The West Wing…of our Hearts

Well, we’ve done it. Thirteen years after The West Wing series concluded, we’ve watched the whole thing in a matter of months. We are sad to see it go.  We had seven seasons worth of stay-in date nights, seven seasons worth of debate and seven seasons worth of delight. The final verdict is that we greatly greatly enjoyed the series. It joins the ranks of Gilmore Girls, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Psych as shows we enjoy and don’t have to feel morally guilty about watching (I’m looking at you, How I Met Your Mother).

Kelli’s Favorite Character: Unquestionably C.J. Cregg, both as press secretary and chief of staff. She is in need of approval from President Bartlett as a sort of pseudo-father figure, but when it comes to her convictions she is willing to oppose him if need be. The whole senior staff has this idealism thing going for them. They all join the campaign and later the White House staff because they believe Bartlett is a good man and the work he will do as president is good. C.J. Cregg is the most ideological of them all. That is what I like most about her character. She doesn’t get distracted by politics, but rather sees what is right and what is wrong. And she is able to play to this without loosing her credibility as a competent, intelligent member of the staff.

Ryan’s Favorite Character: Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), hands down. Toby was complicated, passionate, brilliant, and superbly morose. He was a delight to watch on screen because of his emotional flexibility,  flitting back and forth between humor and rage with a wave of his hand and a smirk and a glance. Although I was not a fan of the final arch for his character (two seasons was a long time to have him only occasionally in and out, but then even Bartlett was a rarity in seasons 6-7), I found Toby consistently entertaining, engaging, and, while perhaps not always ethically right, was always ethically righteous. A joy to watch from beginning to end, even if he was “too sad.”

Kelli’s Favorite Aspect of the Show: Even though the show was a bit more liberal-feminist than my liking, I really appreciated the strong female characters. Not strong and over-powering, just assured, competent, intelligent women working just as effectively in positions of power as the men.

Ryan’s Favorite Aspect of the Show: Having watch 8 dreary, un-funny episodes of the moronic and puerile new season of Arrested Development, I can appreciate more my favorite aspect of the West Wing: it’s maturity. While there are scandalous moments throughout the series (CJ Cregg with what’s-his-name when she’s at her hometown, for example), the show as a whole maintains an on-screen decorum seldom seen in any television show these days. When many of the country’s leading shows are mentioned to me — “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” etc. — it is usually with the caveat that, sandwiched in between the gratuitous sex and gore, there’s something worthwhile happening. Well, thanks, but no thanks. West Wing proves that a show can feature intelligent, well-acted, humorous drama without the frontal-nudity or rolling heads. It was mature, decorous, and respectful of me as an intelligent viewer.

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