Remembering The West Wing

Once upon a time there was a show called The West Wing. It was about a fictional devout Catholic liberal who was the President of the United States, and his staff of idealistic but extremely intelligent individuals. The show ran for 7 seasons, mostly in the W. Bush era. As the righty Bush team of Chaney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell and all governed a nation, there was a parallel universe happening weekly on NBC lead by the lefty Jed Bartlet and his team of Cregg, Lyman, McGarry, Zeiger and all. Right away, I was on team Bartlet and it wasn’t even about politics for me as I was just beginning to understand things.

And around 50% of the North American population was on team Bartlet as well, which is what made The West Wing so popular. Josiah “Jed” Bartlet was a brilliant man who tried to govern as much as he could inside his ideology while attempting to play politics as well just so he could get things done. And he wasn’t afraid of showing his intelligence either as he assumed most people would want someone smarter than them as the person running their country. Bush W. did the opposite as he wanted everyone to be comfortable around him. The old saying was that you voted for Bush W. because he would be fun to hang around with if you invited him to a barbecue.

I’m not trying to go the easy route and hate on the 43rd president because that’s a little too obvious. I actually don’t think he’s that bad of a guy. After all he and I have a lot in common. We’re both passionate baseball fans and we both just stopped drinking when we realized that we weren’t getting the best out of ourselves in life. But The West Wing pointed out that you want and needed brilliant people in these power positions because it’s an extremely tough job. Perhaps Bush W. wasn’t on par with what we were seeing with The West Wing’s president. Perhaps, just perhaps, he wasn’t smart enough to have the job like Clinton, or Eisenhower were.

Of course it’s a television show and The West Wing was really about how the White House would run in a dream scenario. It’s real theme was really about how greatness and achievement always comes at some sort of cost. These people on the show were workaholics and they didn’t really have a life or understanding of human interaction. But they cared and they were smart and we perhaps needed them (in this fantasy world).

As creator Aaron Sorkin’s new show The Newsroom premiered its 3rd and last season yesterday, I am constantly reminded of The West Wing. There are a lot of similarities with the two shows: Office setting. Brilliant people. Fast dialogue while people are moving. Seeking the Truth. Sacrificing your life for a common good. Liberalism. Trying to fix a broken system. Etc… But The Newsroom is just not the same as The West Wing for whatever reason. I like The Newsroom a lot and I hoped it would stay on forever, but people don’t respond to it like I thought they would.

If you haven’t seen The West Wing, go back and watch it. There are some brilliant episodes and characters you’ll love. I reviewed every single episode awhile back. Take a look and listen to the Video Reviews:


– Matthew Toffolo


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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