The West Wing went off the air many years ago. But I’ve finally given in and am ready to start the series from the beginning, reviewing each episode as I go. Ready to join me? Let’s do this…
Discovering what lies behind the passing of bills was one of the topics on The West Wing Season 1 Episode 4, and it didn't spend too much time shouting to the rooftops about the process overall.
In fact, the whole thing is a pain in the ass.
The West Wing could have taken the road frequently traveled and discussed how pork gets added to bills, throwing off the focal point and making it a free-for-all with congressmen wanting pieces of the pie for reasons totally unrelated to the issue at hand.
That would have been easy. It's done all the time.
But that's not how the gun issue was tossed around at all.
In fact, guns remained the sole focus of all the congressmen who were deciding to vote for or against the bill, in a manner of speaking.
First, they weighed the issue and decided if it merited their vote. Some of the more surprising reasons it didn't merit their vote included being a completely worthless endeavor. Leo was arguing that the guns not specifically named in the bill were covered because they shared technical specs with another named gun.
But one congressman pointed out that he wasn't going to sign a bill that had the audacity to determine a 20 round clip was more dangerous than one with 10 rounds, as any gun with clips should be treated in the same manner. A semi-automatic is a semi-automatic in his opinion, no matter how many rounds it holds.
He couldn't stand behind a bill that was in name only and proudly sign his name to something that was an attempt to please his constituents and get them to shut up. Leo using the "blacks die at the hands of these weapons and drugs" made him even more resolute.
Josh was facing similar issues, but on the opposite side of the spectrum. The guy he was talking to wanted a certain gun to be taken off the list.
At that point, though, you realize it means nothing to the overall measure of gun control. They're pissing into the wind. Especially when some of the votes are being withheld not because the congressmen care this way or that about the measure, but because they haven't had their fair share of face time with the President.
Bills are a political bargaining chip in Washington for politicians to better situation themselves in their careers. It's kind of disgusting, isn't it? You think of the people you vote into office (and the time and money they spend shoving themselves into our faces) and all they ultimately want to do is sell themselves. Ick.
Even the Vice President got in on the game, when he was dealt the winning hand with regard to the bill by ensuring all of the votes were acquired with one single phrase. Do it because I'll one day be president. So, bank your good will now.
At least VP Hoynes redeemed himself at the same time as he came off smelling like a rose. We learned he, as well as Leo, are recovering alcoholics. That's not uncommon in Washington. In fact, most of the town in some state of addiction, so I am told.
It would be impossible to get the support you needed if you weren't offered an opportunity to get it close to home, so what better place to find it than right below the office of the Vice President?
And there was nothing Leo needed more than a meeting after the week he'd had.
You know things are stressful when your wife is angry with you and you miss the cue about your anniversary when there is a lovely watch box sitting before you after another late night at the office.
That was one of the worst signs of the end of a marriage I've ever seen. How bad to things have to be if you cannot even recall your anniversary when your wife is waving a flag right in front of your eyes?
Their relationship is obviously very deep, so I'll be interested to see if they find their way back to each other.
Thankfully, this episode wasn't without humor, some of it directly related to Leo's attempts to keep his wife happy, some because the administration was undergoing a financial disclosure and finally because President Bartlet was having back issues.
I don't know why this struck me as so funny, but as Leo was trying to get a late anniversary dinner together, he was stuck on whether or not to get a violinist to accompany the dinner when Josh walked in.
Leo: What do women think about violins?
Josh: Why? Are you thinking of taking lessons?
The way Josh delivers lines is precious.
Equally as precious though, are all of the words out of CJ's mouth because Allison Janney. She had something going from the opening. They were at a dinner at which the President gave a speech, and somebody must have insulted the girth of her neck.
When Leo was showing off the lovely pearl necklace he had purchased for his wife, both CJ and that character I don't like who I want to call Maddie (I know that's not right) were oohing and aaahing over it, hoping to try it on.
When Leo shut them down without a second thought, CJ's reaction called back to her concerns right after the dinner (at which she looked stunning, by the way) with this flippant comment:
Because I might stretch it?CJ
Those little things are so amusing and appreciated because they make the entire administration so human.
Not to mention the president himself, who was suffering from back problems and wandering aimlessly around the White House grounds.
He brought to a close the worries Toby had about his accidental insider trading. Whether Toby subconsciously traded as an insider or not doesn't really matter. He was rightfully freaked out about it.
Once upon a time, all kinds of people in important positions were allowed to accepts gifts and make money. But then they weren't. And in the midst of that transition, things got a little hairy. This was about that time.
So Josh was being made fun of because of his gift of an extravagant smoking jacket, the President was under scrutiny because his property value increased do to security improvements and Toby's sole investment that rose on the heels of his friends political speech was incredibly suspect.
A drugged President Bartlet had just the ticket. He wasn't quite sure who was sitting beside him and maybe he should be fired, but first he should have a big, healthy hug.
After all, President Bartlet loves his entire staff and he just doesn't tell them enough. Was he saying something?
It looks like their families may fall apart and they will undergo all kinds of undue stress because of this job, but they'll continue to grow closer and have each other's backs. I can dig it.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.