For ease of access, here are links to all my episode and season reviews of The West Wing. This page will be continually updated.
For ease of access, here are links to all my episode and season reviews of The West Wing. This page will be continually updated.
May 14, 1998, marked the end of two pop-cultural touchstones. One was Frank Sinatra, who died in Los Angeles at the age of 82. The other was the TV series Seinfeld, which aired its final episode on NBC that evening.
It may seem trivial to lump a man’s life with a TV show, but while Sinatra was mourned by many, the end of Seinfeld garnered even greater recognition. NBC devoted its entire Thursday night comedy block to the show – an hourlong retrospective clip show, followed by the hourlong finale. The episode attracted over 76 million viewers, making it one of the most-watched TV finales of all time. (No other series finale since then has come close to that number, with only one – the Friends finale – even getting halfway there.)
By now, it seems like everyone on planet Earth has seen Avengers: Infinity War. However, if you’re one of the select few who haven’t seen the film (or one of the fewer who don’t have interest – shame on you, BTW), I should clarify that, as the title implies, this article will feature MAJOR SPOILERS for the ending of Infinity War, as well as the two-and-a-half hours leading up to it. Oh, and maybe a few other Marvel films, too.
[Writers: Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 12/8/2004]
“You have a year to talk me out of voting for him.” – Donna
Among the numerous changes made during the Sorkin-to-Wells transition, few are as jarring as The West Wing’s newfound penchant for “modern” cultural references. Sorkin cut off the show’s real-world history around the Nixon era, and the culture discussed in the White House rarely ticked past 1975. But a new production team brings a new flavor to the series, and so it is that references inch slightly closer to the 21st century. “In the Room,” for example, has a throwaway line where Bartlet references the political TV series Crossfire. It’s only a brief mention, but it sticks out jarringly against the show’s retrograde framework.
[Writers: John Sacret Young & Josh Singer | Director: Vincent Misiano | Aired: 12/1/2004]
“Piece of cloth. Cheesy piece of fabric.” – Josh
As I’m writing this review, my West Wing DVDs – the Complete Series collection – sits idly on a nearby shelf. It’s a magnificent DVD set, packed with great special features and a glossy series guide. But a thin layer of dust covers the set box – in truth, I’ve not consulted the DVD set in a while. Whenever I need to rewatch an episode for review, I simply pull it up and stream it on Netflix.
[Writer: Carol Flint | Director: Laura Innes | Aired: 11/24/2004 ]
“You don’t work here anymore.” – Debbie
It’s unfortunately telling that the two most interesting characters in “The Dover Test” do not have any direct affiliation with the Bartlet White House. In fact, it’s unfortunate, period – most of the main characters spend this episode looking out of their element, wandering from one hallowed room to another in search of a direction.
Last week, I divulged my picks for the ten best films in the animated DreamWorks canon. This time around, we look the other way, as I examine the ten films I consider to be the studio’s all-time weakest.
Like most critics, I’ve long been disdainful of audience scores. Simply put, people should not determine which films are worth watching based on IMDB ratings or Netflix upvotes. While some of these aggregates can give you a basic idea of how the public views a specific film, the anonymity and insubstantiality of online rankings make it a poor substitute for pop-culture critiquing.
If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you’re probably familiar with my love for all things Disney. Even if Disney may be an evil corporate monster intent on sucking our wallets dry and brainwashing us through mind-controlling Mickey Mouse ears, their films are still a lot of fun. I grew up on all things Disney and Pixar, and maintain a fondness for their works even to this day.
Once upon a time, the short film was everywhere. Cinemas preceded every new film with a brief and humorous cartoon from the minds at Warner Bros. or Walt Disney Studios. For much of the 20th century, in fact, the theater offered patrons a veritable variety show of short films (both live-action and animated), newsreels, and musical performances in addition to the feature presentation.
[Writer: Peter Noah | Director: Julie Hébert | Aired: 11/17/2004 ]
“We didn’t have the votes.” – Josh
The Toyota Prius is one of the most fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly cars ever made. Not only will it get you where you need to go, but it’ll do so without polluting the air with unwanted carbon emissions. You can look good while driving, and you’ll save a dozen friendly seagulls with each trip. Go green – go Prius!
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has just been broken.
[Writer: Debora Cahn | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 11/10/2004 ]
“I don’t think this is gonna work out.” – CJ
Network television is built on status quo – individual episodes may play around with character dynamics, but in the long run, nothing can change. Yet the longer a show stays on the air, the more difficult status quo is to maintain. Even the most reliable formula will eventually grow stale, at which point fans will begin hungering for change.
Has it really been ten years since the premiere of Breaking Bad?
[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 11/3/2004 ]
“It’s that little burst of warmth before you freeze to death.” – CJ
“Third-Day Story” is a step up from the first two episodes of The West Wing’s sixth season. That’s not saying a great deal, but it’s worth acknowledging. As the show shucks off the effects of the wrong-headed Israel/Palestine arc, it tries to return to its baseline status quo – but the results, especially in the early going, are mixed.
[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 10/27/2004 ]
“Sir, should we be here?” – Josh
About the best thing that can be said about “The Birnam Wood” is that it’s not nearly as self-aggrandizing as it could have been. The episode could have been an exercise in pompous polemic, the sort of all-too-important speechifying that doomed the worst of the Sorkin episodes. But John Wells (who wrote this episode, in addition to the preceding “Memorial Day” and “NSF Thurmont”) keeps the drama toned-down and evenly moderated. Attempts at political grandstanding are few and far between.
