West Wing 6×19: Ninety Miles Away

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[Writer: John Sacret Young | Director: Rod Holcomb | Aired: 3/16/2005]

“I’m gonna remember this…” – Leo

The rules of fictional writing (be it in television, film, or literature) dictate that there are two types of bad stories – those that fail in concept, and those which fail in execution. The West Wing, despite its many triumphs, has produced multiple episodes in both categories. The “fail in concept” basket includes “Slow News Day,” which is ineptly plotted but at least features some glimmers of character competence, while the latter category slots in “Constituency of One,” which starts with a promising series of storylines and then bungles every last one of them.

And then once in a while, we get an episode that fails in both concept and execution. An episode like “Ninety Miles Away.”

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West Wing 6×18: La Palabra

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[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Jason Ensler | Aired: 3/9/2005]

“Eleven and thirteen.” – Santos

Matthew Santos is charming, handsome, and charismatic. He jokes effortlessly with reporters and maintains friendly rapports with the folks on his campaign staff. He has a lovely wife and two cute-as-a-button kids, and they make the most beautiful gosh-darn family you’ve ever seen.

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West Wing 6×17: A Good Day

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[Writer: Carol Flint | Director: Richard Schiff | Aired: 3/2/2005]

“He started it.” – Bartlet

I love debating. Whether it’s about TV shows, politics, or TV shows about politics, a good debate reminds my brain to stay alert and perhaps face arguments I’ve never considered before. Though we don’t always (read: basically never) convince our opponents over to our side, debating people with conflicting views is a good way to put your own views in perspective, and perhaps even sway neutral third parties in our direction.

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West Wing 6×16: Drought Conditions

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[Writer: Debora Cahn | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 2/23/2005]

“You got a chance to shape the debate, strengthen the party, and you blew it!” – Toby

Among the many failings of Season Five, one of the most egregious was the way it turned TV’s greatest political series into a primetime soap opera. Illicit romances, interpersonal vendettas, and betrayals/backstabbings were brought to the forefront, often seemingly out of nowhere, and the show’s once-cutting political vernacular fell to the wayside.

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West Wing 6×14: The Wake-Up Call

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[Writer: Josh Singer | Director: Laura Innes | Aired: 2/9/2005]

“The document is just the beginning.” – Lessig

I’m a sucker for titles with double-meanings, and “The Wake-Up Call” has a doozy. The name refers here to the late-night/early-morning call that the President receives during a national emergency. But it also refers to the recent metaphorical wake-up call – mapped out in the purposeful “365 Days” – to the Bartlet administration at large, which is now in its final year and must determine how to end on a high note.

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West Wing 6×13: King Corn

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[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 1/26/2005]

“I lived the opposing arguments.” – Santos

It’s impossible to envy the position John Wells was put in during the summer of 2003. Not only had he been left to take charge of one of the most lauded and award-winning dramas of the era, but he’d had no direct involvement with the series beforehand. That the series didn’t immediately collapse into a pile of ash and broken dreams with the Season Five premiere was something of a miracle.

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West Wing 6×12: 365 Days

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[Writer: Mark Goffman | Director: Andrew Bernstein | Aired: 1/19/2005]

“Everyone’s walking around here like we’re finished.” – Leo

There are certain oddities and inconsistencies of The West Wing which must be accepted in order for us to appreciate the show’s finer aspects. The unexplained disappearance of many side characters (did Mandy just get lost on her way to the Sit Room?). The occasional character inconsistencies and continuity errors (pretty much everything involving Zoey Bartlet). The fact that election years are staggered two years against real-life elections (although if they occurred during leap years, as happens in reality, I suppose this episode would have been distractingly titled “366 Days”).

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West Wing 6×11: Opposition Research

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[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Chris Misiano | Aired: 1/12/2005 ]

“How do you wanna go broke? As the brown candidate, or as the American candidate?” – Josh

Politicians, despite what cable news may tell us, are not props. They are as human as you or I. They have hang-ups and flaws and quirks and foibles. They have favorite foods and favorite films and families they occasionally get to see.

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West Wing 6×10: Faith Based Initiative

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[Writer: Bradley Whitford | Director: Chris Misiano | Aired: 1/5/2005 ]

“Am I wrong to want to set the record straight? No pun intended?” – CJ

If you’ve been following these reviews for a while, you’ve probably noted that I don’t like The West Wing placing its politics front and center. The show is at its strongest when it points the magnifying glass at its characters, with policies and procedures functioning mainly as story fuel.

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West Wing 6×09: Impact Winter

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[Writer: Debora Cahn | Director: Leslie Linka Glatter | Aired: 12/8/2004 ]

“This is the back room.” – Leo

During the teaser sequence of “Impact Winter,” Annabeth and Josh discuss the upcoming press briefing, which will occur during “Take Out the Trash Week.” Annabeth asks Josh if he’s interested in doing the press briefing in Toby’s absence, but Josh swiftly declines, noting what a powder keg the press room can be.

