Sunday, May 14, 2006

Farewell, Fake President

The Washington Post says goodbye to an imaginary president:

Washingtonians gathered around televisions last night for the series finale of "The West Wing," a program from a parallel universe in which the president is named Bartlet, terrorists come from Qumar and no one in the White House is allowed to finish a sentence.

The NBC program, which signed off its final broadcast at 9 p.m., was television's homage to Washington, from its regal theme music and iconic imagery of the city to its celebration of leaks, news briefings and spin control.

Viewing parties popped up across the region. "West Wing" was, in many ways, a home-town show, as "Cheers" was for Boston and "Seinfeld" for Manhattan. For some, it was a little too close to home.


The general consensus among fans, insiders and TV critics is that "The West Wing" began as a riff on the Clinton administration. Critics say it continued down that path even as it strayed further and further from political reality, to the point that its fictional White House would find liberal resolutions to real-life problems faced by the right-leaning Bush administration. Some Republican detractors dubbed the show "The Left Wing."


Some of the program's best moments transcended partisan politics, as when, in a recent episode, victorious Democratic presidential candidate Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits, offers to make his vanquished foe, Alan Alda's Arnold Vinick, secretary of state.

Alda's character so eloquently expressed Republican views in the final weeks of the show that he changed some minds on the predominantly left-leaning writing staff, said Lawrence O'Donnell, an executive producer.

And so the decline of the fake presidents continues. It is kind of strange that That 70's Show (which currently should be somewhere around 1983) is getting more of a sendoff than The West Wing:

The West Wing deserves a better sendoff than NBC will offer tonight. Last week, the network canceled plans for a one-hour retrospective preceding the finale. The cancellation came as the result of a squabble over whether or not the actors would be paid for being part of the special.

Given the series' small audience (8 million viewers a week) and consequently low advertising rates, the retrospective would lose money were the actors to be paid, according to the network. Thus, the finale will be preceded tonight by the 1999 pilot instead.

A rerun is no way to send off a series that has brought such honor to a network for seven years.

It sounds like it was a good way to send off the actors. I didn't watch the show most years, so it was interesting to see how it looked in the beginning - and yes, they should have fired Josh in the first episode.

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