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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Emmys 2017: Which Shows Will Win?

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It’s that time of year again. The time when rich people gather into a big ballroom and repeatedly pat themselves on the back. The time when awards are handed out to people based on quality and also how much money they spent on campaigning. The time when a host makes some modestly humorous jokes and then disappears after the first twenty minutes. (Okay, I don’t expect much “modesty” from Stephen Colbert these days. But hey, twenty minutes.)

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Was Ally McBeal a Feminist Icon?

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In June 1998, Time Magazine published an issue with a most unusual cover. The image displayed the pictured heads of four women: Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and… Ally McBeal. The first three heads were printed in black-and-white, the fourth in full color. Beneath the picture of McBeal were printed three boldened words: “Is Feminism Dead?”

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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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A Brief Unauthorized History of The CW (Part 3)

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[By Jeremy Grayson]

At long last, here’s the third quarter of this historical opus. Read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already, and then come back here. I’ll wait. I’m the patient type.

By the time she was first approached to run the all-new CW Network, Dawn Ostroff had thirty years of media experience behind her – twenty in radio news (where she had started work as a teenager), and another ten in television. In 1996, she had joined Lifetime, a network with programming aimed at women, and presided over successful shows like Any Day Now and The Division. In 2002, she left her post to become President of UPN. And when the struggling UPN was merged with the WB into a shiny new network, CBS President Les Moonves chose her to lead the way.

Continue reading “A Brief Unauthorized History of The CW (Part 3)”

The First Live-Action “Tick” was Cancelled Too SPOON

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[By Jeremy Grayson]

“Gravity. It’s a harsh mistress.” – The Tick (after falling down an elevator shaft)

Superheroes are everywhere these days, aren’t they? The summer movie season is flooded with capes-and-tights blockbusters. A heroic new TV series seems to debut every few weeks. They appear on all sorts of merchandise, ranging from backpacks and T-shirts to pencils and toothbrushes. And hey, sometimes they even appear in comic books.

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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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A Complete Guide to Studio 60 (Part 1)

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[Written by Jeremy Grayson]

You like good TV, don’t you? I mean, you obviously do, or else you wouldn’t be on this site. We at Critically Touched write a lot about good TV, and great TV, and all the TV in between. Rarely, however, do we take the time to write about bad TV.

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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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West Wing 5×17: The Supremes

[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Debora Cahn | Director: Jessica Yu | Aired: 3/24/2004 ]

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“Oh, my God. You’re putting my mother’s cats on the Supreme Court.” – Donna

“The Supremes” is the standard by which every post-Sorkin episode is measured. It’s a Season Five episode that’s liked even by Season Five’s biggest detractors. In terms of fan favoritism, it’s among the most popular episodes in the entire series.

So, is it ironic that I find it a little overrated?
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West Wing 5×15: Full Disclosure

[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. | Director: Lesli Linka Glatter | Aired: 2/25/2004 ]

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“If I could take back one moment of my life…” – CJ

I don’t want to do this.

Seriously, I really don’t want to do this.

I mean, it’s not like I need to do this, right? There are 155 episodes of The West Wing. Skipping one won’t matter in the long run.

So, no review today. Come back next time.

Continue reading “West Wing 5×15: Full Disclosure”

West Wing 5×14: An Khe

[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 2/18/2004 ]

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“I’ll take it from here.” – Leo

Leo McGarry is simultaneously The West Wing’s simplest and most complicated character. He seems easy to define – the well-meaning, wryly humorous conduit between the President and his staffers. But the actual Leo is more difficult to pin than that.

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West Wing 5×13: The Warfare of Genghis Khan

[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Peter Noah | Director: Bill D’Elia | Aired: 2/11/2004 ]

“But his music just left the solar system.” – Josh

The whole concept of Season Five is entirely at odds with itself. Wells was tasked with honoring Sorkin’s vision, while also branding The West Wing in his own style. So much of the season’s messiness comes from the inability to reconcile these two goals – idealism clashes with pragmatism; politics clash with soap opera; and characters constantly clash with each other. Continue reading “West Wing 5×13: The Warfare of Genghis Khan”

West Wing 5×12: Slow News Day

[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Julie Hébert | Aired: 02/04/2004]

“It’s the greatest sin in politics to be bad on television.” – Josh

Ask a fellow West Wing fan what they think the worst episode of Season Five is, and they’ll probably say… um, “Access.” But ask them what they think the other worst episode of Season Five is, and they’ll probably name “Slow News Day.”
Continue reading “West Wing 5×12: Slow News Day”