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"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Friday, 16 May 2003

Shaken, not stirred. And shaken a lot.

A few weeks ago in the comments/reply to BJ for an entry about The West Wing, I wrote, “It looks like Sorkin isn’t too far from sending all of his established stories and characters over the edge, and then having the new producers and writers deal with the fallout next season.”

Well madbard…dang, I had no idea that Sorkin would actually push Barlet over the edge too. It’s as if he really is burning all bridges, laughing maniacally and saying “Hey new writers…take that! The West Wing you once knew is now kaput. Rebuild at your own risk…by the way, good luck without me.”

It was odd seeing John Goodman appear suddenly. I think the last time I saw him on TV was when he was Eric Close’s character’s original physical body on “Now and Again” a couple of years ago. And as an aside, it was also good on a continuity level to see Harry Groener (a.k.a. former mayor of Sunnydale on Buffy) back as the Secretary of Agriculture.

From a writing/Sorkin-is-about-to-leave standpoint, it’s interesting but I wasn’t shocked, really. Sorkin has a history of pulling out all sorts of “What if…” scenarios and resulting consequences dictated by the U.S. Constitution. He’s shaped past dilemmas that rarely occur in real life, if ever (like this season’s finale) and culls his ideas from the more rarely needed (but imperative) sections of the Constitution. Not a bad way to learn about our government’s fail safes and quirks, really. I don’t know how accurate it is, of course, not to mention realistic, but it’s a natural move for Sorkin to sort of blow everything out of the water without, well, blowing everything completely out of the water. When Hoynes resigned, and even when Zoey was kidnapped, I knew the tough part wouldn’t be over for the President and the West Wing. It was all a build-up to something, and I thought fleetingly that Bartlet could resign…but then how could the show continue? Admittedly, I did not know that the President could, in effect, temporarily “resign.” But leave it to Sorkin to take advantage of this probably not-so-common knowledge in the majority of viewers and use it as his last plot device.

I just hope they don’t kill off Zoey Bartlet. And I wonder how many more interesting, Constitutional aces-from-sleeves the writers will have left. (I’m sure Sorkin and any other diligent writer of the show has the Constitution/Amendments/Declaration of Independence/ important federal law documents all parsed, highlighted and otherwise marked for possible story ideas.)

But please, don’t let this be where West Wing jumped the shark.

Posted at 5:53 pm | Filed under Television

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2 replies


  1. i would argue that West Wing ‘jumped the shark’ once Bartlett won the election. like everything was building to that, but once it happened no one knew what the heck to do about it (talk about lame duck administration!).

    then there is the whole feud with rob lowe and creating this weird story about sam going off to california (did he even win the 47th?) and four episodes where *writing* the State of the Union was a major plot point?!

    and if you can’t do anything with josh malina and winnie cooper, i mean danica mckellar, well you just are doing something wrong. 😛


  2. You have a point, BJ. I would disagree with the reelection as a single point of downfall, but I do agree with you on the skeptical writing for Josh’s character. The only big scenes they give him are in a conference room goading the intern writing staff. We’ve seen that about three or four times in separate episodes over the course of the last few months, and to be honest, I was tired of it already the first time it happened.

    Even with those wayward scripts, though, I’d like to hold my breath for next season, but realistically I probably won’t. This all reminds me of a quote from Steven Bochco (paraphrase): “If Aaron Sorkin got hit by a bus tomorrow, The West Wing would be *(@$%&!” Well, in this case he’s leaving alive and well, but without his presence, it’s So Long, Classic West Wing. Pardon the bad analogy but now I expect it’s something like losing the skipper and now having a manager-by-committee.