THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF THE WEST WING
October 3, 2014 3:23 PM   Subscribe

15 years after the pilot episode, Empire interviews Aaron Sorkin, the cast and the producers of The West Wing. Amazing sidebar pieces including Snuffy Walden on Scoring the West Wing, Allison Janney on The Jackal, and a 29-take Anatomy of a Walk and Talk.
posted by DarlingBri (71 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
 
But I had things to do this weekend.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:29 PM on October 3, 2014 [13 favorites]


What's next?
posted by Fizz at 3:34 PM on October 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


Yay! Thanks for the link!
posted by brundlefly at 3:36 PM on October 3, 2014


That walk and talk is amazing. ("Well that's what my mother calls it too, Sir.")
posted by gwint at 3:41 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Today I learned there's a version of The West Wing in a parallel universe that stars CCH Pounder and Eugene Levy.
posted by brundlefly at 3:45 PM on October 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Don't worry guys, I've done documentaries: I can boom it!"

Awesome.
posted by rtha at 3:46 PM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


That walk and talk was amazing, and it made me think maybe it's time to watch that first season again. I'm not such a fan of the later seasons, but my GOD that first season was some escapist crack for us bleeding hearts.
posted by The Bellman at 3:52 PM on October 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Allison Janney must be one of the most delightful people in the world.
posted by barchan at 3:57 PM on October 3, 2014 [28 favorites]


BRADLEY WHITFORD (JOSH LYMAN): It should scare the shit out of every development person in Hollywood that if any of them had any idea that Breaking Bad was going to be as successful as it was they would've destroyed it. The same is true of The Sopranos. If they thought it was going to be successful, they never would've met Gandolfini.

I want this on billboards throughout LA and NY.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:08 PM on October 3, 2014 [15 favorites]


Watching some YouTube videos this morning, my prior history recommended a clip from the beginning of "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen", so I watched it, which inevitably led me to just getting the damn DVD out and watching the whole thing. God, that is incredible television.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:20 PM on October 3, 2014


Allison Janney must be one of the most delightful people in the world.

I haven't looked at the links yet, but I believe this to be true.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:20 PM on October 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


my GOD that first season was some escapist crack for us bleeding hearts

I've been streaming Scandal, up to the back half of S2. Its storyline includes highly placed officials ordering hits on people, and a fictionalized version of the '04 Presidential election vote-rigging. (Excuse me, alleged vote-rigging.)
The latter alone makes me want to root for the main characters about as much as I ever rooted for GW Bush/Cheney.
Funny that - so far - supporting actor Josh Malina plays the only purely good guy. (Yeah, don't spoil me, I'm sure it turned out by late S3 that his character's hobbies are drowning puppies and stealing grandmas' pensions.)
I'll leave someone else write to the dissertation on how the two shows reflect the decades they were written in, blah-blah.
posted by NorthernLite at 4:22 PM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure there's even much more to tell about that particular facet of the show's history, but I kind of wanted to hear more about why Mandy didn't work out in the end, or how everyone came to that decision.
posted by chrominance at 4:24 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure there's even much more to tell about that particular facet of the show's history, but I kind of wanted to hear more about why Mandy didn't work out in the end, or how everyone came to that decision

If you look at the season as a whole, it's set almost entirely within the White House, except for the Mandy scenes. If you look at Sorkin's TV work over all (TWW, Sports Night, Studio 60, they are overwhelmingly set pieces, in that they take place in their primary sets: the White House, the newsroom, the TV studio. I think that is the way he overwhelmingly prefers to write because as is mentioned in the Walk and Talk piece, he doesn't really address environments: he just writes dialogue.

The way her character was sprung out of the traps, Mandy had to have an outside office, had to chase whats-his-name up the steps of buildings, etc. I can see why he tried to put her in -- TWW was light on female leads -- but I think ultimately he didn't feel comfortable writing her.

