Monday, May 15, 2006

Whimpers

I think it was a really, really, really bad move for NBC to show the first and last episodes of the Wing back to back last night. The contrast between the sharp, speedy, substance laden Sorkin years and the schmaltzy, emotional relationship-driven melodramatic pap that all too often characterized years 5-7 were in full display.

When was the last time an episode featured a 3 minute walk-and-talk? And also note that more time was spent of the characters' love lives in the 7th season than in the first 6 seasons combined. As invested as we were with the characters, this was still jarring because the what made the show different was how little time was spent on 'backstory' items while still developing the individuality needed to make each character compelling.

The kicker is that in a finale devoted to bringing emotional closure to the various character arcs, there was only one (Bartlett-Charlie) that was vaguely satisfying. And that was outweighed by two too-cute-by-way-more-than-half-moments - the return of the "Bartlett for America" napkin (another callback to one of the great episodes) and Santos's use of "What's Next." Compare this finale to that of NYPD Blue, and it's really no contest - one could be the pilot of a show I'd like to watch, the other would never even get picked up.

However, I am massively enthused for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But I will go on record as saying that I think using Brad Whitford as the fast-talker with funny hair will prove distracting, as he will still be Josh Lyman as long as he's spouting Sorkinesque neo-poetry.

2 comments:

Jake said...

I think we'll get used to the new BW character surprisingly quickly--when Joshua Malina showed up on WW I couldn't get Jeremy from Sports Night out of my head for a little while but it went away fast.

re: closure for the characters: yeah, a lot of it was unsatisfying. But what do you expect in an hour not scripted by Sorkin? I think the "what's next" was a faux pas, but at least it wasn't highlighted too garishly. At any rate, I've come to terms with the show being over and stopped feeling betrayed by the disappointments a few years ago. I consider any entertainment I got out of the last three seasons to be icing on the cake.

Ahistoricality said...

Yeah. What can you expect from the folks who produce E.R. ?

I read a rumor that the producers were going to have Vinick win if the show hadn't gotten cancelled. That, plus the Ziegler pardon, demonstrates how hollow the show had become: the "politics" had become sentimentality; issues had morphed into manipulative emotionalism.

Whether or not Whitford can take on the new character really depends on him: if he's as good an actor as he seems to be, and the new show really is a new show (is it just me, or was "West Wing" really just another "backstage drama" on a bigger stage?), the adjustment period will be pretty short.