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The West Wing Review…

The blog has been pretty quiet for the past few weeks. This was surely either because I had nothing to write or I had suddenly got a social life. However it was neither and the truth is if I wasn’t sitting watching live sport, Masterchef Australia or working I was watching The West Wing. Like most TV shows I didn’t get into it at the time but I enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom so thought I’d give his more famous show a spin. In the past month I have watched the whole thing, from season one through to the final show in season seven. This means I’ve averaged around six to seven shows a day. This proves why I’ve hardly blogged.

The fact that I didn’t give up is either a testament to how great it was or maybe I just kept going out of sheer forcefulness that I wanted to see it through. It was a bit from column A and a bit from column B, but there was one slowly developing storyline that I just had to see through to the end, the Josh/Donna one. They were found to end the show as an item. It was clear. The question was how would they get these two characters to finally get it together. I’ll talk more about this in a separate blog with the rest of this one talking about everything else.

It stunned me how I could watch seven season’s of a TV show without really liking many of the characters. I didn’t like Dr. Bartlet, I didn’t like Toby Ziegler, I didn’t like Will Bailey one jot, I wasn’t exactly a big fan of Leo McGarry either. I did like Josh Lyman but his character went a bit nuts and that had to do with Donna Moss so I can at least see why that character went that way. This leaves me with liking the aforementioned Donna, CJ Gregg and Sam Seaborn of the regulars in the first few season’s.

The final year with the campaign saw two major new characters in Senator Vinick (who I really liked) and Congressman Matthew Santos (whom I was indifferent to). Annabeth Schott came in and seemed a relatively pointless addition as did Kate Harper. So all in all I actively disliked more main characters than I liked, yet I stuck with it.

One of the really good things about the show however were the subplots. CJ Gregg was the Press Secretary and fell for Washington Post White House Correspondent Danny Concannon. However she felt it inappropriate to have an active relationship with a member of the press so didn’t pursue the relationship. This storyline ebbed and flowed and when Danny suddenly came back because he had the scoop on the assassination of the Qumari Defense Minister. It was a good move to bring him back to deal with that storyline but it was his relationship with CJ that needed a happy ending. In the final few episodes he returned in an attempt to reignite their relationship and it was he and CJ that got the emotional scene to seal their relationship:

What I love about that scene is how venerable CJ is and how she finally trusts someone and that person is Danny. He’s always been there in the background and in the end CJ realises that life isn’t easy but there is someone there ready and willing to help her through life. As we know from the flash-forward at the start of the first episode of season seven, Danny and CJ are together and have twins.

There were other enjoyable subplots and minor characters. I loved Joey Lucas. I enjoyed both Ainsley Hayes and Joe Quincey (Matthew Perry). I thought Admiral Fitzwallace was superb as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. However on the other hand I really disliked Amy Gardner and Debbie Fiderer. Why did they kill off Dolores Landingham? That just made no sense to me whatsoever.

Overall I think I enjoyed the show but I needed more characters to really like. Remember that originally Donna wasn’t meant to be a regular character and it was only when everyone noticed the chemistry she had with the actor who played Josh that she was essentially promoted to a main character. That may have been the best decision the show ever made. Martin Sheen too was originally only signed up to do four shows a year as President Bartlet, but that quickly changed when it was clear his character was a fantastic one.

So that is what I’ve been doing the past few weeks. The West Wing was good but the deterioration after Aaron Sorkin left was clear for all to see. Will Bailey was clearly no Sam Seaborn and the show lost a lot when Rob Lowe left. I did however really like the symmetry for Sam when Josh went and got him out of LA to work for him again, just like he did in the first instance. Clever touch that.

Still for me the Josh/Donna chemistry made the show and at some point I’ll go into more depth about that…

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  1. Did you know in the final season, they were going to have Vinick win the White House and perhaps follow his administration but when John Spencer died, the actor who played Leo McGarry, they decided to change the outcome of the election and have Santos win.

    I still to this day like Santos’ defending the word “liberal” in the live broadcast of the “Election Debate” episode.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      I did indeed. If you look back at the flash forward in the first episode of S7, it is clearly Vinick stepping out of the car as the arm is white.

      I did enjoy that. The word ‘liberal’ has a terrible rep. However overall I wasn’t that keen on Matt Santos apart from his monologues.

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