Tuesday, January 24, 2006

How West Wing should have ended

Wherein I again try to fix television

West Wing has been canceled. I watch it every week, but feel no sense of loss. I'm with the crowd that says the show has never been the same since Sorkin left. The last couple years have found it to be particularly heavy-handed and simplistic. Yet, I stick around. Why? Probably because I enjoy many of the characters and the actors often rise above the pedestrian writing. Last Sunday's moralizing that nuclear energy is evil and that anyone who disagrees hates children and puppies was not one of those occasions.

I did find that the presidential election story started last season breathed new life in the show. And I'm not talking about Jimmy Smits' Matt Santos. Nope, it was Alan Alda's Californian Republican Arnold Vinick that brought complexity to the show as one of the few characters that recognized the world was a messy place. Also, Vinick had the more interesting staff. Stephen Root and Patricia Richardson were great additions and I think would've made fascinating characters if the show had continued with a Republican admininstration.

Like that would happen. To keep the majority of the current cast, Santos had to win. Shame.

Here's where West Wing missed a brilliant opportunity to explore new storylines and inject new blood while keeping the core of the current cast. Both Matt Santos and Arnie Vinick should've lost their party primaries. Then, recognizing their common interests, combined forces to run as a third party. The show had hinted the two had many complementary views and even respected each other's integrity, and both were party outsiders. This would not have been surprising. Then, when they win, the show can explore the difficulty of a third-party presidency.

I'd make Vinick president and Santos vice, with maybe Josh Lyman as chief of staff. As the show was originally intended to highlight the staff with the president in the background, we can get back to that as the two staffs, formerly Republican and Democratic advocates, now have to find common ground as they fight Congress.

Did I mention this would have been brilliant? Now it's dead, and we await the airing of Sorkin's Sports Night-like take on SNL. Lawrence O'Donnell can go back to work on his throbbing neck veins.


Blogger James Aach said...

If you'd like an entertaining look at the real world of nuclear power (where puppies are also loved). see RadDecision.blogspot.com for a thriller novel by a longtime nuclear engneer, available at no cost to readers.

1/24/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Thanks! I'll take a look.

1/24/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Ahistoricality said...

There's still time: With John Spencer dead, Santos is going to need a replacement. If Vinick were pushed to far by his party's right wing.... nah, never mind. I think the guy who said that neither one could plausibly win and be sustainable television was pretty close to the mark. It would have been interesting to see the show try to do a moderate Republican White House with the same kind of energy and complexity that they did the (mostly moderate) Democratic one, particularly with an actor of Alda's caliber. I always thought they missed a trick when they let the Republican stand ins (Matthew Perry's character, whose name I forget, and the Ainsley Haines character, the actress who's now on CSI:something) go (and with them, real debates) and went more for ER-style soap operas leavened with crisis-dujour.

1/24/2006 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Pooh said...

Ahist: True. But A) they can't write non-evil Repubs. B) Since Sorkin left, they can't really write any more, period.

1/25/2006 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

@ahistoricality - even in a TV universe that makes no sense. They're about a month before election, so why would Vinick jump parties. Nope, they let the third-party run sail away.

Let Vinick win so we get the Mary Tyler Moore group hug at the end.

@pooh - I will second your B as a universal truth and slightly disagree with A. Granted, many of the Republicans seemed written by people who had never had any actual contact with Republicans, but not all were evil.

I liked John Goodman, the Ainsley character was interesting, though ill-used, and Matthew Perry was good. And Vinick. That's at least four not portrayed as pure evil.

1/25/2006 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Pooh said...

Sure, they've written some Repubs who are good guys/gals, but never really gotten the substance of the party in non-evil terms (except for one brief Vinick vingette in the "Live Debate"), whereas "Democratic policy = good" flows naturally from their minds to Sam Seaborn's mouth.

1/25/2006 02:02:00 PM  

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