Phew… A while ago we finished The West Wing. Seven seasons worth of politics, drama, screwball comedy, quickfire dialogue. Is it up there with Six Feet Under or The Wire in my appreciation? Not quite, but I definitely felt sad when it was over – 150+ episodes is quite the commitment, both on the part of the audience and the series’ cast and crew, and The West Wing managed remarkably well to remain relevant throughout its run, with the exception of its lowest period after the departure of Aaron Sorkin.
I wonder what it was like for Americans to follow the series as it was first aired. As much as I liked it, it’s difficult to fully relate to The West Wing‘s patriotism, its belief in the ongoing project that is America. As a European of reasonably left-wing persuasion, and with a bi-national background to boot, I find nationalism of any ilk utterly alien, yet these characters I’ve enjoyed watching and have been rooting for – right down to Toby Ziegler, possibly the one closest to me in his political outlook on things – have a fierce pride of their nation and, more importantly, what it can be that I cannot help but find fascinating.
Apart from this almost anthropological interest in the series, though, I defy anyone to watch The West Wing and not enjoy the series’ regular cast. There were a few missteps along the way, often when it came to characters on the other side of the political spectrum – until the last two seasons, The West Wing struggled to portray realistic, credible Republicans who weren’t moustache-twirling villains or vague concessions to alternative political persuasions – but the central cast was pitch-perfect pretty much from day 1. And anyone who doesn’t enjoy Allison Janney’s CJ Cregg is no friend of mine, simple as that.
What’s next for us, series-wise? Well, we’ve got started on a rather shorter presidential show, John Adams, and it’s a joy to watch Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney (whom I used to dislike intensely, mainly due to her character in The Truman Show – she was pretty much my female David Morse), but since we’re close to the end of House M.D. season 7 (and not a moment too soon!), it’s probably time to get started on another long ‘un. Mad Men? Or should we mop up some mini-series or one-season wonders, such as I Claudius (which, in this day and age, probably should be rebooted as iClaudius) or The Prisoner? And then there’s The Killing and Five Days and, and, and… Too many series, not enough evenings and weekends. Early retirement due to too many things to watch sounds just fine to me!