I think the show speaks to many of us who may like Clinton's ideas but have been let down by his actions. (and I'm not talking the sex--more Clintons' desire to have everyone like him, and him thinking the best way to do that is to be malleable.) Martin Sheen presents a Clintonesque president with none of the flaws--President Bartlet has served in the military, is decisive and genuninely likeable.

I think liberals enjoy the show the most, because after getting hammered by conservatives for most of the last 20 years, this show is showing liberals who aren't knee-jerk or stupid, but liberals who are part of the system and whose ideals actually seem just and pure. The West Wing shows effective, politically powerful liberals, and I think that probably scares conservatives more than anything. Of course, the conservatives look at it as more liberal media bias and storm off in a huff. And yes, the show is mean to conservatives, at times--a recent episode showed a conservative getting hired by the Bartlet administration, and somewhat repudiating her beliefs to do it.

What really makes the show is the writing, directing, and ensemble cast. Yeah, that's three things, but they all mesh together so well. The cast includes Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Moira Kelly (quietly disappeared in the 2nd season, with Janel Moloney's character promoted to lead status), Allison Janney, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Benjamin Schiff, and Dule Hill. And tons of other incidental characters--think ER or Sports Night--which is appropriate because West Wing was created by executive producers of those shows (John Wells and Aaron Sorkin, respectively.)


NSA's comments are especially relevant considering the most recent presidential election. Those of us who aren't happy with Dubya will turn to The West Wing for our powerful liberal escapism. Bartlet is the dream liberal president and it's easy to get lost in that. Hopefully, it will continue to be as politically pointed as it has been.
I like "The West Wing". Really. Some episodes are not to my interest (eg. the "lame duck" episode recently), but overall it is well written and soundly cast. "President" Bartlet is a great guy, as POTUS's go. But with about 30% voter turnout in the recent election for a REAL president, it kind of worries me. I can't form a cogent, defendable-in-a-debate argument for why it worries me, but it seems that the success of a heart-warming fiction about a truly well-meaning and honest Executive is part of the general cynicism, disaffection, and lack of trust in ANY (real) political leaders that is so prevalent now.

There's a good reason for this. With every President of the last century (D. or R.) approving violent military action against such dire threats to US soil as Nicaragua and Granada, and the continued war against the poor occurring in the so-called "developed" world, how can we believe that the "little people" matter at all? Here in Canada, we just re-elected a (clumsily) corrupt tool of big business simply because he was less scary than the poorly-disguised Christian fundamentalist who was the second-runner!

So we shake our heads, think "Aw, fuck it!", and turn on the TV. Hey, it's Wednesday night! West Wing is on! Gosh, they're such good people.


Addendum: I recently read that Prime Minister Jean Chretien (the aforementioned clumsily corrupt tool of big business) is a big fan of The West Wing, and had arranged to visit the set. At first I found this weird, but on the other hand, he has Dubya to deal with in real life!
There's just something about a show that can feature The President of the United States (as played by Martin Sheen) throwing himself on the altar of the National Cathedral cursing God in Latin (he told Christ to "go to the cross", about the equivalent of "Screw you!" or "Go to Hell!")...and then top it off by having the cast assemble to Brothers in Arms as sung by Mark Knopfler (a song that should be classified as a munition of psychological warfare, at the very least, and its use restricted by the Geneva Convention for its capabilites for emotional devastation) ...

Robert Anton Wilson himself couldn't have come up with this one....

Martin Sheen has publically stated he's made an act of contrition for the cursing bit...He recorded some PSA's specifically for the occasion....Nice to know he's not going to burn...

For the record, here's the monologue:

(scornfully)

Gratias tibi ago, Domine.
In other words, Thanks a lot, God.
(long pause)

Haec credam a deo pio, a deo justo, a deo scito?

Cruciatus in crucem.
Go to the cross, Christ!


Cruciatus in crucem --

(with a dismissive wave of the hand)

eas in crucem!

NBC's show The West Wing is not for the intellectually or politically immature. It deals with current issues and even uses situations that the real White House has had to deal with. Aaron Sorkin has created characters who reflect the complexity of these issues and who, even in their competent attempts to deal with them, show us that the government is not a faceless object of unfeeling bureaucracy.

The fast paced-dialogue that is Sorkin's trademark evidences the characters' hard-hitting and yet human personalities as they each do their best to "serve at the pleasure of the President." Chief-of-Staff Leo McGarry is played by veteran actor John Spencer, who also played FBI Director Womack in The Rock. His wry humor and fatherly disposition, coupled with an unerring sense of judgment, make him the kind of Chief-of-Staff that other staff members know they can count on in a crisis. President Josiah Bartlett, played by the famed Martin Sheen, depends on Leo and is never disappointed. Bartlett's own keen awareness of the world around him and shrewd ability to assess a situation allow him to lead the free world down a path that any President would be proud of.

Deputy Chief-of-Staff Josh Lyman, played by the talented Bradley Whitford, manages situations with calm competence, despite the occasional flaring of temper or misplaced comment as in the series premiere. His secretary Donnatella Moss (Janel Moloney) assists him in dealing with whatever comes up and serves to create a just plain hilarious side-story to several episodes.

Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) is serious so much of the time that it's hard to tell when he's joking. But even without his dry wit, his passion and skill allow him to do his job better than anyone else could. Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (acting star Rob Lowe of Austin Powers) is a talented speechwriter who's also somewhat a geek-- but a likeable, witty, wordmeister of a geek.

Press Secretary Claudia Jean Cregg (Allison Janney of American Beauty and 10 Things I Hate About You) handles the press, taking care of all the administration's PR. With her sarcastic sense of humor and taking-care-of-business demeanor, it's easy to see why POTUS puts his trust in her capable hands.

Also starring are Dulé Hill as Barlett's highly competent and amusing assistant Charlie Young and Stockard Channing of Grease fame as the first lady.
Nickname for the western part of the White House which contains the Presidential Offices: the Oval Office, the Cabinet Room, the Roosevelt Room, the Press Briefing Room, and the offices of the President's executive staff. Originally designed by Thomas Jefferson, the West Wing and its offices were not built until 1902, under President Theodore Roosevelt. With six children in the mansion, quarters were getting cramped, so architect Charles McKim doubled the living space for the First Family and moved the offices out of the central mansion. The Oval Office and Cabinet Room were made permanent additions in 1909.

Sources: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/west-wing.html
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/whitehouse/timeline/1902.html
http://www.whitehousehistory.org/

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