You know, there were a lot of things I wanted to write about in this blog post. I wanted to write about the Critics' Choice Awards, the SAG Awards, what it means to be a member of the actors union. I wanted to write about this acting class I've been taking at The Barrow Group, how good it is, and the importance of training and, more importantly, training correctly. I wanted to write about British TV and British actors and how they're taking over in the US; as anyone who knows me is aware, I absolutely love talking about British stuff. There is a whole myriad of things I could've discussed here today.
But I can't do any of it. Why? Because I started watching The West Wing on Netflix, and it's all I can think about.
You guys it's so good. The Netflix blurb about it claims that it was ranked the 7th best drama of all time. Now, I don't know when those rankings came out, and as I firmly believe we are living in a golden age of television, I think there are some series that could give it some serious competition. I'm looking at you, Breaking Bad. But the idea that it is at least very highly ranked and well regarded is something that I am absolutely on board with.
The thing that's particularly interesting in watching it is seeing not just the differences between the late 90's-early 00's and now, but the similarities! Our dealings with China. How ravaged African nations are by AIDS, and the extent to which Americans lump all of them together into just "Africa." Education. Gay rights. Healthcare. It's almost depressing that these issues don't go away... but it's handy because it means the series isn't too dated! The risk with watching anything more than five or so years old is that sometimes the issues just aren't a problem anymore, or something that was normal then seems strange to someone watching now. But I'm not experiencing that at all with The West Wing! Maybe I'm older than I feel I am, and I remember these things being issues so well that it just seems current to me... but I'd much rather think of it as the series just holding up well and not being dated.
Of course, don't get me wrong, the differences are worth looking at, too! There's one in particular that I'd like to point out: An episode I was watching last night had Josh Lyman arguing with a congressman about a bill that placed another ban on gay marriage. One of the points that the congressman brought up was that the majority of the population was against gay marriage. Only fifteen years ago, polls said that the majority of Americans thought that LGBTQ+ people shouldn't be allowed to get married. Now 36 states have legal same-sex marriage, and later this year the Supreme Court is going to decide whether or not it's constitutional on a federal level. It's just amazing to me how far we've come in such a relatively short period of time.
Beyond any of that, though, it's good television. It's dramatic, it made me yell at my television/computer screen, it's funny, the characters are complex, and, naturally, the writing feels effortless. Characters speak in incomplete sentences, they cut each other off, they say stupid things, sometimes they don't, and storylines are woven together, in and around each other, to keep episodes flowing together while not having to bother with a massive, overarching season or series plot. It's Aaron Sorkin at his best.
I suppose that's just it for me. The West Wing is everything The Newsroom could have been. It's a little bit sad when put that way, but it's true. And it just makes me love The West Wing that much more.
And I have more than five and a half seasons left of it!
Before I finish this post, I'd like to throw in just a few more observations that I've made about the series from the less-than-a-season-and-a-half I've seen so far that are far less intellectual and analytical but, I think, still deserve to be said:
- The level to which I identify with Donna Moss is extraordinary. I would say that I want to be her when I grow up but... aside from what happened to make her join up with Bartlet and, more specifically, Josh, I pretty much already am her. And I love her. I'm not even jealous of Janel Moloney for getting to play her because she's just perfect.
- I think Josh Lyman/Bradley Whitford is really attractive? Like...?? I did not expect this. My type is usually tall, blonde, and British, with sharp, prominent cheekbones. And occasionally that type can be broken - my attraction to Sam Seaborn/Rob Lowe is not really a surprise because have you seen Rob Lowe - but...??? Granted, his personality is right up my alley. Someone who is a massive jerk but still a good guy when it comes to the stuff that matters will get me every time. But man, I did not expect this. I didn't even realize it until more than halfway through the first season. And now I want to give him the biggest hug, like, all the time. It's weird. But very, very present.
- Toby when he's doing the right thing and being a good guy is the most awkwardly adorable thing. Also, I love having a Jewish guy there, especially since his Judaism is a significant part of who he is. Not all of who he is. Not even most of who he is. But a significant part.
- I so deeply appreciate how Sorkin allows Republican characters to make excellent points. He really never did that in Newsroom (and, no matter what he said, Will McAvoy was not a Republican) and I do like how the major characters reflect the views that I personally hold. But it's so rare now, even in real life, to see a Republican articulately arguing his/her point of view that it's not only refreshing to see it here but has occasionally genuinely made me think about my own political beliefs and why I believe them.
- All of the actors on this show are very much actors' actors. And the writer is a writers' writer. And I can feel myself getting better both as an actress as well as a writer just from watching this show. It's wonderful.