Plus based on nothing but my own viewing, I suspect she didn't fit the ensemble very well and it probably was not a hard decision to just abandon her by the roadside.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:51 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The way her character was sprung out of the traps, Mandy had to have an outside office, had to chase whats-his-name up the steps of buildings, etc. I can see why he tried to put her in -- TWW was light on female leads -- but I think ultimately he didn't feel comfortable writing her.

I suspect the problem was more that she came and she gave without taking.
posted by asterix at 4:58 PM on October 3, 2014 [33 favorites]


Oh here you go -- #7: Mandyville
posted by DarlingBri at 5:05 PM on October 3, 2014


So when Sorkin goes, on Friday nights Allison's trailer became a nightclub, dubbed 'The Flamingo' after C.J.'s Secret Service code name. , I was like, ha ha, funny idea, imagining it to be more of a conceptual thing, with maybe a printed-out sign stuck on the trailer door.

But then he goes, I wandered into The Flamingo around midnight to find Allison mid-Jackal with Richard sitting off to the side, smoking a cigar and playing an air drum.

...and I can ENVISION this place. And I am consumed with the desire to find a time machine and go back there and somehow, some way, GET INTO THE FLAMINGO.
posted by theatro at 5:06 PM on October 3, 2014 [16 favorites]


why Mandy didn't work out in the end

Hmm, I wonder if it was because she was not, fundamentally, an idealist. Especially at the beginning of the show, everyone was an idealist, if often a pragmatic one. But Mandy was the outside kind of cold-eyed voice of reason, and it made her character not mesh very well. Also, she just wasn't written very likable, and her interactions with the rest of the cast weren't smooth, they were pointy and sharp and didn't always work.

I have liked Moira Kelly in the past, but Mandy as a character, in that ensemble, just didn't work, and I don't know how much was the actress and how much was the writing.
posted by suelac at 5:07 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know most (?) people love the walk and talk, but it was literally at least half the reason I couldn't bear to watch past the first few episodes. I was so disappointed to realize I didn't really like this show.
posted by obfuscation at 5:14 PM on October 3, 2014


In case any of you was unaware, we did a rewatch of S1 on FanFare. Come on over and join the fun.
posted by Etrigan at 5:33 PM on October 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


The weird thing about Mandy is that her character is almost identical to Mary Louise Parker's role on the show in season 3, but by then they'd figured out the show and what worked in terms of the White House Staffers' outside relationships.

Mandy really belongs in a show about Beltway Insiders in general, not a show about the President's underlings.

Also, the best thing about the walk and talk, and Sorkin's approach in general, is that The West Wing makes great not-really-looking-at-the-TV TV. You can look at the screen if you want, but it's entirely unnecessary.
posted by Sara C. at 6:06 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hmm, I wonder if it was because she was not, fundamentally, an idealist. Especially at the beginning of the show, everyone was an idealist, if often a pragmatic one.

I was going to say "Were they ever really idealists?" But I suppose maybe they were and I confuse idealism with principle (and this comment will say more about me than the West Wing). My great frustration with the West Wing was that everyone was too pragmatic and was basically always willing to compromise until Toby in the final season. (The scene where he gets fired still fills me with rage. The president's talking about how he's disappointed in Toby or whatever, and Toby's the one person who ever stood up and did something, damn the consequences, because it was right, i.e. the thing the president was never able to do.) But I suppose if you think back to the Josh and Sam flashbacks in In The Shadow of Two Gunmen, they really did think they were going to do things they believed in. But I do think the West Wing is basically about being pragmatic.
posted by hoyland at 6:33 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


But I do think the West Wing is basically about being pragmatic.

Hard to believe no one ever wrote a folk song about that...
posted by Jeff Howard at 6:52 PM on October 3, 2014


I love finding out that the story of the homeless vet and the staffer's overcoat is a true story. Great set of links; really fabulous, special television, especially the Sorkin/Schlamme seasons.
posted by Anitanola at 7:15 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


When rumours started going around that Rob might be leaving I got an email from Josh Malina asking if I'd be interested in an actor who was cheaper and not as good looking. I wrote back, "Always", and that was that.

