The American President

What I'm Watching: The West Wing - Season 1

It's always a risk to start watching a much-beloved show years after it has wrapped. Fan hype begets overly high expectations. Overly high expectations beget disappointment. Disappointment begets push-back on my part, including my oft-used phrase, "Eh. It wasn't as good as everyone says it was," which has been popping up a lot lately. Add to that the fact that Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing deals with political issues, which are tied to reality, and thus show their age a lot faster than fictional plotlines. Still, I was excited to learn that this series has recently become available on Netflix Instant, because I've been wanting to give it a go. Weirdly, I've consumed a lot more discussion about Sorkin himself than his television shows. I've read all sorts of interesting debates on his treatment of women characters, his contentious relationship with internet communities, and judgements about his sense of humor, but have never sat down and watched Sports Night or The Newsroom. The only Sorkin show I've attempted to watch was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was awful.

I'm four episodes into the first season now, and despite all the issues mentioned above, it's easy to see why this show was such a hit right out of the gate. Far from feeling stale, a presidential administration tackling gun control and fringe religious groups is exceedingly contemporary, for obvious reasons. Every day on the job is tense for these people, and the suspense about whether they'll get their way on any particular issue translates through to the audience. There's a long way to go with this series, and with so many controversies built in, from the creator to the characters, anything can happen. But so far, The West Wing clears the highest bar I've set for it: Living up to its reputation.


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