Tuesday, January 24, 2006

O'BSERVATIONS: "THE WEST WING" (DUCK AND COVER)

Now that NBC has made it official, that 'The West Wing' will end in May, it's time to go into "last cookie mode"; it's time to savor and enjoy the last ten or so episodes while they're fresh.

And they couldn't have picked a better episode than "Duck and Cover" to kick off this new awareness of how good this show had been. Everything about the episode harkened back to the glory days of the show - the pacing, the crisp dialogue, main characters with foibles and failings. What I liked best about the direction was the cuts back and forth between the three main arenas of attention - the White House, the Santos camp, and Vinick's team.

Why did it take so long to get JK Simmons on board in a guest spot on this show? I always thought he had the right look for the back room politics world of 'The West Wing'. And while this was not a flashy, pivotal role, it still provided a good showcase for him.

(Other actors I always wanted to see on 'The West Wing' include Enrico Colantoni and John Slattery. And I hope Lord John Marbury, as played by Roger Rees, shows up one last time before the curtain rings down.)

It's been a long time it seems since we last saw the weight of the job press so heavily on Bartlet's shoulders. I couldn't have been the only one who could feel the pain he felt as he sent those nuclear engineers knowingly to "almost certain death".

I wonder if the production team on this episode knew that "CalVista" is also the name of an adult entertainment company here in the Real World.

Um... I googled it. That's how I knew!

Maybe I'm dense; maybe I just read more into it than was intended, but did the Santos choice of "Blonde On Blonde" as favorite Dylan album cause a bit of a stir in the audience for more than the fact that his wife s a blonde? Could it be that his Rock The Vote audience interpreted the choice to mean that Helen Santos was a "real blonde", as in a Marta Covarrubias/"Yellow Cave" kind of inference?

Works for me!

When they filmed the scene to splain Leo's absence during the crisis, it was nothing more than a few throwaway lines. Now, with the death of John Spencer, it had decidedly creepy overtones.

But if anybody's absence needed splainin, where was Patricia Richardson as Vinick's campaign manager? Having Bruno Giannelli there as the campaign strategist was great, especially since he was so well attuned to the way Josh Lyman thinks. But I think Stephen Root's chief speechwriter character was out of his depth when it came to shaping strategy for Vinick during the first hours of the crisis.

And when it comes down to the M.I.A., where in the hell is Charlie Young? He's been made CJ's assistant; these last two episodes would have been perfect opportunities to bring him back.

Maybe Bartlet was being patronizing when he told CJ that she was too young to have seen the 1951 short film "Duck And Cover". It's true that if she is the same age as the actress portraying her, then CJ was born nine years after the film was first shown. But she certainly should have known of it from its inclusion in "Atomic Cafe" and other retrospectives of 1950s atomic paranoia nostalgia.

Then again, she should have understood a reference from an earlier episode about the ramifications of the last sitting President to be seen in a wheelchair, so maybe CJ is just dumber than a bag of hammers on certain topics.

I believe that unless otherwise specified (Kristen Bell as 'Veronica Mars' for example), the character is the same age as the actor playing the role. So Jed Bartlet would have been eleven when "Duck And Cover" was first shown.

This nuclear disaster in California is supposed to doom Vinick's campaign, but this is one moderate Democrat who would still like to see him win. Since this is the Last Hurrah for the show, there should be a clean sweep. Give 'The West Wing' a memorable send-off on a par with my personal highwater mark for final episodes, 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'.

Choosing the Santos-McGarry ticket is just going to fade in memory as a continuation of the status quo and the same old same old.

BCnU!
Tele-Toby

3 comments:

Jaia said...

You mentioned actors you wished you could see on the show.

I always had one, and the perfect role for him.

Charles Durning - as Abby's Dad.

Let the President get a taste of his own medicine and have father-in-law problems of his own!

Jaia

WordsSayNothing said...

Charlie Young was made ONE of CJ's assistants. As Chief of Staff, she has many, many assistants and underlings. In the political reality, it's okay that he's absent. Nevertheless, his complete absence for, I believe, this entire season (not counting the flashforward that started the season) is rather conspicuous, at least to me.

Toby said...

Even so, Charlie is the only one we seem to know (aside from Margaret as CJ's secretary). It's like the Enterprise - 400 crew members and yet we only see the same dozen or so characters involved in the operations of the starship each week.

I would have expected to see Charlie show up during those crises of the last few episodes. And as she does have plenty of other assistants, where were they? It looked like CJ was working in a vacuum, flying solo, pick your own cliche, with at least Kate Harper showing up now and again to give advice and updates and maybe order the pizza.

None for Margaret, thanks. She's having a yogurt.....