Fantastic
posted by wabbittwax at 8:01 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's so funny, because of course at the end of the first year I take a couple of bullets. But I'm in bed with her six years later and there are no scars! There's nothing! Nobody's ever brought that up.

OMG OMG OMG
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:13 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Allison Janney must be one of the most delightful people in the world.

A friend of mine was on a movie shoot with her not too long ago and reported that a) yes, she's a wonderful person, and b) she is absolutely non-political and says she's often disappointed romantic suitors that expected her to literally be C.J. Cregg.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:27 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mandy ended up just being a shrill annoyance. They realized they could replace her with Ainsley Hayes and add someone with much more definition, who could genuinely stand apart from the cast.

I am consumed with the desire to find a time machine and go back there and somehow, some way, GET INTO THE FLAMINGO.

That's all any of us want, really.
posted by dry white toast at 8:50 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's so funny, because of course at the end of the first year I take a couple of bullets. But I'm in bed with her six years later and there are no scars! There's nothing! Nobody's ever brought that up.

OMG OMG OMG
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:13 PM on October 3 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Man, I KNEW I had heard somebody bring that up. We need to email him and let him know you caught that.
posted by nushustu at 9:31 PM on October 3, 2014


More Allison Janney being awesome: Allison Janney and Anna Faris do the American Ninja Warrior course for Ellen (context). It is every bit as amazing as you'd hope.

The West Wing inspired me quite a bit when I was a young liberal growing up at the end of the Clinton '90s and heading into the Bush Noughts. It's been really interesting to see some of the retrospective articles that have come out in the past few months (one in May, one last month), reflecting on the zaniness of the show and the craziness of the writing process and the precariousness of the entire enterprise. Certain actors (Lowe and Schiff, primarily) seem to be giving the same quotes for every article. I still read every word, hungry for a glimpse into the fabulous.
posted by librarylis at 9:37 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really enjoyed this article, espeically the charming walk & talk maps. Still it gave me the strangest feeling of déjà vu. It's interesting to read about all the same stories told to two different reporters.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:37 PM on October 3, 2014


And I am consumed with the desire to find a time machine and go back there and somehow, some way, GET INTO THE FLAMINGO.

I live right next to the dive-iest of dive bars; it is called The Flamingo. I can report with some bitterness that I have never, ever seen Allison Janney in there (which is probably for the best, considering the clientele). I can only long for the alternate universe in which I live next to a bar owned and operated by Allison Janney.
posted by ilana at 9:53 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The gods are smiling.
posted by GoodDesign at 10:27 PM on October 3, 2014


This is good timing. We started watching The West Wing last night for the first time and it was... Awful. Stilted dialogue, hammy acting, music out of a Christmas Special. I don't think it's just because it was so dated, I think it was just bad. I know that first episodes are not generally the best episodes though, so we will watch one or two more. Or is there somewhere else we should start?
posted by arcticwoman at 10:49 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know, maybe The West Wing is just not for you. I mean, the pilot is one of the best pilots ever. I usually tell people to give a show at least 4 episodes to draw you in, and not to expect too much of an Important show in the first season. But The West Wing was great from the get-go, and really the first two seasons are the best of the series in my opinion.

I will say, however, that TV has changed a lot in the fifteen-odd years since the show premiered. TWW was one of the best shows on TV at the time, possibly the best American network drama of the 90s, but it's got nothing on shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad.

