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WEST WING was my favorite show on teevee for the first, oh, 2.5 seasons, but as the MS storyline started winding down, I started sensing the preachiness of it all. The MS tale was clearly Aaron Sorkin telling us all how the Clinton impeachment should have been handled, and then the show got pretty boring as Sorkin lurched from one issue to dramatize to another. It was pretty obvious as he went along that he was sticking real-world issues into his show and then filing off the serial numbers to make them fit; imagine my surprise when years later he would just keep the issues the same and shove fictional characters into them for THE NEWSROOM.

I've also developed something of a love-hate relationship with Sorkin over the years since his run on TWW started petering out (anyone who says that all four seasons of his on TWW were great is delusional), and I've even started suspecting that he's a hack with some very real gifts. His ability to pace a story and time the emotional beats for maximum effect is very real, but his oft-praised dialog is deeply problematic for me. I found, watching a lot of his stuff, that the more of it I saw, the more I get this constant sense that I've "seen this movie before", as the saying goes. Entire lines of dialog repeated verbatim from one show or movie to the next. Conversational beats that never change each time he repeats them. Dramatic situations repeated as well. Jokes the make no sense given the background of the characters, or plot points that rely on an intelligent character suddenly becoming, for the moment, deeply stupid. I started suspecting that Sorkin's Emperor had no clothes during STUDIO 60, and seeing more of his work since, I find that WEST WING retroactively suffers for it.

On the show's politics, when I rewatched a lot of it some years ago, I was struck at how infrequently the liberal argument actually carries the day on the show. For a show that's so often viewed as "liberal wish-fulfillment fantasy", the conservative argument very often wins out, while the liberal one is depicted as either something "the nation's just not ready for yet" or a "In a perfect world..." kind of thing. Liberalism is rarely depicted in TWW as something real and possible, in terms of actual policy. I found that kind of annoying, and ultimately, I actually found myself enjoying the show's last two (non-Sorkin) seasons a lot more than Sorkin's own final year-and-a-half. (Season Five is a mixed bag with some terrific episodes and some dull ones.)

I've gone on long enough, so I won't rant on Sorkin's tendency to casual sexism.

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