Wednesday 27 January 2010
The West Wing Is the Greatest Show Of All Time
Many years ago - my Uncle said to me, "You must watch The West Wing," and I thought yeah right, whatever. No-one tells me what to watch. But he was persistent and he lent me the first season. And I began watching it. My life changed.
My brother started watching it. His life changed. One by one, we'd pass on this wisdom to people we knew, sometimes even strangers.
KID & BROTHER
You must watch The West Wing.
But I'm just trying to buy some groceries?
KID & BROTHER
Go home. Watch The West Wing.
The West Wing became everything. These days; I care about the world, I have an interest in American politics, I have some knowledge on important issues, I know how to write good dialogue. This all came exclusively from The West Wing. This show is, without doubt - the most perfect thing in the history of television.
The dialogue and humor are beyond anything I've ever known. It fills all these gaps that even Chaplin, Woody Allen and episodes of Frasier can't do. What's amazing is how it was done within the confines of quite serious drama. When Arrested Development was hilarious, it was to be expected - after all-- it was a wacky comedy. But this show was about POTUS (President Of The United States) and his staff.
What made the show immediately gripping is how it didn't portray these mightily important people as anything other than human, just like us mere mortals. Here is a great example - when Will Bailey (Joshua Malina) meets The POTUS (Martin Sheen - in his defining role)
We can imagine that being any one of us -- when having to meet The President.
The West Wing was around at an important time. It reminded us that America still has ideals and a beating heart at a time when the real administration was meddling with the Middle East and letting its most historic, beautiful town get lost in a sea of flood-water. It gave people hope, it made people dream. The characters in The West Wing were everything we want in politicians, in humans, in our friends--- they were good people trying to be great.
The power of the show cannot be better demonstrated than in this now legendary scene where the President challenges a radio presenter on her views of religion and homosexuality. Bartlet spoke in the way we all wish we had the knowledge, eloquence and imagination to do.
More than anything, I'm a comedy guy. And The West Wing filled that need in ways I never expected. Sorkin's rapid fire dialogue is more like dancing, than talking - and within the rapid paced talking there was always more wit and intelligence than you could find anywhere else on TV, or even film for that matter.
Here's the President Of The United States getting obsessed at Thanksgiving with the Butterball Hotline, which gives advice on how to cook a turkey. This scene is hilarious -- especially when the woman asks for his name, and the President realizes he probably shouldn't share his identity. Magic.
I'll finish with one of my favorite moments from a very early West Wing episode. The staff are out in a bar having some fun --- when a group of guys start to pick on the President's daughter, Zoey. An incredible scene -- full of all the things that made The West Wing the greatest thing ever to grace our small screens.
Go rent it/buy it/steal it -- you will not regret it.