If you disliked the dialogue, my guess is that you just don't like Aaron Sorkin. Which is fine. It's a matter of taste. The West Wing certainly is not bad, in an objective sense, though, in the way that Two And A Half Men or Seventh Heaven is bad.
posted by Sara C. at 11:00 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hmm. I could be spoiled by The Wire and Breaking Bad. It's hard to watch shows for the first time when they are already 15 years old too. I can love the shit out of Buffy because i watched it first when it was new and so now my re watches have some nostalgia and some remembrance of what life was like. I was too young when The West Wing aired (not YOUNG young, but certainly not interested in American politics) for it to have much cultural resonance with me. Still, I can give it a better try than one episode.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:08 PM on October 3, 2014


Yeah, Buffy ages much less well than The West Wing does.
posted by Sara C. at 11:10 PM on October 3, 2014


I think WW has aged well. It may seem dated at times because shows like Breaking Bad and True Detective have spoiled us. We're starting to expect our non-dumb, dramatic shows to look more like movies and the early seasons of WW look sort of TV showy. Other than the kickass steadicam work.
posted by brundlefly at 12:49 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't discount that it is possible to just not like it. My SO loves it so I have seen a lot of episodes as she teens to work through the lot every couple of years, but it just gets on my nerves. I had given it a try when it was first on also. She's been getting into the Newsroom recently and likes that while I cannot abide it.
posted by biffa at 3:50 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I find the first season pretty clunky until about episode six, then it starts to get its stride. Bit yes, it may also not be for you.
posted by dry white toast at 5:37 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


There was a governor at the time who had just been elected in Minnesota called Jesse Ventura. He'd been a professional all-star wrestler: a big, bald dude. And the network kept saying, "We don't want to do something about a liberal Democrat. We need a populist, somebody who's a wrestler or a race car driver or a football player coming in from the outside and shaking things up." We chose not to do that.
Ye gods. I have this vision of The West Wing with John Laroquette as President Chuck Newton (former running back for the Steelers), Brett Butler as the nagging First Lady, Chevy Chase as the bumbling Chief of Staff and breakout star French Stewart as the up-and-coming brilliant communications director.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:09 AM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


The first episode of the West Wing I ever watched was "Two Cathedrals", and I thought that Martin Sheen bitching out God in Latin was wonderful.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:20 AM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Typo in the second sentence, FFS. It's Lewinsky with a Y. Other than that, this is a great read.
posted by emelenjr at 7:56 AM on October 4, 2014


I am surprised at how happy I am that that whole period of history is far enough in the past that people can misspell her name.
posted by Etrigan at 8:50 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


The whole piece is riddled with typos, and while I'm as excited about this as everyone else is, just on the basis of piles of information about one of my favorite shows, it definitely reeks of "oh I don't know just copy and paste the transcriptions I guess" don't give a shit journalism.
posted by Sara C. at 9:53 AM on October 4, 2014


Also, I can totally see a comedy about the White House. I mean now we have Veep. Dick came out the year The West Wing premiered. Last year there was 1600 Penn, though that was a failure.

The American President, which Aaron Sorkin wrote and which was TWW's spiritual predecessor, is basically a romcom. It's also easy to see why the network expected TWW itself to be a comedy, since Sorkin's previous TV work, Sports Night, was also a comedy.
posted by Sara C. at 9:59 AM on October 4, 2014


I think groundbreaking shows, in general, age badly. I mean, I still think the West Wing is fantastic, but at least half that is probably because I loved it 15 years ago.

I watched The Sopranos recently and I did my best, I really did, plodding through 2 or 3 seasons, but I just could not get the appeal, at all. I said as much to a friend and she was all "Groundbreaking! We had never seen anything like it! So blown away!" I think the really great shows end up spawning so much imitation, little bits and pieces end up in other things, the tone of television in general changes, and then the ones that started it all, if you watch them after you watch all the imitators, look tired and clichéd.

