Perambulating the Bounds

Friday, May 19, 2006

West Wing RIP

With sadness I watched the West Wing wind down its run. Obviously it either did or did not have the ratings to make it worth it for NBC to keep airing it, and with the plot wrapping up the final term of Martin Sheen/Jed Bartlett there wasn’t much point in going on. You’d be going over most of the same ground with Jimmy Smits/Matt Santos. Hostage crises, potential scandals, etc. The soap opera stuff is what would keep you going. What will happen with Josh and Donna, that sort of thing.

The big thing West Wing did was provide an alternate reality. It was a place you could go once a week for an hour and pretend like the country was led by wise and decent leaders who wanted to make the world better for as many people as possible, surrounded by talented people who were bright and also cared about the world. The show should have been kept on not as a commercial proposition, but as a public service for the mental health benefits it bestowed, part of MBC’s FCC license requirements.

The TV West Wing was a utopia, a place that does not exist and I doubt it ever did. Maybe a brief period during FDR, but even then I imagine the staff was split by much harsher internal rivalries. I would definitely be suspicious of claims for this sort of ideal environment in the Clinton administration. I don’t think the Clinton strategy of triangulation would have been inspiring to watch..

When the show ended, it was like waking up into a cold reality and no escaping it. The sensation was like the day Bush was first inaugurated: a cold and wet scene with the parade rolling slowly down the nearly empty streets of Washington, small clutches of protesters milling around and nearly as numerous as the thin groups of people attending to celebrate. Every day of Bushworld has had the same spiritual tenor. With the TV series over, all you are left with is the bleak, dispirited reality of that day.

But at least Jack Bauer will be back to make us feel not just good, but pumped about torture.


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