Tonight's West Wing

First of all, did anyone else think that ending felt tacked-on and, dramatically, a cop-out? I expected a thrilling climax, instead… oh, we found her. The end.

It’ll be interesting to see how this show settles down post-Sorkin now it’s out of this crisis story line. But I fear a steep decline based on what I’ve seen so far and the scenes from next week’s show.

Still, what can they do? That show was Sorkin, and now there is no Sorkin.

Yeah, last night felt disjointed, especially compared to last week’s tension builder.

I’m just really terrified at the idea of John Wells at the helm. He took ER from what was basically an “action” medical show into a meandering soap opera. I don’t watch Third Watch, but judging from the “3-way cop shootout” season finale being hyped in the commercials, it sounds like it turned into an improbable soap opera as well. And now we’re starting to see this build-up in West Wing.

  1. Abby’s gonna hate Leo.

  2. Zoey looks like she’s in total shell shock (can you blame her), but I hope this doesn’t drag out.

  3. As soon as I saw the bathroom scene (finally, they show us a White House bathroom), I knew we were watching a John Wells show. Cause like David Kelly, John Wells seems to have a thing for putting dramas in bathrooms. Literally and figuratively.

That said, there were a few things I liked last night.

I’m gonna miss John Goodman’s character. Agreed that his President seems much more “human” than Bartlett. Especially on that call to the family of the deceased Marine.

I loved how Atwood slammed Josh down. Pot calling the kettle black, Joshie.

Glad Zoey made it, cause she’s hot :P

I was hoping for more on this, too. I thought they’d drag out the Zoey thing for at least half the season; Goodman was a much-needed change of pace. Now, we’re back to the feel-good, ideological pablum. I’m just a little tired of the liberal sap. Conservative vinegar is a nice contrast.

Not that I’m on a political soapbox, but I find it a little bothersome that Goodman was chosen for the role (although I enjoy his acting). He’s kind of a conservative stereotype: a fatcat, in all regards. His girth is kind of a subliminal “over-indulgence” and “American excess” message. Maybe the producers didn’t see it that way, but I suspect they’re pretty smart people. And his calling of the families was kind of a right-brain smackdown saying, “See! People feel! People hurt when you go to war! War is bad!” And Goodman’s character was visibly drained by what he implied is the “unfun” part of the job.

Though you are right that the ending came sort of abruptly, that is how these things probably turn out (well, usually the victim is dead, but that’s neither here nor there). I doubt that they could have sustained the crisis mode for more than another week or two anyway - this isn’t “24”.

Not a big fan of Mrs. Bartlett, myself, so if she ends up being the straw that breaks Leo’s back and send him back to the bottle, I will not be amused.

The pacing is still pretty good, and I don’t think that the writing misses Sorkin all that much. Once you’ve worked on a set with the same characters for a while, it probably gets a lot easier to write for them. Hell, even Ashton Kutcher could churn out a passable “70s Show” script at this point.

It will be nice to get back to the politics, in my opinion. The Zoey abduction plot was exciting and tense, but few of the characters really got a chance to shine.

The local ABC is showing West Wing in syndication late on Saturday and Sunday nights (12:30ish). Comparing the early episodes to the new ones is certainly interesting. At this point, I think that the much lamented decline in quality is overstated and is more evidence of a tired audience than a tired show.

Troy

I’m currently re-watching West Wing Season 2 on Bravo - when the show was at its absolute peak - and the difference between then and now is night and day.

I agree that Wells is likely to take the show the soap opera route. Next week’s trailer is already pumping up steamy love scenes. Wasn’t avoiding this kind of cliched interpersonal drama a big part of what made TWW different and special?

The only part of Sorkin’s writing I won’t miss is the oh-so-snappy quick-fire dialog. Aside from that, the guy is an absolute genius, and I can’t remember the last time that a writer’s fingerprints were so obviously missed. I’m really not looking forward to the rest of this season at all. It’ll be a real shame to see such a great program get flushed down the toilet of NBC drama cliche.

The only part of Sorkin’s writing I won’t miss is the oh-so-snappy quick-fire dialog.

Ah, see, that’s the thing I love about Sorkin. It’s the reason I own the DVDs/Tapes for Sports Night, The American President, and A Few Good Men. The dialog is not only geared toward someone who graduated college, but it fired off at such a pace that I’m reminded of the days when Dennis Miller actually had something funny to say.

Sorkin is an extremely entertaining writer but he’s got one big problem: every character sounds like the same person. This is less evident with some of the better actors (Bartlett, Leo, CJ, and Toby) but there were times when the rest of the gang, and especially any guests, could have been the same person rapidly firing quips to a mirror.

Watch one of those older Bravo reruns and count how many times people say “Ok” as a response. It’s an absolute crutch for Sorkin.

This is the reason I didn’t jump on the West Wing bandwagon when it first came out. The majority of the characters seemed to be clones of the same over-educated smartass. After a while, it didn’t bother me – but the forced dialogue pacing remains a distraction.

Not West Wing rant: I have the same problem with Ed. Every damn character has that same, wannabe-goofy, wannabe-offbeat sense of humor. Too much of the same spice in that recipe. But my wife has forbidden me from openly criticizing one of her favorite shows, so I do it here. :)

I grew to admire it. Some of those rapid fire conversations with 3 or 4 people were like music. I felt like Sorkin was conducting, rather than writing! (Ok, I might be over-reaching here.) That’s why it doesn’t always matter, in West Wing, if you catch all the dialogue.

Is it just me, or are people talking faster on TV in general? West Wing is the best example of this (or Gilmore Girls, with more inane topics) but there seems to be a lot more dialogue with short sentences or two word phrases.

I get the music thing though, Andrew. There’s a certain choreography to Sorkin’s writing at its best. At its worst, it’s “Bolero” - the same tune over and over again only louder.

Troy

That’s a much better analogy.

I skipped seasons 2 through 4. What happened to Rob Lowe’s character?

On the show: a dead Democrat managed to win the Orange County House seat in a gigantic upset win (the campaign was managed by Will Bailey). But since the candidate was dead, they had to have a run-off election, and Sam, thinking that it would never come this, had promised the widow that he’d run if it came to that. Thus Sam ran, was beat, but decided to leave the White House and start working on his own political career. So Sam left, and they brought in Will Bailey, son of a former NATO Supreme Commander, to replace him.

Behind the scenes: Rob Lowe was upset about several things, according to reports. Like Martin Sheen getting a ton more money than him, not enough spotlight for Sam Seaborne, and maybe he was just figuring it was time to move on. Replacing Rob Lowe with Josh Malina also allowed Sorkin to bring in one of his favorite actors onto the show. Malina, if you remember, was on Sports Night.