I had the same feeling when I watched The Godfather in the late 90s. Having seen a million parodies, I knew all the best lines already, as jokes. Like the horsehead scene, when he's screaming and the camera jumps back to wider and wider shots, then to outside the house? I swear to god all I could think of was Home Alone.
posted by looli at 10:53 AM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


We briefly had a comedy about the white house before "Veep" et al: "That's My Bush!". It aired for about 2 months during that brief window in early 2001 when the country was in the tail-end of late-90's (relative) peace and W was still a buffoon to a big chunk of the country.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:09 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


the really great shows end up spawning so much imitation, little bits and pieces end up in other things, the tone of television in general changes, and then the ones that started it all, if you watch them after you watch all the imitators, look tired and clichéd.

TV Tropes has a page for this, as it does for all things: "Seinfeld is Unfunny."
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:36 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I definitely think The West Wing suffers from the phenomenon wherein its style/references/tropes were groundbreaking at the time and ultimately so thoroughly ripped off by other people that they now seem cliche even though they were the cliche-makers.

I mean, I just recently did an episode of my web series that was a 2 and a half minute walk and talk, and I didn't even think of it as a Thing. It was just the most obvious way to shoot a bunch of dialogue and physical comedy built around a hiking trip.

That said, what underpins TWW is solid well-crafted storytelling, so you can look deeper than the stuff that later became cliche and find something that's still worthwhile to watch. The same is true of The Godfather, of course, which is a great film in and of itself, not because of its place as the seminal gangster movie.

Like, I don't know, the Walk And Talk infographic was not that interesting to me, because yeah, everyone does that now and it's not even a big deal (though the ambition level of that particular walk and talk is amazing). But dude, "Two Cathedrals"? That's great television. Period.
posted by Sara C. at 11:37 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The first several episodes of Season 1 tend to, I think, have the lowest (sometimes almost non-existent) stakes, thinnest score, and most abrasive Sorkinisms in them, so if those are the things that bug you, they'll bug you most there. It is also, most certainly, pretty schmaltzy in a lot of the first season, and god knows Mandy doesn't help the show's quality (I like that Sorkin admitted that the problem with Mandy was his writing of her, and not Moira Kelly's performance, as it always seemed to me that she was dong the best job possible with an underwritten role, a la Jenna Coleman in DW.)

Season 2 is just about perfect, however, and I personally think 3 and 4 keep up about that same level.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:40 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I tried to rewatch The West Wing once but I couldn't even handle how many episodes there were. 7 seasons each with 22 episodes?! My god, who has the time? I could literally binge-watch The Wire and Breaking Bad in the same timeframe and have a few hours left to spare.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:45 AM on October 4, 2014


One thing I'll say about the first few episodes (am I rewatching them AGAIN yes I am rewatching them again) is that it's important to remember that they were made, you know, before The West Wing.

In 2014, we all know that there was this show in the 90s/early 2000s called The West Wing and that it was about White House Staffers. Aaron Sorkin has gone on to write so many films and TV series that most casual media viewers know who he is and could identify the Sorkin style/aesthetic easily. Most of the actors who were in it are celebrities now, and their post-West Wing careers have reflected the roles they played for several seasons -- even actors like Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe, who were famous before the show aired. So we have a lot of context.

Viewers in 1999 not only didn't have that context (obviously), but there had never really been a show like The West Wing, and there wasn't even much precedent for "let's make a show that is not really like any other thing that has ever been on television before", as there is today. You had cop shows, lawyer shows, hospital shows, teen shows. Anything outside of that needed a LOT of propping up.

So the first six or so episodes of TWW slowly ease us into the world of the show, mostly by, as Navelgazer says, low-stakes storylines presenting a baseline precedent of who these people are. So that 15-20 episodes later you can have some context for something like "The Jackal" or "Huge Block Of Cheese Day", and then a few episodes after that you can get into the heavy-hitting stuff like "What Kind Of Day Has It Been" and "In The Shadow Of Two Gunman". All of the great stuff about the first season or so of TWW is kind of meaningless without the early episodes that set up the basic world of the show.

