To those of you who are considering tuning in for 1600 Penn: A) What are you THINKING? and B) No.
Instead of supporting NBC’s headlong, willing nosedive into mediocrity, log into Netflix Instant, find The West Wing, and push play on Season 1, Episode 1. You won’t regret it.
I’ve had The West Wing on my queue for quite a while. As one of the few and rabid fans of the unfairly maligned Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I knew that Aaron Sorkin’s most critically acclaimed series would fast become a favorite. Also, I have had a serious thing for Bradley Whitford and his dimples for YEARS.
I was right. I’ve marathoned Seasons 1-4 in just 2 months. True, it’s been described as “white liberal porn,” and not for nothing. But I’m white, I’m liberal, and I am EATING IT UP. And I need more people to talk about it with! So let my 10 reasons convince you, and then come and talk to me about your thoughts on C.J./Danny and the President’s secret plan to fight inflation. Thanks.
1. JOSH LYMAN
Hold on to your panties, ladies of DC: motherfuckin’ Josh Lyman is in the house.
Josh is President Bartlet’s Deputy Chief of Staff, but very much the chief of my heart. This asshole runs Washington like he’s the Fraternity President, everyone else is a freshmen, and it’s always pledge week. Everyone wants to get with him, but his heart truly belongs to his woodland nymph of an assistant/life partner, Donna Moss. (More on that later.) I am LIVING for him.
The West Wing lore has it that Josh is based on Rahm Emanuel, so, by the transitive property, I must be in love with him too.
2. CLAUDIA JEAN CREGG
Before I started my marathon, my friend Julia gave this lady the best possible introduction – she told me C.J. was a Leslie Knope level of awesome. And goddamn, was she right.
C.J. Cregg (codename: The Flamingo) serves as the White House Press Secretary, and the way she handles a roomful of rowdy reporters will make you weep and then build a shrine to her. Also, she’s played by Allison Janney, who’s never done anything wrong in her LIFE.
3. DONNATELLA MOSS
Donna Moss, my precious flower.
Donna (Janel Moloney) is so badass that she leapt from recurring supporting cast to the main credits between the first and second season. As assistant to Political Sex God, Josh Lyman, she’s the most organized, compassionate, well-adjusted person in the entire White House. Donna puts other people before herself, always, which is why she sticks around supporting Josh when she’s competent enough to take her career anywhere. (I believe she does, in later seasons.) She’s basically a blond, midwestern angel with a pocketful of sass. God, everyone on this show is so sassy.
4. Every other major character
You’ve got Chief of Staff and Presidential BFF Leo McGarry (John Spencer), who is all wise and supportive (and sassy). Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), Communications Director, whose cranky exterior often cracks to reveal his love and respect for his coworkers. (And sass.) In the first four seasons, ageless sorcerer Rob Lowe plays Sam Seaborn, your brilliant and slightly naive Deputy Communications Director. (With a heavy dash of sass.) The Body Man is Charlie Young (Dúle Hill), who is closer to the President than almost anyone and activates all his fatherly instincts. (Though, of course, Charlie IS known to occasionally sass him.) Your Commander in Chief is Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (Martin Sheen), an intellectual Democrat from New Hampshire. He’s almost perfect and you’ll want to campaign for him for the rest of your life. (P.S. He can be totally sassy sometimes.) And finally, Stockard Channing is the POTUS’s sexy, brilliant, fiesty, and (you guessed it), sassy wife, Doctor Abbey Bartlet. Rizzo herself is your First Lady. Is that a dream come true or what? Sass!
And if you DON’T like a character, don’t you fear. Wait a few episodes and Sorkin will have dropped ’em. Not written them off…just…dropped them. *coughMANDYcough* There’s something charmingly ruthless about it.
5. You’ll slow-clap for at least one piece of brilliant writing every episode
Like this one.
6. Holy shit, EVERY ACTOR EVER is on this show
Was appearing on The West Wing required Hollywood credit, or what? In the first 4 seasons alone, I’ve come across Christian Slater, Mary Louise Parker, Elizabeth Moss, Ron Fucking Swanson, Matthew Modine, Amy Adams, a wee adorable John Gallagher Jr, Connie Britton, Corbin Bernsen, Taye Diggs, Matthew Perry, and John Goodman, just to name a few.
7. Josh and Donna, a ship we can all believe in
Guys, I have so many feelings about Josh and Donna.
I don’t want to give too much away, because going on the journey with them is just too good. Just know that the chemistry between Janel and Brad was enough to seal the deal of a departed cast member and place Janel squarely in the A-team. Trust me. Just watch how these jerks support and save each other, time and time again, while stubbornly refusing to acknowledge their feelings. It’s sweet agony. Their lack of personal space alone could keep fanfic writers going for years.
8. The “Walk and Talk”
Look at these graceful gazelles negotiate every corridor and corner of the White House while simultaneously running the country and giving each other shit.
9. It’s wish-fulfillment
I know, I know. The issues of bipartisan politics and international policy can’t be solved or even explained in 42-minute increments. And I know that there are plenty of political players who have more on their mind than serving the country and saving the world. But I’m a simple girl, and once in a while, I just want everything to turn out okay and for everyone to get along. Characters on The West Wing DO have egos and personal agendas. But when the chips are down, they set those aside and work together for the greater good. And they all love each other and it’s adorable. We should be so lucky to have people like that in charge.
10. “The Jackal.”
It’s quite simply the best two minutes of television ever. Allison Janney, ladies and gentlemen:
Go forth and marathon, my friends. Bartlet for America. Game on.