for him, I guess. Everyone's gotta do something, and if a path to civil service runs through the Hill internship, for those whose dream is climbing the GS scale, I'm not going to imagine it's something to get worked up about. How little money and how few vacation days are experienced professionals supposed to have, anyway?

As I said, the big "problem" with working on the Hill is that your skillset ends up being only useful for... doing stuff related to working on the Hill. Awesome if you manage to burrow yourself in a federal agency drafting policy or manage to score a job as a lobbyist, but if you leave Washington, you're out of luck. I really think the best analogy is to enlisting in the military: you'll do stuff, but not necessarily stuff that translates directly to anything outside your immediate job unless you make a career out of staying there. And once you leave, you go back to whomever you intended to be before you entered. The experience itself might be personally transformative, but it's not necessarily a "stepping stone" for anyone except for a few. It might work best for people that way, though-- a means of passing through in order to offer your insight on policy and gain some understanding of how policy is done before going back to your intended profession.

Another interesting anecdote: I know a lot of Republicans in DC (by which I mean more than I would normally know from my everyday social circles if I didn't live here). The one time I ever met someone who was your stereotypical loud-mouthed, talking-points-repeating right-winger of the sort you might have to put up with at family holidays was not actually a career Hill staffer, but rather an older professional brought in as a "policy fellow" into a Senate office for a brief period. Obviously his main interest in coming was to be an activist for the cause. The actually staff was more interested in dealing with constituent services and moving legislation than the kind of "win the morning" talking points crap we associate with DC pundit culture. For those staffers, I can see why The West Wing really resonates.
posted by deanc at 8:33 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I take your general point—I've noticed Sorkin seems to have a thing about writing women who are a little unhinged (Dana in SportsNight, CJ, all the women in The Social Network)—but doesn't Mandy talk to CJ about her opposition memo?

I'm returning to this late, but in that conversation they're talking about men: Russell & Bartlet.

However, in "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc" there is some interaction between Daisy and Mandy that might qualify: some of it is about careers and choices and seems relevantly non-sexualizing. It depends on the unit of measure: "scene," "conversation," "plot point," etc. That said, a lot of those scenes between Mandy and Daisy, where they're drinking wine out of paper cups, are about who to work for, a variation of bemoaning the lack of a man. They seem deliberately modeled on the kind of post-breakup wallowing that gets depicted in romantic comedies, and this is born out by the ending where Josh shows up to give them a job and, of course, to give Mandy a love interest and reason to exist in the show.

Since I feel like I introduced a really critical tinge to what might otherwise be a celebratory anniversary, I should say that I still love the show and use it as a point of reference. The thing is, my favorite character is Toby and you know how we Toby-ites can get.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:13 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inspired by this conversation, I went back and watched the first six episodes of the first season last night (hey, I'm bored on a business trip, don't judge me). They are indeed cringeworthily moralistic and I'm finding that the insistence on always using female characters as plot devices to explain aspects of governance is grating on me, whereas before it didn't (maybe because I was learning then, too).

In "Mr. Willis of Ohio", the notion that CJ Cregg, the White House press secretary, doesn't understand even the most rudimentary facts about the census doesn't pass the smell test. I could understand using her for an explanation of sampling vs. direct counts but the way she blithely asks why we even do the census at all doesn't resonate.

Sam's creepy behavior with the call girl also just strikes me as fundamentally offensive (seriously, showing up while she's on a "date" to drag her away, while threatening the johns with federal prosecution?)

It's also weird to see how the axis of politics has shifted. We normally think that conservatives are the ones that have shifted their beliefs in the last 15 years, but on The West Wing we find liberals concerned with violent and sexually explicit entertainment, gun control, and other things we don't necessarily associate with the progressive coalition anymore. But those used to be very real beliefs of the more paternalistic liberalism that characterized the last half of the 20th century.

I don't know if I have the stamina to watch the whole thing again; we'll see. But my girlfriend wants to watch it, so I might have to.
posted by downing street memo at 10:31 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


My theater business partner was an enormous fan of THE WEST WING -- to the point that he once snuck out of a performance of one of our own shows to go back home to Brooklyn and watch it and then come back to the theater in time for the curtain call. (He wasn't doing anything performance related, fortunately. We still teased him unmercifully when we found out.)

For years now I've been waiting for just the right moment to warn him against "tempting the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing," just to see how he reacts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:56 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And wait, looking at Deadwood on Wikipedia it seems like Milch only wrote a handful of eps?)

David Milch is famous for rewriting everything suuuuper heavily, even if he doesn't get a listed writer's credit. My understanding is that the credited writer on Deadwood was generally whoever had written the initial draft of the script after the story was broken, but Milch would go back and rewrite dialogue all over the place, etc. (this comes from interviews and things with people who were staffed on that show)

Milch-run writer's rooms are notoriously weird compared to how dramas are usually written, but also crazy/awesome/mind-expanding for the same reasons.
posted by sparkletone at 12:43 PM on March 13, 2012


If only more people were inspired to go into politics to serve, rather than for personal gain.

Most people tell themselves they are in it to serve, and behave as though they're in it for personal gain. This is basically the default mode of human behavior and it's time to stop pretending it only applies to the bad guys, whoever they may be.
posted by grobstein at 4:06 PM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean: the whole first season fails the Bechdel test! It was really disappointing.

In "Take out the Trash Day" CJ and Mandy repeatedly discuss whether President guests for a Hate Crimes Bill signing are going to make the President look bad. Also in that episode, the assistants, including Margaret and Donna, discuss whether to reveal who leaked the story on Leo's drug use and Mrs. Laningham walks in an admonishs them not to gossip.

In "Take This Sabbath Day", CJ and Mandy discuss the death penalty and CJ's press briefing annoucing the excution of criminal.

CJ and her assistant Carol often talk about work in small snippets of banter throughout the season.

Yeah, it's been a West Wing marathon weekend.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:58 AM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


HBO released the trailer for Sorkin's new show The Newsroom. And, NPR's Monkey See blog examines the "10 Most Sorkin Things in the Trailer."
posted by gladly at 7:58 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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