Also, keep in mind that in 1999 "The White House" was synonymous with sex scandals and Whitewater and being taken kind of un-seriously. So it would have felt weird to very quickly jump into a high-stakes world of assassination attempts, terrorism, and existential threats. The West Wing, at least in the beginning, is the story of the pre-Bush II post-cold war optimistic post-modern Presidency.

In fact it's alluded to in TFA that the transition from that sort of flippant low-stakes world of the show to the actual realities of post-9/11 life was a very tricky one for the show in real time as it was actually happening. So to expect early seasons to be a show about the White House as we in 2014 would expect it to be is kind of misguided.
posted by Sara C. at 12:17 PM on October 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


The last person we introduced fresh to TWW was 7 years ago, and that worked; she took a couple of episodes to get into it and then lived it. It's another 7 years later now, and while it is still beloved by those of us who adored it at the time, I wouldn't be surprised to find that people approaching it fresh and unviewed today can't get into it.

THAT DOESN'T MEAN I'M NOT SAD FOR THEM!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:51 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


FWIW I got into it two years ago pretty much sight-unseen. Though it depicts the American political culture I was steeped in as a young person. The optimism and pre-9/11-ness of it were a huge draw for me, and in fact when I first started watching it I didn't anticipate that I'd keep with it past the point where 9/11 had happened in the real world outside the show. Luckily the transition from Clintonian political outlook to Bush-era political outlook hasn't been nearly as jarring as it really was in real life.
posted by Sara C. at 12:57 PM on October 4, 2014


The last person we introduced fresh to TWW was 7 years ago, and that worked; she took a couple of episodes to get into it and then lived it.

I think this is one aspect of a television series like this that I appreciate so much: the community it creates. I have met so many people who have fallen into this series and once they truly get it, they cannot stop or get enough. I myself have watched the series about five or six times in its entirety. And that does not count the specific episodes that I jump to when I'm needing a particular fix for a certain episode.
posted by Fizz at 6:34 PM on October 4, 2014


I adored The West Wing the first time I saw it -- I'd relisten to it when I was working about the house just to hear the jazz of the dialogue. However, I bounced pretty hard off Studio 60 (probably before it got properly going) and really *really* hard off The Newsroom, which I found a smug, fatuous, patriarchal, liberal fantasy of what newsrooms should be without addressing any of the hard questions.

More than that, Sorkin REUSED so much stuff that had been in The West Wing, from the plaster falling on the desk before our hero to paraphrasing his own dialogue in chunks to embarrassing the women characters over and over.

When I went back to the West Wing for a rematch after that, I couldn't. All the Sorkinesque tics that infuriated me in other things he has done suddenly stuck out in TWW. It was awful not to be able to love it the same way.

I will say this: popular wisdom says that The West Wing is rubbish after season three. Popular wisdom is wrong about the end of s6 and s7. Some of those episodes are excellent.
posted by finisterre at 4:01 AM on October 5, 2014


I wonder how many dot com "industry placement" scenes there are in Season 1 of The West Wing.

Not a noticeable amount. Though I did notice a bit of Gateway product placement in the form of CJ's laptop. Of course, that sort of thing is de rigueur nowadays, so it didn't jump out at me for its mere existence, just that it was product placing Gateway lolololol.

Interesting fact upon a third rewatch of the first five episodes: none of the primary characters, with the exception of CJ, have computers on their desks. Assistants have computers. Sam, Josh, Toby, Leo, etc do not have computers. CJ's computer is a laptop, which would have been very unusual at the time.
posted by Sara C. at 10:29 AM on October 5, 2014


The internet is certainly mentioned in the first season, though, as any TV show of that era that dealt with current events and American life would have to. But, yes, more as an investment tool than as a form of communication or way of interfacing with the world.

