Syndication Files 11.24.10: The West Wing
Posted by Porfirio Diaz on 11.24.2010
The West Wing is a highly approved melodrama involving United States President Martin Sheen and his fictional Democratic administration. In short, it’s a show about politics and other political stuff. Wait, don’t leave! It’s not as boring as it sounds. It’s actually the most riveting political program ever. I promise! We’re taking a power walking trip inside the White House on this State of Union Address edition of the Syndication Files!
Any chance we might get that Spongebob column? I've always wanted that stupid sponge to be knocked down a peg.
Posted By: Richard Stamos (Guest) on November 17, 2010 at 12:48 AM
I love it when people request television programs with the only purpose in mind being that I shred them apart with a grainy saw and gnaw on their delicious insides. That means I'm doing something right! That reminds me - Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I know that I already answered this request in the comment section last week (which you can read here… and since you're already going there, why not stay there and enjoy the Muppetivity), and I was in favor of doing a SpongeBob Squarepants column. Unfortunately, the show is presently ongoing as we speak. One of my rules for the Syndication Files columns: canceled shows only (with reasonable exceptions). I have standards and those standards will not be besmirched!
I SAID I HAVE STANDARDS PEY-PEY! Stop glaring me with your unwavering eyes!
By the way, nice choke job there, Manning Bros.
There you have it. I would rather let television shows be until their eventual death (cancellation) by natural causes (network executives) or unless they do a great job in knocking me off the "calm of mind and doesn't get me totally pissed off" tree. My Super Sweet 16 fills the latter, if you want to know. Have you read that particular column yet? Glenn Beck called it a great triumph in public literature and douchism.
Further reading: last year's Thanksgiving Syndication Files column: The Wonder Years. I love giving.
The Vincent Price video is my favorite version of that song.
The huge Muppet Monsters are still kinda freaky. I've always wondered why the tiny Muppets would even want to work with something that could eat you if you slightly ticked it off.
Even today, I'll look up Muppet Show clips on Youtube just to pass the time. I even have the first two DVD collections.
Did you ever watch the two short-lived Muppet Show reboots they tried to do with "The Jim Henson Hour" and "Muppets Tonight?" They were both watchable, but something was clearly missing from both.
Posted By: JLAJRC (Guest) on November 17, 2010 at 07:07 PM
Either the tiny Muppets know they're the nicest rowdiest bunch of Muppet Monsters around or the show is trying to promote healthy eating. Those tiny Muppets can't be good for the digestion system. I bet it's nothing but tofu and couscous for those Muppet Monsters. Yuck.
Speaking of promoting healthy eating, remember the time Cookie Monster dropped his all-cookie diet in favor of moderate fruits and veggies? Yeah. On that note, my entire world continues to be a lie.
I do remembering watching Muppets Tonight. You hit it right on the head when you said that something was clearly missing. The creative sparkle which appeared in full monty during The Muppet Show did not present itself here. However, I did like the modern television parody sketches. Bay of Pigswatch and Deep Dish Nine: The Generation of Pigs in Space quickly comes to mind.
The Jim Henson Hour is something I'm not familiar with but I figure it must be on a similar structure level as Muppets Tonight - a continuation of the Henson's previous carnation of televised Muppet theater.
Finally, meep meep meep. Oh Beaker, you so crayza.
Needs more MUPPET BABIES!
Posted By: MBD (Guest) on November 18, 2010 at 12:04 AM
THEY ARE NOT OF THIS WORLD! RUN BEFORE THEY BREED AND PURSUE YOU IN NUMBERS!!
Welcome political nannies to a patriotic edition of the Syndication Files. With last Monday's results, I think we can conclude that The Miz is by far the biggest reality star to come out of the "reality programming" era. Name me one other person who put in the work and accomplished as much as he did? Lauren Conrad? Kim Kardashian? Please. Although as sad as it is for me to say this, let's check back to this question in five years once the Situation becomes President of New Jersey.
The Niners lost again. There goes the season and everyone else within the organization. Time to relive the Giants championship celebration again.
Ahh... that's nice. Onwards to the oval office!
Syndication Files #67
The West Wing
Justice, hope, and a touch of dramatic music
I'm not what you consider a "politics" guy. I find it to be a confusing madhouse of bias corporate sponsorship. I can't tell from "right" to "left". I think most politicians are corrupt and packed full of lies. When I think of the elephant and donkey party symbols, I think of the world's most one-sided fights caught on tape. Not only would an elephant easily trample over a donkey, but I figure an elephant would be a lot more fun to ride as well.
("Ha-ha! Smithers! This reminds me of that fat man I used to ride to work!")
I would rather talk about Sarah Palin's new reality show and America's fascinated hatred for "Dancing Finalist and Unfriendly Facebook User" Bristol than listen to Sarah's issue on gun control… unless she was wearing a bikini to prove... something.
Not quite but that'll do.
But despite my political disinterest, I still somehow find political mediums in media to be engaging. Look at this list of some of my favorite movies of all time: Citizen Kane, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Wag the Dog, and 12 Angry Men. These are movies that provided a voice for political philosophy and moral dilemmas but more importantly, told an attractive story with some well tuned drama. Politics can be a fine vesicle for a movie proposal of any genre (less political drama, more political horror – "The dead have risen and are voting Republican!") as long as it's compelling and/or chalk full of satire.
