Stephen Speicher

The West Wing

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26 posts in this topic

I think The West Wing is one of the great TV dramas of all time. Despite the obvious leftist slant, it is rare to find well-crafted dramas that deal explicity with values and deeply moral issues. The characters themselves are wonderfully portrayed, each rich in his own unique psychological development, with actions that are consistent throughout. The writing for this show is the show's great highlight; clever, witty, and bright., and often very touching.

And, when other Objectivists tell me "how can you put up will the liberal propaganda," I always just think of these words from the liberal president on the show, and I walk away knowing that nowhere else on television have words like this been spoken. The context is the shooting down of an American plane.

"Did you know that two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the earth unharmed, cloaked only in the words "Civis Romanis" I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens. Where was Morris' protection, or anyone else on that plane? Where is the retribution for the families and where is the warning to the rest of the world that Americans shall walk this earth unharmed, lest the clenched fist of the most mighty military force in the history of mankind comes crashing down on your house!?"

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And, when other Objectivists tell me "how can you put up with the liberal propaganda,"

This is what I am finding so enjoyable about this forum. I can't rate The West Wing because I've never seen it. I always figured that any show starring Martin Sheen as the President of the United States was guaranteed to be unwatchable, and yet maybe I've missed something.

I still may hate the show, but you've given me enough food for thought, Stephen, that I might give it a try in re-runs.

A comparable situation; I thought I would hate "Shall We Dance?" because it starred Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, but then I tried it when we got interested in ballroom dancing through an old non-Objectivist friend. I loved the movie, and my wife and I have been taking Ballroom Dancing lessons for a month now and thoroughly enjoying it.

There are lots of great things in life, if you only give yourself a chance to find them.

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This is what I am finding so enjoyable about this forum.  I can't rate The West Wing  because I've never seen it.  I always figured that any show starring Martin Sheen as the President of the United States was guaranteed to be unwatchable, and yet maybe I've missed something.

I still may hate the show, but you've given me enough food for thought, Stephen, that I might give it a try in re-runs. 

A comparable situation; I thought I would hate "Shall We Dance?" because it starred Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, but then I tried it when we got interested in ballroom dancing through an old non-Objectivist friend.  I loved the movie, and my wife and I have been taking Ballroom Dancing lessons for a month now and thoroughly enjoying it. 

There are lots of great things in life, if you only give yourself a chance to find them.

And your last sentence sums it all up. Too many people spend too much time finding too many things that are too bad, but I'd rather spend my time finding value wherever I can. I have heard detailed criticism by people who have never even seen the TV shows, movies, plays, and books that they criticize.

When I see passion for ideas I cannot help but respond with glee, even if the ideas are not my own. When I see people who are strong valuers I respond positively, even if their values are not mine. When I see actions that say the world is good and doing what is right matters, how can I possibly turn away? But these things can only be found by those who look, and doing so one will find much in life worth looking for.

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I love this show. I don't have a TV, but I have rented the whole series - 3 seasons out on DVD so far - not once but twice. The 4th season is due on DVD in April, and I can't wait.

I am fascinated with the good plot and excellent character development of the show. To see the president, and sometimes some other cast members, demonstrate way more spine than the current Republican Pdt, when dealing w/ terror regimes or the Christian right, is worth its weight in gold. (E.g., in one episode, Martin Sheen orders the assassination of the defense minister of a gulf state who is responsible for terrorism. Hard to believe, I know.)

I hardly recommend this to members of this board. Rent a couple DVDs, and see how you like it.

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I hardly recommend this to members of this board.  Rent a couple DVDs, and see how you like it.

I meant strongly, not hardly. Same adverb in French, which is my birth language... :)

Not sure how to edit my post...

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Once again I agree with Stephen.

I have been hooked on West Wing for a year or two now, always keeping my eye out for episodes I might have missed or to re-watch ones I especially enjoy or haven't seen for a while.

My favorites are the ones with "Ainsely Hayes", the (cute, blonde) conservative Republican they hire for the White House counsel's office and the ones with Matthew Perry (of "Friends" fame) who also plays a Republican hiree. It sets up some particularly interesting conflicts which is the hallmark of the series.

Yeah, the liberal slant of the show is hard to stomach sometimes, but they occasionally make a faint effort to present "the other side", from time to time even fairly. Usually however they present the Republicans as morons. Of course usually Republicans are morons, so maybe that's accurate.

