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I watched the West Wing last night (as I try to do every week), and I rolled my eyeballs a little at the show's characterization of the fictional "TVA", but I thought it was quite an interesting issue being examined. Evidently the real-life TVC's response was more than a roll of the eyes. The group issued the following press release -- unfortunately, a little lacking in class IMHO.

Did you see the episode? Do you think TVC's response is warranted?

-tw

---------------

For Immediate Release

March 4, 2004

Contact: Amy Skeen (202) 547-8570

"WEST WING" PORTRAYAL SMEARS TVC

GLOSSES OVER NIH CORRUPTION

Liberal Program Ties TVC To "God Hates Fags" Extremist

Washington, DC - Officials at the Traditional Values Coalition sent a letter of protest Thursday to the producers of the NBC-TV program "The West Wing" concerning its portrayal of the Coalition in last night's episode.

The episode centered on the activities of the "Traditional Values Alliance" and the group's protest of questionable National Institutes of Health grant practices. In fact, the Traditional Values Coalition has protested NIH grantmaking in circumstances very similar to those described in the episode.

"As ABC-TV's Primetime Thursday program and other investigative reports are about to air on corrupt grantmaking practices at NIH, the liberal establishment is pulling out all the stops to defend the NIH flow of taxpayer dollars into its favorite causes," said TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty today.

"Last night's 'West Wing' show is another sound of the death rattle of liberalism bankrolled by federal dollars.

In a letter to the show's Executive Producer John Wells, Mrs. Lafferty and TVC Chairman Rev. Louis P. Sheldon complained about the program's attempt to link TVC to an extremist pastor.

"The problem came as your script did some asides about the Traditional Values Coalition. The most fantastic was your attempt to smear us by linking us to a group which states "The Lord Hates Homosexuals." This sounds to me like the Rev. Fred Phelps who pops up in real life (way too often) arguing "God Hates Fags." The Traditional Values Coalition has publicly criticized Rev. Phelps for this outrageous distortion of the Gospel, particularly some of the stunts he and his followers have done concerning the death of Matthew Shepard."

"It's a pity that your program could not resist the temptation of the cheap shot. A balanced story portraying the issues and the serious people involved in this could have been thought-provoking drama. Instead, you chose to attach some sinister motives to the people with whom you disagree. "

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

March 4, 2004

Mr. John Wells

Executive Producer

The West Wing

NBC

30 Rockefeller Plaza

New York, New York 10112

Dear Mr. Wells:

It was entirely by chance that I tuned into "The West Wing" program last night. I know it is supposed to be amusing fiction, but the idea of a group of liberals running the White House is difficult for me to watch. It is closer to horror than fiction for me. I remember the last time liberals were in charge there and it remains for me (and most Americans) far too vivid and frightening a memory.

Your portrayal of the Traditional Values Alliance closely follows an actual event involving my organization and the National Institutes of Health. I thought Congresswoman Leighton accurately delivered much of the argument the Traditional Values Coalition has made in real life. I don't know her character enough to put this in the context of her earlier appearances in the show where she may have been portrayed as an axe murderer, for example.

And I also thought the actors speaking the pro-lot lizard research arguments were as hysterical about "scientific McCarthyism" as their real life counterparts. Their "bottom line" orientation of getting as much taxpayer money as possible into the hands of researchers who favor their cause was also accurately portrayed.

The problem came as your script did some asides about the Traditional Values Coalition. The most fantastic was your attempt to smear us by linking us to a group which states "The Lord Hates Homosexuals." This sounds to me like the Rev. Fred Phelps who pops up in real life (way too often) arguing "God Hates Fags." The Traditional Values Coalition has publicly criticized Rev. Phelps for this outrageous distortion of the Gospel, particularly some of the stunts he and his followers have done concerning the death of Matthew Shepard.

It's a pity that your program could not resist the temptation of the cheap shot. A balanced story portraying the issues and the serious people involved in this could have been thought-provoking drama. Instead, you chose to attach some sinister motives to the people with whom you disagree.

I suggest you stick to fiction and avoid venturing close to the precipice of real life situations. You might want to review some of those old Star Trek episodes. President Bartlett could do an episode where he is a cowboy and then wakes up from his dream at the end of the show.

