Calling it quits on the alternative universe

Like John Fay, I used to be a fan of West Wing for its first few seasons. I have also noticed its serious decline in recent years so I’m relieved to see that NBC have finally decided to pull the plug on this increasingly preposterous series. The stubborn insistence on portraying a Democrat president for six years after the last one left office can only be explained by obtuse partisanship or inertia. Neither reflects well.

One of the things that was attractive about the earlier seasons was that there was some attempt to portray “the other side” honestly. I’m thinking of Josh’s retort to Toby’s assertion that drug companies’ pills cost four cent to make: “You know that’s not true. The second pill costs them four cents; the first pill costs them $400 million” and Emily Procter’s sympathetic Republican: Ainsley Hayes. The experience of writing good arguments and quips for that character ought to have given them a clue as to how they might have portrayed a Republican White House. If the writers and producers had any guts, they would have had Bartlett lose the first election. After all, it’s a safe bet that a significant proportion of their viewers did actually vote Republican. Or perhaps, like the makers of the L-Word (of which more anon) they fancy that their viewing audience is solidly blue.

Instead they persisted with this alternative and increasingly irrelevant universe which foreswore the option of dealing with most of the issues which animate 2004-2006 era voters including, ironically, almost all Democrat voters, most of whom are driven to the point of derangement by the actual Republican president.

9 Responses to “Calling it quits on the alternative universe”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Yea, I miss Ainsley Hayes. Emily Proctor was much cooler on the West Wing than on CSI Miami.

    I don’t think it was really feasible to have Bartlet lose the first election though, because that would have required replacing the entire cast, which would have made it for all intents and purposes a different show. I’ve always thought of the West Wing as a re-play of the Clinton years, with the third season election as analogous to Clinton’s big victory in 1996. Of course, as you say, the farther we got from the Clinton years, the less relevant the show seemed…

  2. Frank McGahon Says:

    Yea, I miss Ainsley Hayes. Emily Proctor was much cooler on the West Wing than on CSI Miami

    Definitely. She’s actually a bit of a pain in the arse in CSI: Miami

    I don’t think it was really feasible to have Bartlet lose the first election though, because that would have required replacing the entire cast, which would have made it for all intents and purposes a different show

    But that’s a problem they created for themselves with the original setup. I guess that this would be the inertia reason - it’s easier to just stick with the same cast but I think it would be more interesting to see what way they could develop the show with a Republican president. You could have had a spinoff following some of the characters doing what they would have been doing in those circumstances, perhaps working for Democrat politicians, lobbying, or election campaigns. Or you could just scrap most of the cast and rely on the writing and the realism. Any of the issue based stuff would be much more natural if they had a Bush-style president. They wouldn’t even have to make him likeable - If they wanted to keep a Democrat-ish bias they could have shifted the focus to a Colin Powell type character and his battles with a Rumsfeld style character for the President’s ear.

  3. John Says:

    Ainsley - good God I loved her. She was my favorite tv character. She was smart, funny and good looking. And, a conservative! What’s not to like? (I don’t watch CSI so I didn’t know she was in that. Didn’t even know the actress’s name until now.)

    It would have been great if they could have made the show with a a Bush type White House, but Hollywood is incapable of that. If they had tried, most of the characters would have been caricatures.

  4. mahons Says:

    I guess they could have had a Republican Administration, but they wanted a drama, not a comedy.
    I think Republicans come off very well in the series. Alan Alda’s Republican Senator is portrayed as very intelligent and very statesman. John Goodman’s character was very noble in relinguishing the presidency which cost him Congressional seat. Furthermore, they’ve had characters debate both sides of the issues.

  5. Frank McGahon Says:

    …which is all the more reason why they could have had a drama closer to reality instead of this fantasy universe where the Democrats have a lock on the presidency. My problem is not so much the partisanship per se, but rather the fix they find themselves in because of that partisanship where, unlike the first couple of seasons, almost none of the issues that politically-motivated Americans are interested in now can be portrayed and discussed.

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