The West Wing: A Smart Fairy Tale

I started The West Wing last night.  I watched it when it was on in the late 90's but have never re-watched it.  Josh and I watched the Sports Night pilot in preparation for an upcoming podcast and it was good but it really made me miss The West Wing.  So far I have watched the first 3 episodes and I really think this is the smartest television show ever produced.  I love how they don't fill you in on the plots immediately.  They talk about things before they clue you into what the characters are talking about.  This is exactly how a work place is.  Everyone is in the know but the new person has to jump in and catch on.  Aaron Sorkin is an amazing writer.  The fact that he ever worked in network television is amazing to me.  Not surprisingly he has never really been successful on network TV.  Sports Night was ruined by a bad laugh track.  Aaron was fired from The West Wing after the third season (and it never was as good again.) Studio 60 was totally mis-marketed to the American public.  It premiered the same year as 30 Rock and NBC couldn't market Studio 60 as a drama, they wanted it to be just like 30 Rock and it never found an audience.  So what did one of the greatest living writers learn from these experiences?  Well Aaron went to HBO of course.  His new show, Newsroom, premiere this June and is on HBO.  They won't force him to cut corners, dumb down his message or tell us when to laugh.  I am very curious to see if he takes the Fairy Tale approach to news coverage as he did with politics.

In the third episode of The West Wing, called A Proportional Response, President Bartlett (Martin Sheen, who never won an Emmy for this great performance) wants to respond to a downed American plane by totally wiping out the country that did it.  The Military says that we must respond with a proportional response.  But the President says what if we tell the world if you kill one American, we will destroy you.  That is what we want in our fairy tale world.  We want a President that will crush our enemies and protect us with all their might.  In real life 1999, the actual outcome of doing this wasn't known.  But today, real life 2012, it is painfully known to us and we are living with those repercussions every day.  Leo, his Chief of Staff, says we can't use the American Military as the Long Arm of the Lord.  Well we can, and we did, but it didn't turn out like a Fairy Tale.  Of course in this episode, the President puts his anger in check and does the "right" thing.  But what we are left with is the knowledge that there is no correct response when violence is the answer to violence, even when it is the right answer.  Man, I love morality plays.  We need more of them on television.  It is the perfect artistic place to ask hard questions.   So I wonder, will Aaron's new program portray the press that we all wished we had? Or will the program be about the press we actually have?  I don't know but I cant wait to find out.  I can't wait to experience these three years of The West Wing again, too.  When smart TV actually slipped passed everyone and somehow existed concurrently as popular TV.  I believe NBC shows The Voice or The Biggest Loser in The West Wing's old time slot.  Oh, where is the Long Arm of the Lord to wipe away that from my Television Landscape?

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Read my Blog about Aaron getting fired from The West Wing

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