Somehow the planets over Georgia were not aligned when The West Wing first aired on network television. Or maybe they were but my telescope was put away. Either way, I didn’t watch a single episode over seven seasons.
A year or so ago one of my friends (either Devin or Amy) said, “You should watch The West Wing. You’d love it.” So, my wife and I started watching it together last year. For us it is the binge-watch by which all others will be defined.
Devin or Amy was right. Actually, both of them.
The West Wing is about a Democratic administration that leans typically left. (It isn’t far enough left for Communications Director Toby Ziegler, whose political preference runs from center-Left to Left to far Left to Field of Dreams.) However, I thought most positions–on all sides–were argued strongly, and they writers weren’t afraid to let Democrats go down in flames on occasion.
See: Ainsley Hayes vs Sam Seaborn
Perhaps the former politicos involved had something to do with it. From Wiki:
Former Senate aide Lawrence O’Donnell and former White House aide and presidential campaign speechwriter Eli Attie were both longtime writers on the show (O’Donnell for seasons 1-2 and 5-7, Attie for seasons 3-7). Former White House Press Secretaries Dee Dee Myers and Marlin Fitzwater and pollsters Patrick Caddell and Frank Luntz also served as consultants, advising the writing staff for part of the show’s run. Other former White House staffers, such as Peggy Noonan and Gene Sperling, served as consultants for brief periods.
Here are some reasons to binge-watch all 150+ episodes.
It gives a behind the scenes look at how election strategy works.
You see the machinations, manipulations, and self-interests of both parties. You are reminded that good people and good causes are left twisting in the wind because someone else promised something better.
While faith is treated seriously, charlatans are not. This is clear from Season 1, Episode 1.
You see the quirky things that can happen on the trail. I loved the two episodes in which half the team misses the campaign motorcade and must hitch rides and finagle their way back to DC.
You’re reminded how an offhanded comment can affect the next stop of the campaign tour. Broccoli, anyone?
It humanizes both parties. (With no apologies to NARAL which apparently wouldn’t know a human if he or she fell on them.)
You get an idea for the unbelievable number of world-affecting decisions under consideration often at the same time. And, that some of these result in massive cover-ups.
You are reminded of the stress level of the presidency.
You are reminded there are still a few authentic patriots, though their number may be ever dwindling. Again: Ainsley Hayes.
You see how major stories can be hidden. See: President Bartlet’s Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
You see the personal side of a president, albeit a fictional one. The West Wing does a great job of portraying the human side of the presidency: kids don’t always behave, marriage needs attention, emotions can get totally out of control. President Jed Bartlet shows fear, uncertainty, boldness, hesitancy, contemplation, wisdom, worry, strong faith and strong doubt. Bartlet isn’t the perfect president or the perfect man, but he wants to be.
You will understand why your most conservative friends who watched The West Wing will repeat “Bartlet for America” every four years, even though they hold positions diametrically opposed to his.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, The West Wing is in the queue and I need to push “play.”
Thanks to my wonderful wife, Sonya, and my co-worker, Carol Pipes, for their contributions to this post.