Tag Archives: the west wing

My Favorite Scene: The American President (1995) “Ordering Flowers”

I’m so glad Aaron Sorkin wrote The American President and its intellectual sequel, The West Wing, at the time he did.  It’s hard to imagine either working today.  If you’re a fan of The West Wing and have never seen The American President, you absolutely should.  It’s a wonderful film, and you can clearly see Sorkin working out ideas that he would later expand on in much more detail in The West Wing.  A number of cast members, led by Martin Sheen who plays White House Chief of Staff in The American President and President Bartlet in The West Wing, star in both the film and the TV series.  Both Sorkin projects are unabashed love letters to the American system of democracy and the ideal of public service.  Those concepts have been so tarnished in the decade since The West Wing left the air that I can’t give any serious credence to the rumors of the show’s revival.

The Presidency and The White House are as much a part of the cast of The American President as Michael Douglas or Annette Bening (both of whom turn in some of the best performances of their careers).  There have been hundreds of film Presidents, but The American President takes a uniquely human look at the President.  Andrew Shepard (Douglas) is looked at as a father and a man in love as much as he is the President.  The film captures the last era before the Internet would change how everyone, including POTUS, would interact forever.  All in all (and I realize I’m publishing this on a blog, the irony does not escape me) it was a more civilized age.  It’s nice to be able to go back to media time capsules like this and unplug from the current political paradigm.  Sorkin is my favorite writer in any medium, and I can’t wait to see what does next.

Michael Douglas and Annette Bening in The American President

My Favorite Scene: The West Wing Season One (1999) “In Excelsis Deo”

The West Wing remains my favorite of Aaron Sorkin’s creations on the big screen or small.  It stands, especially in these times, as an idealistic vision of what government could and should be.  It’s populated by wonderfully developed eccentric devoted public servants, each of which is so fully-realized and distinct from each other that they feel like old friends more than characters on the screen.  This same treatment is extended to even minor characters and, in the show’s first two seasons, no minor character was as much fun as Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), President Bartlet’s wonderfully cryptic and acerbic assistant, gatekeeper, and confidante.

In the show’s first Christmas episode, “In Excelsis Deo”, the show takes two characters, Mrs. Landingham and Richard Schiff’s Toby Ziegler, and has them deal with the ghosts of the Vietnam War while the rest of The White House prepares for Christmas festivities.  The two stories come together in a stunningly powerful final scene for the episode: one of the best Christmas episodes in dramatic television.Richard Schiff in The West Wing

My Favorite Scene: The West Wing Season Two (2000) “The President and the Butterball Hotline”

Thanksgiving is Thursday.  In the States, millions of Americans will be gathered around the dinner table with family and friends to stuff their faces, make memories, and remember in that even in these most rancorous times there is so much to be thankful for.  I’m breaking my rule regarding only choosing one scene per season of a TV show as the “Two Cathedrals Rant” from the season finale of The West Wing’s second season was one of the first My Favorite Scene columns I wrote (click here for that).  It’s a rule worth breaking, because episode eight “Shibboleth” is one of the best of the series and my favorite episode of any drama having to do with Thanksgiving.  There’s actually a lot to choose from in this funny and heart-warming episode.  I very nearly went with the White House Press Secretary’s drama over choosing the turkey that receives a Presidential Pardon every year.  But in the end I settled for the President of the United States discovering the existence of the Butterball Turkey hotline and the comedy that ensues. Continue reading My Favorite Scene: The West Wing Season Two (2000) “The President and the Butterball Hotline”

Top 5: TV Shows With Good Taste in Music

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In the modern age of the TV drama (or dramadey in the case of one entry) it’s become common practice to punctuate dramatic moments with songs.  The song takes over and there’s very little dialogue because the song is saying all there needs to be said.  This technique gets overused, but, when used properly, the music, the acting and the moment create something magical.

Scrubs

No show has, in my opinion, ever done this better than the medical comedy, Scrubs.  Most of the powerful moments in the show were punctuated by music. The same could be said of Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s almost become it’s own radio network.  There are usually no less that six songs per episode, and it’s rarely intrusive and works with the show, which I honestly still watch at this point to find new bands. You’d never expect a biker drama to make this list, but Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy used it’s personal band, White Buffalo, and the vocal talents of the cast to create some heartbreaking finales including SPOILER WARNING, the very last bit of the show.  Aaron Sorkin employs songs more sparingly in his shows, but when he does…man, do they pack a punch. I can’t listen to Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms” without picturing Bartlett walking through the rain toward that press conference.  Then from it’s “gangstagrass” theme song to poignant  ballads like “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”, the just finished Justified knew how to sparingly pack a punch with a tune.

Timothy Olyphant, Justified

I’m going to include some of my favorite musical moments from each show and just let them stand on their own.  What shows did I leave off?  Can you remember a moment where a song met a show and the two forever connected in your memory? Continue reading Top 5: TV Shows With Good Taste in Music

Top 5 Films or Shows That Make You Proud to Be An American

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It’s not easy to be proud to be an American these days.  Not as easy as easy as it once was.  This generation, unlike ones that came before, has been faced with so much gray in a previous starkly dark or light world, that it’s polarized good people from other good people.  We don’t feel like the UNITED States these days.  Who are the American people?  Who are they in 2014?  When we look around at our circumstances, our recent history, our representatives (blue and red alike)….it’s a lot more difficult to feel the patriotism and the pride I once took in being a citizen of the country of my birth.  Are movies and television shows trivial in the light of that bleak reality?  Not the best of them.  The best of them serve as reminders of qualities, people, places, and events that NEED to be remembered.  Here are five examples: Continue reading Top 5 Films or Shows That Make You Proud to Be An American