|Index||2 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This one punches you in the gut, makes you cry, lifts you up, and steals your lunch money. The presidential motorcade heads to Broadway to see a five-hour play about all the Henrys and Richards (with music). The show coincides with Shareef's planned assassination. Probably the most ambitious episode of television ever filmed, but it's so seamless you won't even realize it. Almost lost in the shuffle (along with a drop-in by Adam Arkin) is the debut of Lily Tomlin (LAUGH-IN, NINE TO FIVE) as Jed's new personal secretary, Debbie Fiderer. Over 34 episodes, she never quite reached the Landingham level of juice, but went her own hysterical four-star way nonetheless. The republican presidential challenger (James Brolin - WESTWORLD, TRAFFIC) meets Jed during intermission. They have a fantastic bathroom scene. C.J.'s stalker is caught. She and Simon finally kiss. With the epic pageantry of Shakespeare in the background, Shareef is killed...and a few moments later, Simon as well, as he accidentally interrupts a bodega robbery to buy a rose. C.J.'s reaction is stunningly underscored by Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah". It's at this point that we can start talking about WEST WING as the greatest show ever.
I was glad to find that the second season of this show managed to tone
down the excessive smaltz and smugness to get rid of the majority of
the parts that were pretty unbearable in the first season. This is a
tone that thankfully continues into the third season and, although the
politics of all involved is pretty much liberal across the board, As a
result we do of course get plots and directions that will engage those
that share the politics with the makers but still those that disagree
strongly will find little to interest them. This much is par for the
course by now and it didn't bother me much in this third season, but
for large sections I did find myself wishing that it had done something
to step up its game in this season.
The plot was well set up for a more politically muddy season which would have added to the previous reduction in superiority. The decision to run in the election against a backdrop of politically charged actions due to the failure to disclose MS does provide plenty of tougher moments and it does drive a good two thirds of the season, but yet it never fully delivers. It goes for a third of the season with energy and urgency but doesn't build past this and sadly it sort of all fizzles out a little bit. It isn't that it doesn't have a conclusion or a meaning within the season, it is just that it is starts strong and gets softer whereas often with drama it works the other way so as to build and build. The show does explore the characters a bit in the midst of turbulent times, but it never challenges the viewer to like or dislike the character their basic moulds and our views of them is never threatened and this adds to the slight feel that the drama is weaker than some of the dialogue and acting would suggest. Having characters drift out and seemingly be forgotten also made me feel like the plots involving them were sort of phased out rather than ended or being allowed to exist organically in the bigger picture.
The final handful of episodes are dramatic but the plots mostly seem to exist simply to create drama or to get everything to a point for next season so again there isn't a satisfying build so much as a sudden rush to get all the pieces in place. It all still works as accessible melodramatic entertainment though and I enjoyed it as such, but just wanted more from it more weight, more challenge and more in the characters; in short I hoped that the third season would continue to grow as the second had not just reach a point and be happy with it.
The cast continue to do well and they benefit from the slick writing and glossy of the production. Everyone is good or at least as good as the material wants. Sheen is typical of the whole cast he can do troubled, he can do reflective, he can do kindly, he can do angry, he can do comical and so on; so whatever the dialogue that day needed, he was right there it is not his fault that the days are quite separate and that his character, like that of others, isn't as smart or as developed as the gloss would have you believe. Again it works on a certain level but I found myself thinking about what writers like those from The Wire etc would make of this show and only ever coming back with the answer of "more".
West Wing season 3 settles into a pattern a bit and as such it disappoints in terms of its ambition. The plots engage, the production is glossy and the performances are solid in other words it does the job of melodramatic light entertainment and I enjoyed it as such despite wanting it to challenge me and push the characters and material. Of course it is still better than being smug and self-satisfied as it once was, but there is certainly still a lot of room to grow for this show.
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