I hate being sick. A few days ago I caught a bug that left me bedridden for a few days. There were times when I barely had the strength to change the channel. Then I would find something interesting to watch like a documentary on the History Channel and I would fall fast asleep. Most of the weekend was spent watching the What's Happening!! marathon on TV Land. So you can imagine I was in need of some intelligent television.
Last Sunday at 8 PM The West Wing aired a live episode. This was a big deal. My wife Donna and I love the excitement of a live TV broadcast. Could something go wrong, be it a human or technical error? At one time all TV was live. I remember seeing live plays being broadcast on network TV. ER did a live show a few years ago, the sitcom Roc did a whole season of live episodes. Today many reality shows like to have live finales.
I have been a fan of The West Wing since the show first aired. I know that my top ten list of reasons why I love the show are the same reasons why other people hate the show. Even with changes in front of and behind the camera the show continues to set a standard of TV excellence. These past two seasons have brought more changes. New characters are coming in and familiar faces will soon be leaving. With the election story line either Congressman Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) or Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) will be the new president (I'm hoping for Santos).
When a show is done well I am willing suspend disbelief. A pro-life Republican candidate? A debate where the candidates throw the rules out the window? Maybe this is something we'd like to see in real world politics.
Vinick: When the greatest hero in the history of my party, Abraham Lincoln, debated, he didn't need any rules, we could junk the rules.
Santos: OK, let's have a real debate.
While Ellen DeGeneres was trying to get me to ruin my credit rating by getting me to sign up for the new American Express One card. I told my wife that I love to see intelligent dialogue over car crashes. She pointed out that other people would be turned off by the show for the same reason. I hope that viewers who share my opinion are in the majority and I think they are. After the fictional election is over and a new fictional president is sworn in, I hope that viewers stay tuned and in a few years we will debate who was the better West Wing president Bartlet (Martin Sheen) or TBD? At the end of the day The West Wing’s greatest legacy will not be it’s Emmys or SAG Awards, but the fact that the show got real people talking about real politics.
I'd like to see The West Wing do another live show soon. Perhaps an election eve show that also features Tim Russert with his dry erase boards.