It was inevitable, was it not? Was this not NBC’s plan all along when they hired Rob Lowe to play an overly-sincere and affably comedic government official on Parks & Recreation that when the season ended we would all start thinking about Sam Seaborn, the over-sincere and affably comedic government official played by Rob Lowe on The West Wing? They must have, because it worked.
It even worked on me, and we don’t have television in the house. But when I went to click on the next episode of Parks & Recreation for my dinner-making entertainment a few weeks ago, I sadly realized that I’d already watched the last one. There were no more. But missing Amy Poehler morphed strangely quickly into missing Sam Seaborn, and then Donna Moss and CJ and Josh, and of course, the character who made both The Departed the recent Charlie Sheen escapades even sadder, the greatest president we’ve never had, Jed Bartlett.
So three weeks later I’m halfway through Season Five. It’s beginning to take its toll. You know how it goes: you forget which issues the real White House is dealing with and which are only on the show; you stay up too late to watch one more episode and start taking lunch brakes that are exactly 42 minutes and 23 seconds long; time itself starts to get all messed up. I mean, I literally watched a clip of the Daily Show the other evening and was surprised to find that we’re still talking about Republican nominees. What do you mean? We just managed to reelect a president with MS against all odds, and now we’re back here at square one? Nonsense!
But I will not apologize. Season Five is too far in to quit, but too early to pretend like I’m almost done. So I will instead validate my ridiculous time investment in re-watching all seven seasons of a TV show in seven points:
- It is true that I am a rather busy person who has no time for this. However, while 2/3 of my work requires 153% focus and brainpower, the other 1/3 takes about 3% of each. I might as well be doing something with the other 97% percent while I update website calendars and track my mileage and expenses, right?
- I have been writing a lot lately, but not so much in the way of creative writing. In lieu of having time to invest in my own creativity, The West Wing gives me a chance to study the work of a writer I admire, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin’s writing is so good, so unique in its tone, that when Mike and I finally rented The Social Network a few weeks ago, I knew instantly that he had written it. And yes, I live in a cave.
- Sorkin plays with chronology in a way that is amazing. West Wing episodes sometimes start in the middle of a story, at the end or elsewhere in the timeline. And yet, the pacing, the dialogue and the tone is so consistent, and his revealing of facts timed so perfectly, that it always works. Genius.
Also, tone is something I can’t study enough. I’m not good at making stuff up, I don’t do dialogue well and I’m about the worst poet on the planet, so tone is what I’ve got. Tone is my big guns, and Sorkin is the contemporary king of it. Or president of it, as the case may be. So I should understandably immerse myself in his work.
- Last time I watched The West Wing I quit my job, went back to grad school and changed careers. (I wanted to be Toby, of course.) What’s the worst that could happen this time?
- Gunshy is still very sick. All my life plans are cancelled. I’m a 24 hour-a-day, 7 day-a-week puppy nurse. What else should I be doing with my time? How else am I supposed to escape from the awful reality of being scared and stressed about losing your baby all day and night?
- Every character on The West Wing is passionate about what he or she does. They have a vision and give that vision their complete focus and being. While here in reality we go through periods of more and less inspiration, they are all excellent fodder for getting more inspired.
- I’m pretty sure Ed and Larry are allusions to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
They are indistinguishable from each other, provide comic relief, are kind of dufases, and then they disappear with no due acknowledgment. It was only a hunch until Toby qutoed Tom Stoppard. That in and of itself is reason enough to dedicate a month to this show.