Fiction which pretends it has something important to say but simply (and I mean simply in every sense of the word) presents the political bias of its writers is going to be found out sooner or later.

Sincerely,

Andrea Lafferty

Executive Director

Rev. Louis P. Sheldon

Chairman

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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Not at all. I was not offended by that plotline and, as a conservative, I have sensed more sympathetic treatment of adverseries in various plotlines this year with the departure of the creator of "West Wing".

Personally, I am a cynic when it comes to the caricature of various "special" interests, left, right, and center and therefore think that in today's heated and rude atmosphere that if one feels abused in various media, one must defend one's views or get trampled. "These are the times we live in."

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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  • 2 months later...

Last night was the season finale. Two straight episodes on one of my biggest hot button issues, Israel/Palestine. Pretty good treatment! Both sides getting a good working in the script, sometimes at the top of various characters' voices in shouting matches. How fitting for this issue.

I gotta say that the best thing that happened to this show was the exit of creator Aaron Sorkin. There is real political and philosophical "iron sharpening iron" now, rather than trying to relive some fantasy liberal administration. The show and the Bartlet administration are more nuanced. The opposition gets a fairer treatment. Sometimes the sides picked by administration and opposition are not what one might expect. Y'all gotta check reruns, if any this summer.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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: I gotta say that the best [sic] thing that happened to this show was the

: exit of creator Aaron Sorkin.

You drastically misspelled the word "worst." Just a slight oversight, I'm sure.

: The show and the Bartlet administration are more nuanced. The

: opposition gets a fairer treatment.

Yes, which is part which makes the show boring, rather than an 80:20 ratio of interesting:exasperating. It's part of the reason I never got into Ally McBeal (along with its sexualization of, well, everthing); the closing arguments of nearly every court case had two intellegent attorneys arguing well-reasoned points so that the audience could see both sides of a zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Evenhandedness by definition is the antithesis of drama.

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Rich Kennedy wrote:

: I gotta say that the best thing that happened to this show was the exit of creator

: Aaron Sorkin.

Really? I have never watched the show, but the TV critics I read have generally been unanimous that the show has gone downhill. For example, the National Post's Jason Chow writes:

As The West Wing limps into tonight's finale of its fifth season, consider how this once-great show has tumbled so far. Once the most inspired program on the airwaves, the White House drama has ended up at the same point that all governments reach by the time they hit the five-year mark: tired, bored and lamely stealing ideas from the competition because they can't generate any of its own.

What happened? When the show was a runaway hit three years ago, this paper's Adam Sternbergh hit upon the secret to The West Wing's success: For all its Oval Office pomp and circumstance, the show was really about the ideal workplace. Here were smart people who cared about their jobs, never left the office, had input on major decisions with far-reaching consequences and worked for a demanding but wise and inspiring boss. It was as fun to watch as it was to work there, and much more than a paycheque for all involved.

Once, we all thought being assistant to the White House chief of staff was a wonderful job. Today, you'd rather be selling hot dogs. The West Wing now depicts one of the worst fictional places to work, ranking up there with the grimy Victorian factories of Charles Dickens's Hard Times: The boss is a lame duck, the chief-in-waiting is even less inspiring, lives are endangered at the workplace and the impossible tasks become more gargantuan by the week. . . .

Many credit the downfall of this show with the departure of Aaron Sorkin, the creator and lead writer of the first four seasons, this year, but the show has been on a slide -- in both quality and ratings -- for two years. To compensate, both Sorkin and successor John Wells have tried to juice up the plots with action, violence and non-stop intrigue with an emphasis on far-flung foreign policy. And that's all well and good if you're a writer on 24 but it just doesn't cut it for the policy wonk's favourite show. The net result is that the West Wing is a far less appealing place to work, thus making The West Wing a far less appealing show to watch.

And then there's Alex Strachan, formerly of the Vancouver Sun and now of CanWest News Service:

For faithful followers of The West Wing, 11/5 is a date that will live in infamy.