Politics also works well within the network television medium, especially political satire. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Hardball with Chris Matthews. They all provide the perfect amount of political comedy and newsworthy arguments that I need to even stay interested in political affairs. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert makes politics fun to watch! Politicians involved in full blown sex scandals helps a lot too.
My vote is for the sea cucumber.
But there's also one non-satirical television show that deserves mention and that's…
…wait… Hardball with Chris Matthews isn't political satire? But the genuine levels of comedy… I COULD HEAR THE MAN ON MUTE! My world is getting worse and worse.
But now it's on to the debate at hand. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends: on behalf of 411mania, I bring you the smartest political show ever presented on television - The West Wing.
Game on, boyfriend!
Riveting. I have no idea what either of them are saying but riveting nevertheless! Bravo! I would also mention that "Game on, boyfriend!" makes for a great rally cry. Try it. I dare you.
The West West (September 22, 1999 – May 14, 2006) is a one-hour episodic political adventure surrounding the President of the United States and all of his men. Luckily, it's not as boring as it sounds. This dogmatic expose involving a dramatized version of politics with an authentic federal feeling became a critical hit. For someone like me who has little interest in politics and who has the attention span of a clock, for a show to be that heavy in politics and still hook me in has to be some sort of an accomplishment.
Aaron Sorkin, series creator, is no stranger to the dazzling lights of the small screen. Remember Sports Nights and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? Those are his other babies and I wept when they were taken off the air. Sandwich The West Wing between those two underrated shows and you have yourself an appetizing Aaron Sorkin Reuben trilogy. Look beyond the fence and you'll see an extension of his Hollywood résumé: A Few Good Men (writer - also based on his Broadway play of the same name), The American President (writer), Charlie Wilson's War, and 2010's best movie, The Social Network. That's one hell of a resume, making it tough to pin down what fans consider his greatest achievement to be. But some do consider his creation of The West West to be his Mona Lisa, his Stairway to Heaven, his Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, his flying car-copter made out of Lego (mine – age 10), and so on.
It's once again worth mentioning that The West Wing is a television show about politics! I can't stress that enough. How the heck did Sorkin hook the politically illiterate into a calculated melodrama where government crashes with personality?
The parables to end all parables
Answer #1: With scenes like that.
This is no lie – that is one of the best scenes I've ever seen. I was all ears when Leo McGarry was telling that story. It's the perfect inspirational allegory to help someone clear the blues or help someone escape from troubled circumstances. It's also the perfect description of friendship. Much like the parables of Jesus, McGarry conveys a simple message that's deep in beliefs and powerful in divinity.
Screw it. I'm printing it here for the non-viral peeps:
This guy's walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up "Father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey Joe, it's me, can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out."
- Leo McGarry
The show is aided by some superb writing and some of the best patriotic speeches around. But the one thing that I really like is how the dialogue is not too heavily complex for even the most politically inept person. The dialogue levels out accordingly to the average intelligence of the audience so that basically anyone could follow along. That doesn't mean you should stick your six-year-old son in front of the boob tube and expect him to become the next U.S. President. There are times when the dialogue becomes a little too politically fanatic and a little too rushed for many viewers, causing them to lose track of the plot. But otherwise, the writing is generally steady and given enough time to develop.
Especially during the power walk sequences. Man, did Sorkin ever love to abuse that feature.
Commercial Break #1
Mad TV gave viewers their own spin of The West Wing. Great impressions ahoy!
Wow, I understood everything! Watching this video gave me a better understanding of how the government operates. How keen!
Eh... actually the only thing that I got out of it was that you shouldn't sleep with hookers. They don't care about you! You're just another "Participant Trophy" to them!
Syndication Files #67 cont.
As much praise as I give the writing portion of The West Wing, I cannot push aside the equally excellent acting from the main players. It's almost like they're not acting at all! They materialize into real government officials the minute you see them on. The actors are so immersed in their parts that it's easy to mistake it for a CNN coverage story if not for the high intensity of cinematography.
Martin Sheen as President Bartlet shines throughout the series like a bald eagle. Although he's condescending at times, he's quite likable as our nation's leader. He's deeply compassionate for the people and for the environment. He's known for his dry sense of humor. He's the kind of guy that would fit right on The Daily Show. And he's been shot before (oops, spoiler aler… too late), so you know he's street tough.
Isn't that what we all want from our president?
Where is Brigadoon?
Once again, I got lost in their political ballyhoo. I'm the kind of person who needs to start watching from the beginning in order for me to grasp their language, especially considering a well-developed show like this.
The West Wing is more than just politics and great characters. It's about realism. It's about presenting a visual manifestation of how the government operates. It's the sort of show that'll help you understand how the wheels of a powerful administration turn. The show doesn't stray from controversial decisions or regrets. They really forces you to determine whether you truly believe in their development to make for a better tomorrow. There are many reasons to hate government (imaginary or authentic) but The West Wing sure knows how to induce a realizable argument on why you should believe in what they're selling.
