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The West Wing (1999)
Best Ever, and I have Proof
A character in "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" makes a statement that, to me, describes both movies and TV, "Writing rules" and no greater example is the body of work created by Aaron Sorkin. In the "The West Wing" writing is mated with a once-in-a-generation cast to produce the perfect television series, at least within current technology (I'll watch "My Mother the Car" if it feels like I'm actually there, well ).
The natural way those words come from those mouths gives believability to their story; it was common conversation regarding uncommon situations. Yet, at base, every situation dealt with universal problems we humans have. What made this a pleasure was watching these people react like we hope we would in similar situations; like we hope our leaders do in such situations. People giving for the common good, in spite of what it may cost them, because it's the right thing to do.
What saves TWW from being some strange morality play is that this pill is covered by a beautiful, melodic, positive candy coating. The words almost sing at times; Aaron Sorkin writes fast-paced, almost clipped, dialogue that leads inexorably word to word. Imagine "American Pie" (the song!) where you may not know all the words, but you like the way they fit together. Give it a couple episodes and you'll be fine or, do what I did, love Shakespeare first.
Much is made of Sorkin's writing,as much has been made of this cast. You don't hand out Emmys to a bunch of script readers. TWW, in 2000, won Emmys for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single Camera Series, Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series, Outstanding Cinematography for a Single Camera Series,Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Main Title Theme Music, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Drama Series, and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series; they were nominated for Outstanding Costumes for a Series, Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Series, Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Series, Outstanding Main Title Design, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series,Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series, and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. How many others shows really needed to be there? In total, not just Emmys, 113 wins and 217 nominations.
So, when I say this is the best TV has ever produced, I'm not alone.
The actors have been both blessed and cursed by their participation in TWW. Whenever we see any of them in another show or movie, we turn and say, "Hey, it's Josh" or Sam, C.J.,Donna, whomever. They've become icons of a sort. In a few years they'll look different enough that we'll stop, but it's probably tough for them now. When a very prominent character really passed away, it felt like a friend passed. I tear up now just thinking about it.
In this review I tried to present a case for new viewers to give TWW a try; so I worked hard to keep anything remotely like a spoiler out. The review is purposely facile as a result, but every one I tried that included characters became a novella (tough way to find out there's a word limit). I did this because TWW is an important show for Americans to watch (everyone really, but especially Americans).
Sorkin is an unabashed idealist, an American idealist. His best writing comes in political situations; where he deals with morality in government. We see attributes of Washington, Lincoln, and Truman in Sorkin's characters; we hear words we pray our leaders say in real life. They question, they challenge, they know America is not a thing, but an idea that must be cherished every day because, in the end, it remains the last, best hope for mankind.