I Imagined Less Walking and Talking

by Ashley on August 6, 2009

How do you know you’re busy and important?  You don’t have enough time to stop and talk to people.  You have to take care of business on the move.

So, I’ve been eyeing The West Wing box set since the election.  I guess I was hoping that Amazon would either lower the price by a hundred bucks or I would find a way to justify spending $170.  Neither of those panned out, but I did finally cave and sign up for Netflix again.  The first disc of the first season arrived on Monday.  I was expecting to get hooked and I am.

I haven’t been watching long enough to have any kind of opinion of the series as a whole and reviews aren’t really my thing, but I do have some thoughts so far.

First, people who have worked in the real life West Wing, liberals and conservatives, have commented on how accurate the depiction is, but it’s not how I imagined it at all.   There are so many people around and they’re always bustling .  I pictured a quiet Oval Office that you get to through quiet halls with several closed doors to rooms where quiet meetings are taking place.  I don’t know why.  It’s not like I ever imagined the staff and the President didn’t work hard, but I guess I naively thought that at that level, there was less bustling!  I imagined less walking and talking.   I never realized I had all these ideas about life in the West Wing until they were challenged.  Now, of course, they seem ridiculous.

Second, another level of my ignorance was reveled as I tried to figure out what staff position each character held.  It’s true I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Deputy Chief of Staff.  Apparently Obama has two Deputy Chiefs of Staff.

Third, I kept going back and forth on whether the show was outdated or not.  In one of the first scenes of the show, you’ve got two characters getting their pagers mixed up and then another character answers his cell phone and the thing looks like the kind of cordless telephone you might use as a land line.  The show also seems a bit outdated in its look and feel.  I think dramas are much more stylized now.  But, I was over and over again surprised by how relevant the plot was, especially to a liberal like me.  The Democratic president is accused of not being patriotic enough or being weak on defense.  You’ve got problems with the Religious Right.  You’ve got Democrats turning against Democrats for not supporting key legislation (on The West Wing, it was gun control, but now it’s health care reform).  And a million other small things that a person like me thinks is new, but is really politics as usual.

Fourth, you think the Gilmore Girls talk a lot?  This show is basically all talking and I think they just involve the walking to make the talking seem more exciting.  It’s not unrealistic dialogue like Dawson’s Creek or anything, but sometimes there are too many words.  In general, though, impressive writing.  I’m just not a fan of unnecessarily big words or people who never pause to take a breath.

Fifth, according to the world’s best source of knowledge–aka Wikipedia–the show was criticized for being unrealistically optimistic.  I haven’t watched enough to really make a judgment and I don’t know that I care to.  Fiction is not reality and that’s okay with me.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

cari August 6, 2009 at 7:23 pm

i used to watch the west wing a lot. but that was a long time ago. and i’m not very politically minded, so i probably wouldn’t like it a whole lot. ha.

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Jordan August 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm

I managed to get the full box set for £50, I guess because there’s not as much of a market for a show about US politics in Britain as there is in America. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to a be pretty realistic portrayal too; although I’m not sure the walk-and-talk is as much a real life West Wing thing as it is just an Aaron Sorkin thing. I suppose the show is kind of dated now, but it’s still strange to think that it started ten years ago, and that the first two seasons were pre-9/11. It doesn’t feel that old to me. But yeah, it’s very good if you’re willing to put the effort in. It’s one of those things that you can get really engrossed in; I remember days where I watched seven or eight episodes in one go. Enjoy!

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Megan August 6, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I’ve managed to plow through seasons 1 and 2, and am now about a third of the way through season 3…in about the span of a month. I can’t get enough! (Clearly.) You’re right in the comparison to Gilmore as far as wordiness– I can only imagine how thick those scripts were. Also, am I the only one with a huge Josh Lyman/Sam Seaborn crush?

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Jaime | Fast Times August 6, 2009 at 8:09 pm

The show really is fast paced talking, especially from Bradley Whitford and Allison Janney. It’s a good show. I loved it some years ago.