I wouldn't make too much of Pres. Bartlett's sometimes correct expressions of outrage at attacks against America. It usually ends up being passing bluster, greatly watered down in the final actions taken as result of the influence of his more "level-headed" advisors. Nonetheless he's an interesting character, very intelligent, with strong convictions, often witty, and sometimes just a windbag boring everyone with his abundant knowledge of trivia. What makes West Wing addicting is the sheer number of interesting characters, both regulars on the staff and guest appearances. There is good reason why this show has been showered with awards year after year.

Fred Weiss

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The 4th season comes out on DVD on April 5th.

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I just watched the new episode of this show and it was brilliant. It was a debate between republican presidential nominee Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda) and a democrat presidential nominee Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits). It was very, very good. One of the most intense political debates I've seen. Yeah, okay, so it was staged. I still was on the edge of my seat for nearly the entire time. I had alot of homework to do, but I just couldn't take my eyes off the screen. The republican was extremely close to an Objectivist president. He would have my vote instantly if he was really running. There were some points he didn't make that I would have loved him to, but other than that I can't say I disagreed with anything he had to say.

For instance: (context- Santos said he would create a million jobs in his first term)

"How many jobs will you create?" Sawyer (the moderator) asked Vinick.

"None," he replied. (long pause while he stares straight into the camera) "Entrepreneurs create jobs. Business creates jobs. The president's job is to get out of the way."

It was awesome!

Anyway, read the full story here

Zak

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Since MASH, I love Alda. One should take into consideration his character-role, his involvment in production, and the MASH atmosphere, to remember Alda's individualistic views. Alan Alda, the man, is not an idiot, and given his role in MASH, is a very deep person (as evinced in his character, Hawkeye).

I mean, if he is going to take this role, there has to be some personal sincerity in the ideals.

Yes, I saw many parts of the "debate".

All the right answers but there are holes.

Finally, this show has the potential to propogate an advocacy of Capitalism.

How dramatic the show actually is, I cannot say. The Sunday move has alienated me from the story line. But now I have to watch--given my beloved Alda.

I hope he (Alda) does not just prove to be a man who begins with an Individualist passion and compromises into a "socialist". Dramatically, he must continue with WestWing interest, unless he appeases the character portrayed by Mr. Sheen. The pleasure that the show can bring to Objectivists must be dependent on Alda's personal ideals, if they do, indeed, match ours.

To be such a great actor and not embrace pro-capitalist ideals, personally, will be surprising, and to (a big Hawkeye fan), tragic.

All the best to Alda,

Jose Gainza.

P.S. If Schmitz wins, then Alda's pro-Capitalism is just a ratings ploy ... perhaps, only to be winned in some future season. Oh God!

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How many of the original characters are still in the show? I'm 1 1/2 season behind (I've been buying the DVDs, but I don't watch TV).

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I hope he (Alda) does not just prove to be a man who begins with an Individualist passion and compromises into a "socialist".  Dramatically, he must continue with WestWing interest...

Jose,

So does Alan Alda play a recurring character on that show, or will he be? Prior to last night's "Live Debate" episode, I had never seen The West Wing. I doubt that I'll start watching it regularly, but I did want to say that a] I thought the episode was very engaging and entertaining to watch, and b] I have always found Alan Alda very likeable as a person, an actor, and a host (as on the t.v. show Scientific American Frontiers). In his post-MASH years, he strikes me as being the ideal "fascinating and inquisitive grandfather" type.

-Jared

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Since MASH, I love Alda.  One should take into consideration his character-role, his involvment in production, and the MASH atmosphere, to remember Alda's individualistic views.  Alan Alda, the man, is not an idiot, and given his role in MASH, is a very deep person (as evinced in his character, Hawkeye).... The pleasure that the show can bring to Objectivists must be dependent on Alda's personal ideals, if they do, indeed, match ours.

Do not confuse the man for the role he plays as an actor. Alda is a well known staunch liberal.

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How many of the original characters are still in the show?  I'm 1 1/2 season behind (I've been buying the DVDs, but I don't watch TV).

Most of the major characters remain (I really miss Rob Lowe), though their roles are reduced by the inclusion of additional main characters.

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So does Alan Alda play a recurring character on that show, or will he be?

