Thoughts on The West Wing’s Finale

It’s true. Denisa and I finally finished the entire series of The West Wing the other day, and I thought I’d take a minute to reflect back on the series as a whole. A lot of shows start strong and end with a whimper, or they take a while to find their way, and then kick it into high gear.

The West Wing is a show that started at full speed and provided an excellent example of the perfect way to end a series. Though there was a rough patch when Aaron Sorkin left after three seasons, they managed to find their way again, and it all fits together beautifully.

The show starts with a new president and staff just coming into the White House. It ends with that staff leaving the White House and a new one coming in. Thus, we have an ideal story arc. It wouldn’t have made sense for the show to continue on after that. Because if there’s one thing I learned watching this show, it’s that politics is stuck in a never ending cycle. Here’s a series that’s been off the air for seven years. The first episodes of the series are more than fourteen years old now. And yet strangely–disturbingly–they’re still dealing with the same debates, the same issues, the same crises today that President Bartlett and Co were dealing with back then.

So what would a new president–a continuation of the show–had to deal with? The same stuff. An endless retread. And unless you’re doing it from a Republican point of view, then I see little need for a retread. (And even a Republican POV change wouldn’t be enough to really warrant the show’s continued existence, although it might well be a formula for creating a new hit show. There’s a huge demographic out there that just can’t watch the West Wing because they can’t get over themselves long enough to stomach a Liberal POV as the show’s focusing lens. Talk about ripe for a remake . . .)

Really, the show just fits together so nicely. It manages to inform its viewers about the political process, delve into some of the weightier matters, focus on character growth and conflict, discuss history and trivia . . . it’s got it all. There’s a reason it won a slew of awards and is consistently listed among the top TV dramas of all time.

I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. I found it uplifting and inspiring at times–even when it occasionally overreached. All in all, the only thing that makes me sad is that it took me 14 years to find it.

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