Thoughts, 15 years late

This week I am most celebrating the fact that I don’t need to hand in any more essays and that my final presentation has been done. By way of celebration, I’ve indulged in something I’ve meant to indulge in for a very long time:
The West Wing.

Now, I realise I’m pretty much a decade and a half late to this party, but I have much to say in my defence…

Firstly, when the show first aired in the UK, I was a busy student (the first time around). I was already committed to shows that I *had* to be at home to watch – Ally McBeal, Friends, ER, Dawson’s Creek, Neighbours… – and this was a time when we didn’t have DVR’s or iPlayer. If a show clashed with a regular commitment, it was likely you’d never get to see it. I can’t be sure, but I think The West Wing was usually on on a night when I was out. Box sets were prohibitively expensive, so catching up before a new season was nigh on impossible. Given that I was (and still am, to some extent) a US Politics junkie who’d just sat an A-level in the subject, those are the only reasons I can think of to have totally passed it by. I certainly was not having one of my (occasionally) irrational “I won’t get involved in this insanely popular cultural phenomenon because I resent cultural phenomenons” moments.


I appreciate that box sets of the show have been easily available for quite some time now, and still I haven’t watched it. My excuse? I knew I was likely to get addicted  and there are seven whole seasons of it. That’s a lot of time to lose to a classic TV show. A few years ago, a friend lent me season 1, so I was ready to give it a go. Then my sister acquired seasons 2, 3 & 6 on my behalf. I could have given it a go last summer, yet the opportunity never quite presented itself.

But, on Sunday night, knackered beyond belief, I ran myself a bath and chose The West Wing as my bath-time entertainment. I watched 2 episodes before emerging and had laughed out loud multiple times throughout. Since then, I’ve watched almost the entire first series, and have had the following thoughts. (Think of this as a series of tweets that might have been tweeted had Twitter existed in 2000.):

  • Wow, that was a very long continuous shot.
  • Blimey, this script writing is even wittier than Gilmore Girls.
  • Where do I know that irritating marketing woman from? [Answer: it’s Moira Kelly, as seen in The Cutting Edge, one of the best films ever made about ice skating. Incidentally, whenever I recognise someone in TV/Film it’s never from the most obvious thing – it’s usually the trashiest credit on their list!]
  • What do I need to do to become CJ? And why was White House Press Officer never on my list of possible careers??
  • I’ve only watched 2 episodes and already there are multiple potential sermon illustrations.
  • Where is Stockard Channing?
  • Oh, there’s Stockard Channing and she’s flipping awesome! Rizzo always was the best character in Grease…
  • This bit feels familiar. I wonder if I’ve seen it in someone’s sermon?
  • That bench looks familiar. Maybe I had lunch there in 2009?
  • I really, really want to be CJ.
  • Back in the day, the Apple logo was the other way around on the Macbook lid.
  • Hah! The Indian Ambassador went on to be Principal at McKinley High – of Glee fame!
  • Please can CJ and Danny get together?
  • Being the President is really, really hard. Being Chief of Staff is harder. 
  • Paris Geller did good!! [To explain: Paris is a Gilmore Girls character who is a massive try-hard and would have loved a job at the White House. Liza Weil, who played her, is in one episode of The West Wing – coincidentally filmed just before Gilmore Girls began. Like I said above, I always recognise people from the weirdest places.]
  • Hmmm, I appear to be on the penultimate disc of the series.
  • It’s amazing how different politics was in a pre-9/11 age.
  • I wonder where my Obama/Biden bumper sticker is?
  • It’s definitely time I re-visited Washington DC.

In short, this is the wisest TV watching move I’ve made for quite some time and I’m delighted that I have another six seasons of joy ahead of me. I’ve managed to avoid a lot of spoilers and have received a lot of encouragement from friends – much along the lines of “I’m so jealous that you have all this ahead of you!”

Essentially, this is delayed gratification on an epic scale. And right now, that’s just what I need.

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