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.

Continue reading “West Wing 6×01: NSF Thurmont”

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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.

Continue reading “Wonderfalls 1×01: Wax Lion”

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.

Continue reading “West Wing 5×22: Memorial Day”

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”

West Wing 4×21: Life on Mars

[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Aaron Sorkin, Paul Redford, and Dee Dee Myers | Director: John David Coles | Aired: 04/30/2003]

Mister Brains! Mister Brains!

Yes, Timmy?

Mister Brains, I have a question!

Haha, you always do, Timmy. You always do.

Mister Brains, is there life on Mars?

That’s an excellent question, Timmy. Scientists have been wondering that for centuries.

Gosh, Mister Brains! Do you know the answer?

Well, it’ Continue reading “West Wing 4×21: Life on Mars”