e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


West Wing

I steal lines from The West Wing all the time: "It's like a meeting of the 'there but for the grace of God go I' club." And: "Education's the silver bullet." The DVDs of all seven seasons are definite comfort food for me. It's always been, for me anyway, a fantasy about the most earnest, literate, liberal workaholics you'll never meet.

Since becoming a writing program director I find myself quoting the show more and more (usually to myself). On the need to have professional development sessions that are purely intellectual and free of discussion of campus politics: "No palace intrigue" (echoing President Martin Sheen's desire to silence a political debate with the fist lady until they first exchange pleasantries). A few months ago on facebook I observed, "Directing a writing program is like that episode of West Wing where Martin Sheen tells the chief of staff 'I wake up energized in the morning but I never go to bed that way' and then they argue about who is holding whom back from being radical and then they totally have a bromance moment with each other and then sweeping music plays."

Of course the show could also be pretty sanctimonious at times. By literally stranding school children in the White House during a lockdown and having the characters take turns lecturing them, the post-9/11 episode pretty much made explicit what the show thought of its own mission, audience, and righteousness. And Nicole and I always make fun of the "Look at these women" conversation from Season 1, where three white guys marvel at the women (mostly their secretaries) working in the white house despite growing up in "a world that tells women to sit down and shut up."

Despite leaning a bit to heavy on Season 2, this list from today's AVCLUB is great. Ten representative episodes that show what a great drama was The West Wing. These ten episodes will have you quoting Martin Sheen, no doubt. Of course the show often mocked the notion of fandom, especially internet fandom, which puts an ironic spin on a list like this. Once the characters mocked a White House temp worker wearing a "Star Trek" lapel pin; Josh Lyman (who on various occasions during the show's run is harassed by online fans who are invariably portrayed as fools) patiently schools her: "Tell me if any of this sounds familiar to you: Let's list our favorite episodes...That's not being a fan. That's having a fetish." The West Wing-ers would disdain the AVCLUB.

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