The West Wing—the talky, nostalgic-for-something-that-never-existed TV drama—was a fantasy of the kind of square-jawed, earnest, softly progressive Democratic administration we hoped Clinton's would be but wasn't. So now we're asking Barack Obama for it.
In YouTube form! Because, that's how we demand things of our leaders these days. Basically people are making mash-ups of the West Wing opening, but with Barack and his cabinet members being featured as cast members rather than Leo, CJ, and the gang. It's such a cute little dream of a wish!
Except, sigh, it won't be that way. Because nothing will ever be like The West Wing. Never was, never will be. Bush started a White House grease fire while trying to make a bowl of cereal one night, and it's not gonna be easy to put out. The West Wing was a product of boom-time America. There was no Iraq War on the show. There was never a Katrina. Or a Prop 8. But in Obama's world — that is our world — all those things happened. And more. Much, much more.
The West Wing was such a wonderful bit of screen magic. It premiered in post-Lewinsky 1999 as a shadow government alternative to the Clinton administration. Here's how it was supposed to have gone down, creator Aaron Sorkin and his colleagues seemed to say. Sure, President Bartlett lied about having MS and had his wife pull some chicanery during the cover up and stuff. But that was like the biggest scandal of them all. (Oh, and he smoked — just like Barry!) Mostly it was just young, adorably rumpled people like Josh walking-and-talking around the office, piling word upon left-of-center word. They talked us into a belief that the dirty business of executive politics really isn't that dirty after all. Or at least it doesn't have to be.
And then Bush came along and then September 11th happened. And the whole fantasy was shattered. NBC aired a stand-alone episode in which the characters had a deep and thoughtful discussion about the nature of terrorism, and then they moved on. Back to President Bartlett and his sage wisdom, his gruff belief in the purity of some misty-eyed American ideal. Meanwhile in the real world, Bush and his Decepticons waged war with civility and diplomacy, basically ruining America forever. Eventually people stopped caring about The West Wing—the real world drama was just too horrifying and urgent to ever comfortably reenter that Washington idyll's atmosphere. Plus the show kinda started to suck.
A Sorkin-less crew of writers revitalized the show, creatively at least, in their final season with an eerily-similar-to-Obama story about Jimmy Smits running for president against old, rattly Alan Alda. The critics loved it. No one watched it. The show aired its final episode on May 14th, 2006.
And then Hope and Change happened and now everyone wants to press and hold that rewind button for even longer. Forget the terror of the last eight years, forget the way Clinton fucked up his legacy. Let's go alllll the way back to 1992. This is how it should have been. This is how it will be. With the young people! And the smarts! And the talking!
Still, we like the YouTube mash-up. Apparently someone sent a similar one to CJ herself, Allison Janney!