So I just finished The West Wing for the second time. It’s been a perennial favorite of mine since it first aired, but I had some things happen during its stint on TV the first time (a break-up of my 10-year relationship with my high school sweetheart, as well as having to put my first pet to sleep being two of them) so I didn’t quite get to see most of the last season. If you’re a fan, you know that somewhere around the fifth season, Sorkin left the show he created. Things changed – the writing was just never the same. It wandered for a year or two. Season seven – the show’s final – changed that. Relationships finally were allowed to blossom – yes it was a gimme to the long-time audience – but it was so satisfying to see two of my favorites – Josh and Donna – finally stop being dumbasses about each other.
And then season seven… the final 22 episodes. The closer I got to episode 22, the more exciting it was. And the more nostalgic I got. So much cool stuff went on – between Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda, there was some great TV. The election was a stroke of mastery the way the series did it. It was a fitting end to such a masterful series. And then to have the surprise of actor John Spencer’s tragic death from a real-life heart attack – ironically nearly completely mimicking the occurrence in the previous season. The emotion in the funeral scene was palpable and doubtfully took much coaxing from the actors. They even seemed to elongate his credit in the beginning after his death – all wonderful touches. I choked up at every listing he had in the credits after his death.
And then it got me to thinking how much I loved so many moments in this series. I just adored so many of the characters and the actors’ portrayals of them. CJ, Josh, Donna, Amy (played by Mary Louise-Parker, one of the most gorgeous women in Hollywood), Sam… even Toby seemed affable at the same time as being a complete douchebag. Leo and President Bartlet’s relationship is the stuff of legends. Bartlet for America on a napkin…
Then came the final episode. It was tough watching it – mostly because it was the end. There will never be an episode with this cast together again – and I knew that. Knew it was over. Pressed play – and there were so many moments where I got teary – and just pretty much broke down at the end.
So what was it that got me so wrapped up into this cast – this show and its charaters? There’s not been a show that has grabbed me like this before. It could just be Aaron Sorkin’s brilliance. It could be the amazing blend of awesome actors, writers, directors. Regardless of what it was, I struggled with what exactly it was I was feeling. What were those emotions? Then it occurred to me. It was the same thing I felt when I changed jobs recently. When I decided to break-off a 10-year relationship with my high school sweetheart. When I had to put my first pet to sleep. It was a change – going from having some of The West Wing left to being at its end. I didn’t remember the drudgery of seasons five and six. I just recalled the fondness of not wanting to go to sleep when I watched a few episodes in a row. I recalled the same things as I did after the break-up, after changing jobs, and after all those other life events where you go from some A to some B.
So this is a blog post because it’s my putting stuff going through my head to words. I want to remember these times the way I felt them when they happened. I don’t want to let go of them for fear of forgetting something, or losing some of this feeling.
But of course I worked through the new job. Got through the breakup. I still miss my pet Bert the orange tabby. Still miss the conversations from people I used to work with. Still think of my first girlfriend. And I like it that way – because that gives meaning to those situations, makes them worth their difficulties.
But man – I do wish Sorkin would do another drama like that. I’m going to go check out The Newsroom. Been meaning to. Let’s hope it’s got that Sorkin magic.