Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Santos Up, Toby Down

A West Wing Word

This is the first in a new series of columns in which I comment on recent developments on my favorite prime time network television drama The West Wing. First off I want to say how impressed I was by the live television debate a few weeks back between presidential contenders Republican Senator Arnold Vinick of California and Democratic Congressman Matt Santos of Texas. I was especially impressed by the fact that the debate focused on policy and governing philosophy, rather then on cultural issues that often distract from the substantive matters facing our nation. It is indeed strange whenl a television show deals more honestly with the issues affecting Americans then our actual leaders in Washington.

On last weeks episode 'The Undecideds' Matt Santos went up several notches in by book after a stirring speech he gave at a black church in Los Angeles. The speech came just days after the tragic shooting of a 12 year old black child by a Hispanic police officer. It was an honest and compassionate address that dealt more truthfully with issues of race in this country then anything your likely to hear from a real politician. Though I still remain strong Vinick supporter, the prospects of a Santos presidency now seems more appealing to me then it did a few short episodes ago.

Also on this last episode Toby Ziegler continues to be rude and annoying. Toby used to be my favorite character on the show, though something of a loner he had a biting wit, great intelligence and dignity (kinda like me ;)). However after creator Aaron Sorkin stopped writing for the show after the 4th season, the Toby character became increasingly moody and unpleasant. Fired from his job as White House communications director several episodes ago for leaking the existence of a secret military space shuttle to the press, Toby spent his scenes in this episode hold-up in his town house yelling at visiting former co-worker Josh Lyman. I do not like what Toby has become, or the direction most of the characters have taken since season five. It used to be that everyone got along great and the White House staff was like one great big family whose interactions were fun to watch each week. But alas, the glory days of Jed Bartletts 1st term are gone, and we are left mostly with hack writers. I admit that the quality of the show has greatly increased since the dismal 5th season, but the program is still nowhere near what it once was. Yet I still watch, because when all is said and done its still one of the best and smartest shows on network TV (well at least the best on NBC, with the Law & Orders being excepted of course).


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