There is never going to be what we call "the perfect government" nor is there ever going to be a strictly efficient group running our great country. It would have been nice to watch what a perfectly governed nation looked like (for once) but that's just the reality of the situation and it's one giant chaotic mess. The West West strives for reality and that's what they deliver.
But they also make this clear: there are no good guys and there are no bad guys. Just two parties trying to knock out the other with their ideology. I don't know what side Sorkin was trying to favor but I do think he drew a line down the middle... only for him to stand directly on it. President Bartlet is a Democrat and seem like he will die as a Democrat but as the superior leader of our country, he was willing to find common ground with the opposing party to achieve the ultimate goal. It's called "bipartisanship" and it's supposed to be the greatest goal American politics can reach. There's your balance - by turning both the Democrat and Republican parties into strange bedfellows. Both sides received the same amount of praise and criticism for their actions and both were willing to reconcile with each other for the greater good.
At least, I think that's what the show is stating…
Great acting, great writing, bah bah bah
Real compassion from a fictitious television show. Simply amazing. I am so moved! Bartlet for 2012!
By the way, so feel free to express your own political opinions in the column section. Just keep it connected to the television series. I wouldn't care otherwise.
Other network dramas make the mistake of presenting materiel that flies too often over the heads of their audience with complex dialogue and a messy plot outline. But The West West finds the balance that works well. The fine line between television drama and reality is almost nonexistence thanks to Sorkin's masterful political craftsmanship and his great attention to detail. It's even more amazing that it's a show about politics - the bore of all broadcast medium. But Sorkin's stellar series manages to challenge you with illustrated governmental issues and controversial ideals without skimping on the entertainment.
I'm just scratching the surface here. The West Wing is so deep and rich that I simply couldn't cover all the aspects of this great show, such as the discussion of other timely political problems (taxation, terrorism, abortion), the political similarities between their world and ours (Bartlet = Clinton?), the superb acting from rest of the characters (Allison Janney = the world's greatest White House Press Secretary), and the romantic tensions between office staff and family members. The series lost a bit of luster following Sorkin's departure after the fourth season but the series still held up fairly well all the way until the last day. If you're a political buff who has not seen this series or if you're just a fan of great television, The West West is your holy grail.
You don't need to be highly educated to enjoy this Grand 'Ole Flag. The heavy amount of politics doesn't take away what I consider to be smartest and most serious television shows ever created.
Maybe politics isn't so boring after all.
Commercial Break #2
Wait for it… wait for it… ahhhhh!
Anchor crew misses implosion. Viewers become witness to a different implosion. Break it down!
Tweet or Ban!
While you're here, check out our 411mania.com Twitter and Facebook feeds. Also, don't be afraid to bookmark 411mania.com for all your pop culture needs.
12/8/10 – X-Men: The Animated Series – December is off to a good start…
12/15/10 – Boy Meets World – Still going strong…
12/22/10 – Cancellation Compilation IV - The Final Chapter Video Game Based Game Shows – Wait, wait? Starcade? Yes. Video Power, the one with the maze filled with a gold mine of video games cartridges? Yes! Nick Arcade? Oh YES!
12/29/10 – The Wire – We're going to celebrate the New Year with an epic bombshell of a show. Tis will be a good month, indeed.
Lemmiwinks loves sexting. He knows your mom does too. It's the new foreplay.
Here's a sample of the story thanks to her mother, who is also a blogger for Chicago Now:
Katie loves Star Wars, and she was very excited about her new items. For the first few months of school, she proudly filled her water bottle herself and helped me pack her lunch each morning.
But a week ago, as we were packing her lunch, Katie said, "My Star Wars water bottle is too small. It doesn't hold enough water. Can I take a different one?" She searched through the cupboard until she found a pink water bottle and said, "I'll bring this."
I was perplexed. "Katie, that water bottle is no bigger than your Star Wars one. I think it is actually smaller."
"It's fine, I'll just take it," she insisted.
I kept pushing the issue, because it didn't make sense to me. Suddenly, Katie burst into tears.
She wailed, "The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle. They say it's only for boys. Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it. I want them to stop, so I'll just bring a pink water bottle."
It's one thing to harass obsessed nerds with an unhealthy relationship to their memorabilia or to their favorite fabricated superheroes. I can definitely poke fun to people like that. But Katie is just a little girl who likes Star Wars. That's all! She's not flaunting her fascination of movie characters like those who were in line for the new Harry Potter film. She's just an innocent little girl who has jerks for classmates. Rotten little jerks. So show your support for Katie and tell her that you support her cause!
Obviously that's not Katie. But look at it anyway! It's like holding a bundle of awesome in your arms.
On an unrelated note: I love nerd girls! … err… at least the ones that are of legal age.
Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone. Take the time to spend with your families, feast in the tradition of meat and stuffing, and enjoy a little of life's precious moments. Only then can you go out into the freezing cold in the middle of the night to buy that cheap $400 HDTV. Fill that hole in your heart with doorbusting deals. I'll see you there and don't get in my way!
And with that, I'm out of time. Out like Tony Parker's exploits of infidelity.