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Elizabeth August 6, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I loved that show, but then again, I love chatty series. I’m all for dialog! Keep enjoying it. I get series at the library with the interlibrary loan system. Do you have that?

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Tom August 6, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Hmmmmmmm, and where did you get the idea to start watching The West Wing? Was it from me perhaps? haha

I had a similar conversation with my mom about the show recently, mainly about how it probably is over-dramatized but has its basis in some truth. I won’t go into too much detail about what I think about the show (I’ll have to write a full post for that), but I think it’s interesting that the things you responded to are very similar to the things I responded to as well. Seasons 4-7 are waiting for me to pick up at home, so I can’t wait to get started again and finish up the series.

And yes, I did look up Obama’s staff on Wikipedia to see who translated to which character on the show.

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Paula August 7, 2009 at 5:44 am

I don’t understand the West Wing at all. Possibly cos i don’t understand politics. At all.

But yeah, the Gilmore Girls DO talk a lot, but it IS clever. I do believe it is overly optimistic though. But most shows are. People move on so fast from one relationship to another, everything always works out for the best . . . But it’s escapism. Who wants programmes to be like real life???

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Pam August 7, 2009 at 8:41 am

Hmm, I may just have to pick it up or start Netflix. It sounds right up my ally. And I do love Gilmore Girls too…

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Herding Cats August 7, 2009 at 9:38 am

The West Wing is my boyfriend’s favorite show, and I’ll admit it – I have a soft spot for it. Some of the episodes are fantastic, but right about the middle of the second season, I started to lose interest, and I’m not sure why. I doooo find the characters endearing though!

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Erin August 7, 2009 at 9:58 am

I’ve never seen this show, but I should check it out because I find politics interesting. I think I was a little too young (and immature) to get into this show when it first came out and I tend to shy away from any drama that I haven’t seen since the beginning.

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Cass August 7, 2009 at 10:21 am

It pretty much made my morning to see a post about The West Wing in my Google Reader, just sayin’. :-)

Around six months ago I started on this show because of Dule Hill (was on a Psych run at the time) and I knew all these big names were in it. I was instantly hooked and now this and Criminal Minds are my go-to shows when I need to relax. I never was that big into politics but something about this show pulled me in and didn’t let go. Maybe it’s the Gilmore Girls style quick speak, or Sam Seaborn & Josh Lyman. Could be those too.

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Hannah August 7, 2009 at 10:49 am

I love “The West Wing”!! Aaron Sorkin = genius, in my book.

What’s not to love?? Interesting dialogue and plot lines, funny/quirky/politically nerdy characters, amazing acting (ohhh, I adore you, Martin Sheen and John Spencer), and even love connections (Hello, Donna and Josh?!). The one thing I will say that kind of frustrated me was how many story lines they start and stop without ever fully completing. They’ll introduce a character/story, it’ll stick around for a few episodes, and then they dive into something completely different. Keeps the material fresh, but it’s a little exhausting to follow at times.

I hope you enjoy it, though! Such a wonderful series.

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Reeder's Corner August 7, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I have so many friends that are in love with this show… maybe I should give it a shot too.

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mandy August 7, 2009 at 4:15 pm

I used to watch that show. I did an internship in Washington, DC while in college and spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill. There are always a ton of congressional staffers bustling around, too important to talk to others. Its a whole different kind of energy.

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Katy August 8, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Definitely a good series! I’m inspired to go back and watch it more. The dialogue is definitely fast and you have to keep up. Somehow shows like that make me feel smarter, like by watching them I’m proving I’m witty enough to get what they’re saying. Oh, naive me.

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Megan August 17, 2009 at 7:15 am

I adore the Gilmore Girls. I’ve watched from beginning to end, nearly, but my husband started asking too many questions; so we started from the very beginning. We just finished season two last night, and let me tell you, he is more obsessed than I am. He can’t wait for season three to arrive!

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