When it comes to essays, journals, and thinkpieces, few TV shows have as vast a catalog as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Countless books have been published which dig into the characters and themes of the show. The series itself was a trailblazer for the current wave of analytical online TV recaps, paving the way for essays about quality shows ranging from Breaking Bad to The Leftovers. And, lest we forget, this very website owes its existence to the intricacies of the Buffyverse.
Welcome, one and all, to 2018.
It was almost a year ago that Mike contacted me and asked if I would like to take over as administrator of Critically Touched. As a regular writer and contributor to this website for several years, I was thrilled to accept his offer. But at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I could properly sustain my usual level of writing while also presiding over the site and forum itself (free server notwithstanding), in addition to keeping up the continual strains of college life and adulthood.
2017 may have at last been the year in which quantity overtook quality.
With over 500 shows airing this year, across more networks and streaming platforms than ever before, the world of television is bursting at the seams. And the effects were clear: This year saw multiple networks (WGN, A&E, Cinemax) get pushed out of the scripted-TV business by sheer force of competition. There was a narrowly-averted writers’ strike, attributed largely to the evolving nature of the business. And some of the best shows on television slipped between the cracks unnoticed, with viewership numbers that scored in the mere six-digits.
I wasn’t sure if I’d have the strength to finish this guide. Studio 60 takes a lot out of a guy, particularly when he reviews 11 episodes in one go. But I’ve been watching a lot of Saturday Night Live lately, and it’s reminded me that – even after all these decades, and even in a largely uneven season – sketch comedy can still bring joy to the world. It can bring laughter to us when we most need it.
Hollywood’s not in the best of states lately. It seems like every day brings forth a new accusation, and a new revelation that one of our favorite actors is in fact a sleazy scumbag. (To use the family-friendly terms.) The industry seems rattled like never before, and we’re all left wondering where all the chaos will lead.
But in the meantime, it can be healthy to ignore the chaos in the film industry, and focus instead on… um, the film industry.
Judging by the box-office returns, I’m guessing that some of you went to see The Last Jedi this past weekend. I’ve got some thoughts on the film, and will divulge them in a moment – although know that they come with FULL SPOILERS for the entire film. You’ve been warned…
After weeks of swirling rumors, the news has finally been confirmed: Disney is buying 20th Century Fox.
The mouse-eared media giant announced its plans yesterday to buy out one of its chief cinematic rivals, acquiring the rights to the X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons,, and a slew of other TV and film properties in the process. The cost for this maneuver? A little over $52 billion.
In the vast and intertangled web of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor often feels like the family’s unloved stepchild. And it’s not very hard to see why. While Captain America and Iron Man represent different ideals of the American Dream (one personifying it, the other living it), Thor both figuratively and literally exists on a whole other world. His story is rooted in Norse mythology, and dabbles heavily in the realm of gods and goddesses. It’s hardly the sort of fodder one would expect from a superhero, particularly one who helms a blockbuster franchise.
Upon first hearing the premise of Coco, my mind immediately responded: “That sounds a lot like The Book of Life.”
It was a snap judgment, but not an entirely groundless one. Pixar’s latest animated film shares a number of elements in common with Life, which was still relatively fresh in my mind (the film was released in 2014) when I saw the first Coco trailer. The perceived lack of originality concerned me, as Coco is one of the few non-sequel films in the current Pixar cycle. (We’ve just come off Finding Dory and Cars 3; next up will be The Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4.)
When it comes to children’s entertainment, merchandise is king. How successful your movie is depends largely on how well it can sell toys. Warner Animation neglected this fact in the late ‘90s when they produced Quest for Camelot and The Iron Giant. Neither film was marketed very well, and neither had a very compelling toy line. Unsurprisingly, both bombed at the box office. Nowadays, Warner Animation makes most of their animated films about Lego characters. Lesson learned.
I usually like to post TV or film retrospectives on major anniversaries, but sometimes I get impatient. The fiftieth anniversary of Planet of the Apes won’t be celebrated until early next year, but I’m too giddy to keep my damn dirty paws off this franchise until then. Besides, the post here doesn’t directly deal with the original Planet of the Apes; instead, I’m using it to discuss a remarkable film trilogy which drew to a close earlier this year.
But let’s start at the beginning. The original Planet of the Apes hit theaters in February 1968. Produced by Arthur P. Jacobs and cowritten by the great Rod Serling, the film introduced viewers to a barbaric planet populated by (what else?) apes, and the unfortunate astronauts who crash-landed on its surface.
Before the story even starts, Happy Death Day has let its viewers in on the joke.
The movie opens with the familiar orbiting globe of Universal, the studio which distributed the film. Then it abruptly resets, and begins displaying the globe again. Then another reset, and we finally get the complete logo.
[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 10/20/2004 ]
“Everyone disagrees with your assessment.” – Leo
When trying to persuade someone to watch the post-Sorkin seasons of The West Wing, I typically offer some standby words of encouragement: “Season Five is pretty rough. But stick with it. The show gets back on its feet in Season Six.”
And it does! The sixth season of The West Wing returns the show to its revered status as one of television’s most complex and riveting dramas. Except… it doesn’t do it right away.
Fifteen years ago, Firefly premiered.
And slightly under fifteen years ago, it ended.