Why “The West Wing” Is Ending
Don’t get me wrong – I love The West Wing. I think Hollywood doesn’t do enough in the political genre and of late seems be ODing on murder/scifi/reality shows. And I think The West Wing really does a good job of making politics sound interesting and dramatic – even though it isn’t.
But after watching the last season premiere of “The West Wing”, it dawned on me why it was to be its last. Basically, as with Star Trek last year, this show is developing signs of being “predictable” and too tied down in its own genre and mileu.
This episode showed a ticket of Matt Santos and Leo McGarry not getting along mostly because they don’t know each other. Leo is pounded on in the press for all his health problems (that the writers used for drama throughout the previous years of the show). There’s a “ripped from the headlines” plot involving a White House leak, although the episode really doesn’t give any direction to that storyline. And don’t get me started on the silly teaser opening scene (which is actually preceded by the usual “previously” medley) that tries to get your hopes up of knowing who the next President is – when we all know the entire last season is about deciding that question.
There’s even a quotable line by the White House Counsel where he remarks that “you all are stretched too thin, bleeding staff to the campaign, and you [CJ Craig] in the chief’s job”. It was like a self-referential commentary on how the show itself has too many different subplots going on and very little time left for true character development.
The only unique gems to this episode were the revelation that CJ doesn’t trust her deputy NSA adviser and the rough scene where Josh denies Donna a job.
For a guy who loves political fiction, I found the episode largely run-of-the-mill. Granted, an ordinary episode for The West Wing, even with a predictable story development (or lack thereof), is still far better television to me than some silly reality show contest between two fame-seeking yahoos willing to eat bugs in front of network cameras.
I still have hopes for the show’s last season. After all, even after 7 seasons of jam-packed political drama, there’s plenty of stories to tell in that genre. Whereas, with Star Trek, the only way to revitalize that genre of space opera is to get it off a damned starship for a change. (But more on that later.)