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“Angel” Review Archive

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Here are all the site’s episode and season reviews of Angel. All reviews through “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” (episode 4×04) are written by Ryan Bovay. Beginning with “Supersymmetry,” reviews are written by a variety of other site contributors (including your humble administrator).

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West Wing 6×08: In the Room

6x08_top[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.

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West Wing 6×07: A Change is Gonna Come

6x07_top[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.

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West Wing 6×06: The Dover Test

6x06_top_[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.

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West Wing 6×05: The Hubbert Peak

6x05_top[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!

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West Wing 6×04: Liftoff

6x04_top[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.

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West Wing 6×03: Third-Day Story

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[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.

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West Wing 6×02: The Birnam Wood

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[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.

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West Wing 6×01: NSF Thurmont

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[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.

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Wonderfalls 1×03: Karma Chameleon

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[Writer: Tim Minear | Director: Marita Grabiak | Aired: 3/19/2004 ]

“Buh… Buh… Buh-bye!” – Jaye

When the term “Generation Y” was coined in the early 1990s, it mostly functioned as a placeholder. The “Generation X” phase was over, and a new label was needed for the children and teens fast aging towards a new millennium. So naturally, we simply chose to follow the alphabet.

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Wonderfalls 1×02: Pink Flamingos

Wonderfalls 1x02[Writers: Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts | Director: Todd Holland | Aired: 4/1/2004 ]

“I’m a puppet.” – Jaye

“Pink Flamingos” was the last episode of Wonderfalls to air on Fox before the network cancelled it. This may sound startling, given that it’s only the second episode in the lineup. But “Pink Flamingos” actually was the fourth episode to air, even though it takes place chronologically before “Karma Chameleon” and “Wound-Up Penguin.”

It might not seem like the biggest deal, but jumping straight from the pilot to “Karma Chameleon” ignores an important stepping stone in the development of Wonderfalls. “Wax Lion” may have established the premise of the series, but “Pink Flamingos” is the first episode to put that premise into action.

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Wonderfalls 1×01: Wax Lion

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[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writers: Todd Holland & Bryan Fuller | Director: Todd Holland | Aired: 3/12/2004 ]

“You can’t talk. You don’t have a larynx. If you don’t have a larynx, you can’t talk. Got it? You can’t talk!” – Jaye

In retrospect, it never had a chance.

Wonderfalls was originally slated to debut on FOX in the fall of 2003. The pilot had been shot several months prior, and was all set to see the light of day. During the brief window between the summer press tour and the fall premieres, it looked like Bryan Fuller’s strange but delightful new show would be a commercial success, and compensate for the previous season’s cancellation of Firefly.

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West Wing 5×22: Memorial Day

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[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: John Sacret Young & Josh Singer | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 5/19/2004 ]

“Today’s priority is not world peace.” – Leo

Since John Wells took the reins from Aaron Sorkin at the start of this season, we’ve watched him tug them this way and that. At various points in Season Five, The West Wing has been a bipartisan political drama, a romantic soap opera, an examination of Bush-era policies, a pulp novel, and even (shudder) a documentary. There hasn’t been a consistent tone, or even a consistent arc for the show to use as a guidepost. The season wanted to be too many things, and ultimately, it didn’t succeed at very many of them.

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West Wing 5×21: Gaza

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[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Peter Noah | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 5/12/2004 ]

“The only dishonor might be not to try.” – Kate

Most folks don’t watch The West Wing for half-baked operatic romances. Most folks don’t watch it for thin, didactic exploration of Middle Eastern conflicts. And most folks certainly don’t watch it for confusing, poorly-told stories about half-baked operatic romances and thin, didactic exploration of Middle Eastern conflicts.

And yet… “Gaza.”
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West Wing 5×20: No Exit

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[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Carol Flint, Debora Cahn, Mark Goffman | Director: Julie Hébert | Aired: 4/28/2004 ]

“On a need-to-know basis, who needs to know this much.” – Bartlet

“No Exit” deserved better.

Coming near the end of The West Wing’s most troubled season, it is designed as an antidote to the year’s earlier missteps. It clearly wants to take the show in a fresh new direction. And it wants to tell a compelling story at the same time.
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West Wing 5×19: Talking Points

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[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Richard Schiff | Aired: 4/21/2004 ]

“It’d be nice to roll back that tide, wouldn’t it?” – Bartlet

Writing in the Wall Street Journal in December 2013, Peggy Noonan referred to something she called “West Wing Disease.”

“Young staffers grew up watching that show,” she said, “and getting a very romantic and specific sense of how government works.” The show’s tight focus on the White House, she theorized, made it seem that the White House was the government, and disregarded the various complex and interconnecting agencies that surrounded it. Continue reading “West Wing 5×19: Talking Points”

West Wing 5×18: Access

[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Lauren Schmidt | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 3/31/2004 ]
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“ZZZZZZZZZZZZ” – Me

You love CJ Cregg, right? I mean, of course you do. Everyone loves CJ Cregg. She’s wonderful. She may well be The West Wing’s most popular character, and is easily one of its most likable.

But this raises a question: Why are CJ-centric episodes so consistently bad?
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