Revisiting a Classic
"Here’s an answer to your question that I don’t think you’re going to like: the current crop of 18-25 year olds is the most politically apathetic generation in American history. In 1972, half of that age group voted. In the last election, 32%. Your generation is considerably less likely than any previous one to write or call public officials, attend rallies, or work on political campaigns. A man once said this, "decisions are made by those who show up." So are we failing you, or are you failing us? It's a little of both." — President Josiah Bartlett, "The West Wing"
"The West Wing" has been off the air for a decade, but it remains a vibrant part of culture in the United States. It was incredibly well written, it was well acted, and it got people thinking about the American government. There had never been a show like it before, and there hasn't been one since.
The series debuted in 1999 and ran for seven years, going off the air in 2006. But now we get a chance to enjoy and re-live the show on a weekly basis through a new podcast, "The West Wing Weekly."
The podcast, which is available for free online (www.westwingweekly.com), goes over the series, one episode at a time. It's been going live for four weeks, and so far has chronicled the first four episodes of the first season.
The podcast is hosted by Joshua Malina — an actor who appeared on "The West Wing" in its later seasons and starred on Aaron Sorkin's "Sports Night" — and Hrishi Hirway, a composer and dedicated fan. The two go over the plot of each episode, touching on key themes and discussing the back story.
While the podcast is great and entertaining in its own right, it's what it's prompted that has been the biggest treat. I've been re-watching "The West Wing," one episode at a time, each week.
"The West Wing" is available on Netflix. One of the wonders of this modern age of media is that catalogs of whole shows are available to watch at any time. The draw back is that we've become a binge culture. We don't want shows one at a time, we watch whole seasons in one sitting.
Malina and Hirway make a strong case against that type of viewing because of the rich narrative and storytelling you can miss. They advocate their audience watch —or re-watch — the series one episode a week, drinking it in prior to the discussion.
I love "The West Wing." I would consider one of my five favorite series of all time. I've watched each episode multiple times. But, still, watching the episodes this way — one week at a time — has been a great way to drink in the series, stories, characters, and plot. It's been a great way to remember how much I loved the series in the first place.
If you're a "West Wing" fan, or haven't ever seen the series, give it a try, and check out "The West Wing Weekly." You'll be glad you did.