The West Wing S02E05: And It’s Surely to Their Credit


My West Wing review hiatus is a reflection of my contempt for politicians and my disgust with politics as practiced in Australia and the USA.

I cannot remember being this appalled since Emperor Bush I went to war against Iraq and left the job unfinished, making sure there would have to be a repeat of the whole disaster. Especially the financial haemorrhage of public funds into private blood banks.

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The West Wing S02E04: In This White House


The themes of embracing the enemy and big pharma screwing the world are ambitious, and easy to trivialise.

Picking Emily Procter as the faux Southern Belle Republican who embarrassed Sam Seaborn on morning television almost failed at the outset. The dialogue she gets, and the scene in which she talks over Seaborn, make her seem less like a serious person than a spoilt brat with no manners rather than a serious rhetorical opponent. But maybe the ethic of talking louder and faster has always passed as impressive in American politics.

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West Wing S02E03: The Midterms


Series creator and principal writer Aaron Sorkin put a lot of kinetic energy into the episode to show us that things are back on track in the Bartlet White House after the chaos of the shootings.

Opening with CJ Cregg being barraged with interruptions and information thrown at her seconds from a press briefing, taking it all in her stride—all except remembering that people working on the grand unified theory are physicists, not psychics—is the definitive statement that she has found her equilibrium again after being the symbol of disarray in the previous two episodes.

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The West Wing: S02E01&E02: In the Shadow of a Gunman


If there is a ‘legend’ of The West Wing, these episodes are its bedrock, working emotional triggers and prompting the kind of sympathy for the characters normally reserved for the survivors of real and historic crisis situations. A mark of the writing and acting calibre is that these emotional triggers haven’t been eroded over time, despite the lacking surprise about the outcomes. Maybe because the kind of crisis we are presented with seems much more likely today than sixteen years ago, mainly because of Republican complicity with deregulating gun ownership.

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The West Wing S01E22: What Kind of Day Has it Been


It feels like this episode is a long introduction for the next two. Padded out by playing the introduction as a fast-forward opening, and replaying it again at the end. An amicable ‘town-hall’ speaking engagement for the president in Rosslyn, Virginia. Its sole purpose: to set up a cliffhanger ending.

The word cliffhanger has a disputed parentage. There is a school of thought tracing it to a literal cliffhanging episode in 19th century literature. An equally devoted school of literalists insists that it came into common use in the USA in the early 20th century, albeit without specifying the original intent, beyond crude methods to ensure patronage for continuing serials.

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West Wing S01E21: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics


There’s a return to focus in this episode. It’s on-message. Sorkin treats us to a conveniently cheeky stratagem to stack the electoral commission, some amusement to illustrate the tedious, nerve-wracking business of national polling, and the final instalment of the Sam Seaborn relationship with high class callgirl, and freshly minted law graduate, Laurie Rollins.

In its focus on electoral reform this episode shows its age. The game has entirely eclipsed the iniquities of the past to rise to new heights of partisan bastardry. For a long time, The West Wing was revered for proposing a Democrat agenda, should they ever reclaim the White House after Clinton’s less than glorious exit. It was part of the show’s lasting status as high quality television.

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The West Wing S01E20: Mandatory Minimums


The course of history has overshadowed some of the enthusiastic optimism of the fictional Bartlet administration, and no more so than for this episode, which features policy examples that have all worsened rather than improved over time. On top of that historical scuffing of the gloss, the episode is less a coherent whole than a roll-over continuity play. More like glue rather than the pieces it holds together, or a pause in the ongoing narrative, like a breath between sentences. I suppose it is testament to the fact the show had ‘arrived’ that it did not seem out of place for this episode to be a loose collection of anecdotes, none strong enough to be a unifying core theme, but all necessary to lead into future episodes.

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The West Wing: S01E19 Let Bartlet Be Bartlet


For all the talk in fan sites and snippets of media coverage about the haphazard writing of the scripts, the opening summary of this episode clearly shows a deliberate breadcrumb trail of suggestions, in previous episodes, that the Bartlet presidency has stalled. That summary tells us this will be the main focus of the present instalment.

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The West Wing S01E18: Six Meetings Before Lunch


A legendary episode among afficionados, for Allison Janney’s lip-synching of ‘The Jackal’ (Ronny Jordan, The Quiet Revolution, 1993). An act so out of character for CJ Cregg, and yet so naturally Janney, that Sorkin wrote it into the script after seeing her do it on-set during down-time. It’s an ingenious device to build Cregg’s character without taxing Janney to adopt alien characteristics.

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The West Wing S01E17: The White House Pro-Am


During the Clinton administration in the 1990s, the first lady was less passive than most since Eleanor Roosevelt. She had what is politely called ‘an agenda’. Meaning she arrogated to herself the privilege and power of a high but unelected state functionary. Hillary Clinton pursued ‘liberal’ causes that her husband thought too tough to fight in his own name. Her major project, the 1993 healthcare plan, failed to materialise. She is credited with playing a significant rôle in child health and welfare reforms. Subsequent to Bill Clinton’s presidency she did seek and win public office, in time losing the Democrat primary to Barack Obama, who made her his secretary of state.

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