I was sad to hear this morning that The West Wing has been cancelled.
This was the only current broadcast television series that I thoroughly enjoyed. I thought the writing and acting was brilliant. And I only tuned in for the last two seasons, when the quality had supposedly fallen off.
I am also thoroughly sheepish about my devotion to this show. Why? Because the premise of the show contradicts some of my most deeply held beliefs about the American political scene.
The show offers a basically benevolent take on the presidency. Power brokers are generally depicted as well-meaning and decent. It’s a comforting, paternalistic vision. The people in charge will take care of us.
Maybe that’s the appeal of the show: It’s political fantasy.
Last night’s episode was a perfect example, and one that hit home. There was a crisis at a nuclear power plant that threatened to become a full-scale meltdown disaster. President Bartlett was competent, compassionate, conscientious, involved, on top of everything.
The parallels to Hurricane Katrina were unmistakable. It sent a chill down my spine. Yet what a contrast to the reality of the Bush administration’s management of the real disaster.
But I don’t relish The West Wing because it makes Bush look bad. I don’t buy the fantasy, period. I’m a complete cynic. I don’t think we can afford to trust our leaders. They serve themselves. And I never met a presidential administration that I liked.
But it’s fun to watch The West Wing and pretend.