Martin Sheen has played the president since the inception of the show, but his presidential term is ending. This year two new characters were introduced, Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda, the Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidency, respectively. It is unknown as to which candidate will win the election and hence return as a regular main character of the show.

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I have always found Alan Alda very likeable as a person, an actor, and a host (as on the t.v. show Scientific American Frontiers).  In his post-MASH years, he strikes me as being the ideal "fascinating and inquisitive grandfather" type.

Did you know that Alan Alda played Richard Feynman in the 2001 play, "QED?" (click here)

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I love pointing out to my Objectivist friends that The West Wing (at least under Aaron Sorkin, I haven't seen much of the last two seasons) is Romantic drama, if we define it as art that portrays life as it ought to be.

Of course, what Aaron Sorkin thinks life ought to be comes from his late 20th century statist liberal ideals. But he portrayed his -ideal- presidency. And since he isn't beholden to a journalistic naturalism, he is free to create the most ingenious plots, testing his ideal president in the most diabolical kinds of conflicts. It's just beautiful Romantic drama.

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I gave this show a 9, the only thing that could make it better is if Martin Sheen played an O'ist president (I know it can't happen).

Regarding Aaron leaving, although I think the jucyness of the plots went down somewhat it is still one of the best written and produced shows on TV.

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Last night was the final episode of one of the best dramatic series to ever grace the small screen. I will really miss this show; I will miss the intelligent and witty dialogue by people who deal with ideas, and I will miss the brilliant dramatization of those ideas in action. And, despite their often liberal bent, I will miss seeing how the lives of these interesting people unfolds. Speaking of that liberal bent, there were also times when the show used its exquisite dialog to lampoon that liberalism. With the following dialog between White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman and his assistant Donna Moss, from the November 3, 1999 episode "Mr. Willis of Ohio," I say a sad goodbye to The West Wing.


Donna: "Can I ask you a question?"
Josh: "About what?"
Donna: "The budget surplus."
Josh: "Go ahead."
Donna: "There's a $30 billion budget surplus."
Josh: "It'll actually shake out to about $32 billion."
Donna: "Whatever."
Josh: "Well, you know what they say."
Donna: "What do they say?"
Josh: "A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, sooner or later it starts to add up to real money."
Donna: "That's a nifty saying, Josh."
Josh: "I didn't coin it or anything."
Donna: "We have a $32 billion budget surplus for the first time in three decades."
Josh: "Yes."
Donna: "Republicans in Congress want to use this money for tax relief, right?"
Josh: "Yes."
Donna: "So, essentially what they're saying is they want to give back the money."
Josh: "Yes."
Donna: "Why don't we want to give back the money?"
Josh: "Because we're Democrats."
Donna: "But it's not the government's money."
Josh: "Sure it is, it's right there in our bank account."
Donna: "But that's only because we collected more money than we ended up needing."
Josh: "Isn't it great?"
Donna: "I want my money back."
Josh: "Sorry."
Donna: "We're not done with this."
Josh: "I didn't think so."

Later in the episode ...

Donna: "What's wrong with me getting my money back?"
Josh: "You won't spend it right."
Donna: "What do you mean?"
Josh: "Let's say your cut of the surplus is $700. I want to take your money and combine it with everybody else's money and use it to pay down the debt and further endow social security. What do you want to do with it?"
Donna: "Buy a DVD player."
Josh: "See?"
Donna: "But my $700 is helping employ the people who manufacture and sell DVD players. Not to mention the people who manufacture and sell DVDs. It's the natural evolution of a market economy."
Josh: "The problem is, the DVD player you buy might be made in Japan."
Donna: "I'll buy an American one."
Josh: "We don't trust you."
Donna: "Why not?"
Josh: "We're Democrats."
Donna: "I want my money back!"
Josh: "You shouldn't have voted for us."

Later in the episode ...

Josh: "Donna?"
Donna: "Yes."
Josh: "How much were the sandwiches?"
Donna: "$12.95."
Josh: "I gave you a twenty."
Donna: "Yes. As it turns out you actually gave me more money than I needed to buy what you asked for. However, knowing you as I do, I'm afraid I can't trust you to spend the change wisely. I've decided to invest it for you."
Josh: "That was nice. That was a little parable."
Donna: "I want my money back."

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----------------


----------------------
Donna: "I want my money back."

I never watched the show, but if only the real idiots in Washington would understand that issue this country would be in a lot better shape.

