Had I seen it before: No. Well, I did fall asleep the first two times I attempted to watch it, if that counts.
What IMDb says: Inside the lives of staffers in the West Wing of the White House.
Why I picked it: This is one of those shows that’s been recommended to me in an “Oh you like politics? You should watch The West Wing.” sorta way. That being said, fuck politics, it made the list because Aaron Sorkin wrote it.
So really the question is just “Why did you pick The West Wing over The Newsroom?” and while that might speak for itself I’ll write an answer anyway. Besides just being a more successful show that left more of a mark on television history, I liked the idea of including some old school tv genres, such as the political drama. The West Wing is one of three on the list, the others being House of Cards and The Good Wife. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a modern, streaming-oriented take juxtaposed with an older show from one of the networks. The Good Wife will be a nice midpoint between the two.
For what it’s worth, I also ended up deciding to do The West Wing the day after Gilmore Girls, which you may recall I slammed for being too dialogue heavy. After that pilot I was like “let’s watch something else dialogue heavy that should be better and look at the difference.”
What I liked: The show moves at a super fast pace and really makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the world in which the show takes place. The rapid-fire dry humor is right up my alley too.
There’s also a really nice balance here between resolved and unresolved conflicts. Our core team solves enough problems for us to believe they’re competent. Despite the episode kicking off with the president driving his bike into a tree, at the end of the episode we see the president’s triumphant return to the White House, ready to work. We also see the White House Staff take care of a PR crisis resulting from a botched interview with the Christian right and they do so without compromising their more liberal values.
However, there’s also some unresolved conflicts that make me curious about future episodes. We know there is a senator who is considering challenging the president in a primary race. We know that senator is dating the ex of one of our White House staffers, who happens to be a big shot political consultant. There’s a strong possibility Rob Lowe is going to fall in love with either a hooker or his boss’s daughter, and either one presents conflicts. There’s also some actual politics happening in the form of the Cuban refugee crisis, and that leaves some opportunities for conflict as well.
What I didn’t like: Maybe it’s just because I was exhausted the first two times I tried to watch this, but there were key parts of dialogue I didn’t really get until the 3rd time I watched Act 1. It’s very much a show that you have to be 100 percent focused on the entire time you’re watching which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is rather easy to get confused if you zone out for like five seconds. I am prone to such zone-outs which can be a problem. I don’t think I even learned everyone’s names until the last fifteen minutes or so when Rob Lowe was giving a tour of the White House.
I also wish there was more conflict between our primary characters. Right now, I don’t really see any huge personality differences between Josh, Allison Janney, Leo, Rob Lowe, and Crossword Puzzle Dude who I’m pretty sure is the Chief of Staff but I don’t know his name or the actor who plays him. They’re all just liberals who have sold their souls to the president. It’s mentioned that Leo might breed some animosity towards Rob Lowe because Rob Lowe hit on his wife one time, but we don’t really see it.
Veep did this quite well, with a pilot that brought in a new kid on the block and we knew he was going to clash with Selina’s loyal staff that had been there since the beginning. With The West Wing, it looks like most of our conflicts are going to come from these four main characters’ personal lives, with little to no conflict between these main four, and that seems like a missed opportunity.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Even though the show is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, I’m probably not going to watch that much more of it. I use Netflix to unwind, and don’t have a ton of room in my life for shows where I can’t be half-asleep or screwing around on my phone while I watch.