For many of us, that was The West Wing's 9/11. That was the night the episode aired in which White House deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) stepped out of a taxi, leaned unsteadily toward Washington's Capitol Building and shouted: "You want a piece of me?! I'm standing right here! C'mon!"

But wait, as they say in TV, there's more.

In another scene, White House press secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney), a loyal and smart woman in The West Wing's earlier incarnations and, along with Josh Lyman, its heart and soul, confronted President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and lectured him on leadership: "You're the president of the United States. My president. I'm frightened. We're all frightened. The world is too dangerous now, unpredictable. I need you back. I need you to lead."

Oy vey.

What if you tuned in to The West Wing and discovered you were watching Melrose Place instead?

A program once renowned for its witty banter and rapid-fire exchanges seems strangely sapped of energy now. For all the accusations levelled against The West Wing in its heyday, when it was a lightning rod for conservatives to rail about Hollywood's creeping liberalism, it has suddenly become aimless, flaccid, disconnected from reality.

As the once-venerated winner of an unprecedented four consecutive Emmy Awards for outstanding dramatic series prepares for its season finale Wednesday, you can almost hear the TVs being turned off.

Following last year's unceremonious exit by Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing's creator and chief architect, an ensemble drama that was once about "the process" and the lure of a life devoted to public service, has instead become a show about the characters' personalities, and their mean-spiritedness. In the hands of ER-producer John Wells, The West Wing is now ER Lite, where policy wonks have to grapple with their issues before they can tackle the issues.

Many of the traits that set The West Wing apart from other, similarly themed programs -- its idealism, its grasp of the smaller issues that resonate in people's lives, Sorkin's love of language, the poetry in his dialogue and his penchant for exhaustive research -- have fallen by the wayside, replaced by the stuff of soap opera.

The West Wing now feels as if it's penned by committee. Despite flagging ratings, it was recently renewed for another season.

Left unsaid was the growing possibility that it may be the show's last. For some faithful followers, it can't happen a moment too soon.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I have to admit that the show was brilliant -- especially in it's writing -- 2-3 years ago, and now it is merely very good. It has become a little more about relationships than issues, but I think it's unkind to call it ER Lite.

The show makes no secret of it's left-leaning inclinations (Bartlett IS a Democratic president), but has done a pretty good job of including conservative viewpoints, especially when Emily Procter was playing Ainsley Hayes: not merely a straw man to knock down, but someone who was able to able to intelligently refute weak ideology.

And if you want to talk about weak writing, let's talk 24 -- good plot, good concept, but the presidential dialogue is laughable.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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I still say that the Sorkin years were sanctimonious and preachy. Yes, ainsley Hayes was the main reason I watched the ONE YEAR she was on. For about five cups of coffee in a 20 show season. Sanctimony set to elegant writing is still elegant sanctimony.

I'm a political junkie and the reason I've enjoyed this year is because this show was about the only place on TV where actual give and take took place. I saw an undercurrent of attempting to reflect some of the tension and problems that the present administration struggles with. The news shows seem to keep waiting for Bush's dunce cap to come out of hiding instead of engaging issues. West Wing seemed to fill the void.

As to Ally McBeal: most all courtroom/lawyer dramas have two well argued cases, what made this show jump the shark was the completely silly parodies of neurotic ticks and ever wierder personality traits of the various characters. It seemed to give out in the attempt to ever top itself.

Then again, I also develop a liking for stuff that quickly gets cancelled. Two of my favorite recent shows were "Cupid" with Jeremy Piven and "Hidden Hills", a sort of "Everybody Loves Raymond" filtered through "Once and Again" after the manner of "Scrubs". Neither were given a full season.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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We do not have a thread on The West Wing, apparently, so I changed the title from this former thread about one particular episode to a thread about the show in general.

Happened to run across an old interview with Rob Lowe and he said before Martin Sheen was cast the actor slated for the role of Bartlett was....Sidney Poitier. 

I never knew that.

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16 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

Happened to run across an old interview with Rob Lowe and he said before Martin Sheen was cast the actor slated for the role of Bartlett was....Sidney Poitier. 

I never knew that.

How interesting! I watched TWW intermittently. Martin Sheen was great as Bartlett, but I would have loved to see Sidney Poitier in the role.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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