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About The West Wing, I have 2 anecdotes and a comment to share.

* * *

My father was a member of the Legislative Assemby of Ontario (a province of Canada) from 1995–2003 in the Progressive Conservative party (the right-wing party of the three major political parties in Ontario), representing a rural riding.

Dad often stayed overnight at my place here in Toronto when the legislature was in session. On Wednesday evenings, he usually arrived just in time to watch The West Wing with me.

On one occasion, he arrived after the broadcast was over. I told him that I had taped it for him; he thanked me but said that it was not necessary: He had already watched it at Queen’s Park (the provincial parliament buildings)—“With members from both sides of the aisle,” as I recall!

* * *

The PC party achieved a majority of seats in the legislature in 1995 on a platform called the “Common Sense Revolution”, consisting of tax cuts, some spending restraint, reduction of red tape for businesses, etc.

One day Dad played a videotape for me. It was the dialog shown in Stephen Speicher’s transcription, of which this was the introduction:

With the following dialog between White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman and his assistant Donna Moss, from the November 3, 1999 episode "Mr. Willis of Ohio," I say a sad goodbye to The West Wing.
(The link at the end of the QUOTE line should take you to Stephen’s transcription.)

One of the party staff had recorded the episode and spliced together the 3 conversations between Josh and Donna—and played it at a caucus meeting!

* * *

Finally, I add a comment. One might wonder why so many politicians would be attracted to The West Wing—I know Dad’s stories interested me in the question. Aside from its high quality as entertainment, I think for lawmakers it represents an interesting case of Ayn Rand’s identification of the need for art in man’s life.

Most people are completely ignorant of the stress that an honest, sincere, earnest, and hard-working politician endures. (I muse that one of the reasons why minimum wages do not rise even faster is that legislators mentally divide their own generous salaries by the ridiculously long hours they put in—with such things as taking telephone calls at home from constituents at all hours of the day or night—and find they make below minimum wage.)

The actual, day-to-day life of a politician also means being lobbied in many different directions, ground down with the minutiae of the media’s concerns-of-the moment. In Dad’s case, the stress led to angina pain and eventually (successful) heart surgery. (About six months after his defeat in the 2003, a sister-in-law of Dad commented that she had never seen as happy or healthy.)

Especially in an age when politicians are held in such low esteem, some members of the provincial parliament needed to see achievement won at the end of the political process, in an essentialized form that transcends that daily grind they endure. For the men and women of the Ontario Legislature, even though The West Wing focused on the executive branch of government, the show gave them a glimpse of how their professional life can and ought to be.

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About The West Wing, I have 2 anecdotes and a comment to share.

Thank you so much. Peter, for providing those anecdotes and your comment. They were all a delight to read.

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The West Wing focused on the executive branch of government, the show gave them a glimpse of how their professional life can and ought to be.

This is why I've always maintained that the West Wing, at least during the Aaron Sorkin years, was Romantic drama. You probably won't agree with Sorkin's ideas on what ought to be, but you can't accuse him of the slavish devotion to naturalism that drives most drama today. The West Wing depicts the presidency as he thinks it ought to be, in essentialized form.

I also think that, because Sorkin wished to portray his ideal presidency, and because Sorkin the dramatist wants to test his ideal president against the best the opposition has to offer, those first few seasons of the West Wing were remarkably fair to Republicans. Unlike some parts of the later seasons, the opposition was portrayed by their best exponents, if only to make the president look better by comparison.

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I also think that, because Sorkin wished to portray his ideal presidency, and because Sorkin the dramatist wants to test his ideal president against the best the opposition has to offer, those first few seasons of the West Wing were remarkably fair to Republicans. Unlike some parts of the later seasons, the opposition was portrayed by their best exponents, if only to make the president look better by comparison.

The Republican presidential candidate in season 5 is admirable on all grounds (haven't watched season 6 yet).

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SPOILERS BELOW

So yesterday, I finished watching Season 6, which I received from Amazon less than a week ago. As all the others, it was a great season. The death of John Spencer was artfully and respectuously folded into the drama.

When I contrast it to 24, the only other TV show I've been watching, I have to say that I am much more interested in the benevolent universe of West Wing. Even if some aspects are unrealistic (the Democrat President inviting the Republican one to be Sec. of State), they are welcome.

I got to really enjoy the character of Kate Harper (played by Mary McCormack) in the recent season.

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