I've been slowly watching season 3 (2001-2002) in the last few months, and there've been a few major plotlines that dealt with the internet as an actual thing: Donna is offered a job at a startup that sounds vaguely like either The Drudge Report or Huffington Post, and Josh discovers a fan website dedicated to him.
posted by Sara C. at 10:33 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


My favorite internet bit in WW is when Josh makes the mistake of engaging with the Josh Lyman fan forum. It's a doofy episode to begin with, but made doofier by the fact that for some reason he dictates to Donna all of his forum posts. I realize they need to have his posts verbalized somehow for that storyline to work, but still. Can he not type?
posted by brundlefly at 1:35 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I watched the first episode of The Newsroom and I found Jeff Daniels' famous rant incredibly obnoxious. So much so that I didn't return to the series. Is it worth returning to at all?
posted by brundlefly at 1:38 PM on October 5, 2014


Is it worth returning to at all?

Yeah it gets really good, it finds it's feet after 3 episodes like all Sorkin shows.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:44 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


My favorite internet bit in WW is when Josh makes the mistake of engaging with the Josh Lyman fan forum. It's a doofy episode to begin with, but made doofier by the fact that for some reason he dictates to Donna all of his forum posts. I realize they need to have his posts verbalized somehow for that storyline to work, but still. Can he not type?

In 1998, I was a personnel officer for the largest military intelligence battalion in the U.S. Army. Part of my job each day was to log in to my commander's email account and print out the three or four emails he got that day and put them in his inbox. He would then write his responses on those printouts, and I would send the replies. Let me say that again -- this was a senior military intelligence officer, in a unit that had literally hundreds of millions of dollars in computers. In 1998. You want to tell me that senior White House staff didn't do their own typing four years later? I can absolutely, 100 percent believe that.
posted by Etrigan at 1:44 PM on October 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Fair enough!
posted by brundlefly at 1:46 PM on October 5, 2014


The first two seasons are the very very best. 3 & 4 have highs and lows (all of the lows are terror/Middle East-centric Islamophobic, Muslim-hating stories), and 5 is a near-unmitigated disaster (SotU episode and "The Supremes" are the mitigating factors). 6 & 7 become very good television indeed, but 6 & 7 aren't The West Wing.

It's incredibly shallow and insensitive and narrow and so on to say that "the terrorists ruined my tv show," but, with the hindsight of 13 years and several rewatches (not all of them complete), I'm confident in my opinion that yes, that's exactly what happened.
posted by tzikeh at 2:28 PM on October 5, 2014


Nah, Aaron Sorkin's cocaine habit and inability to delegate ruined your TV show.
posted by Sara C. at 9:47 PM on October 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Damn, Sara C., as a guy who got hooked on Sorkin with Sports Night and The American President, I wish I could favorite that comment about twelve billion times.
posted by Tknophobia at 11:48 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Allison Janney must be one of the most delightful people in the world.

I bumped into her (literally) at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Studio City, CA some time around 2003 or 2004 and she was, indeed, delightful.
posted by GatorDavid at 3:31 PM on October 6, 2014


Is it worth returning to at all?

Yeah it gets really good, it finds it's feet after 3 episodes like all Sorkin shows.


I'd add one small note: the way that women are written in The Newsroom is borderline unwatchable. Some episodes I'm basically screaming at the television. And while The West Wing had its fair share of sexism:

Josh running like a little boy to tell Toby that "Sam is getting beat up by a girl." on a television panel because oh dear, the very idea. *sighs*

I watch The Newsroom because I like how it examines the media but there's a whole lot of shit that makes it terrible. Take it with some salt.
posted by Fizz at 3:40 PM on October 6, 2014


The West Wing is a show where the battle between idealism and pragmatism is constant and ever-changing and which side is the right side is never clear from moment to moment. The Newsroom is a show where a smug sexist aging boomer is right about everything because Sorkin gets to make his world fit his worldview.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:44 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


That's pretty much what I got out of the first episode.
posted by brundlefly at 4:03 PM on October 6, 2014


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