April 07, 2006
West Wing's Lack of Embrace
Despite the fact that I now own a flat screen, I don't watch television on a regular basis. Never have. When I managed broadcast media training at a large PR agency on the East Coast, this was an issue of 'discussion' among my direct report and peers.
Yet, despite my grief over American television, whenever West Wing enters my world, I'm roped in. Why? It's witty, has great characters, feeds us a bit of drama, and gives us insight into the sad world of American politics (while tainted and painted, the writing is damn good).
Is John Wells still a contributing writer?
As a woman who loves great writing and a great plot, I was profoundly disappointed with the latest episode (which I saw on an HD DVR replay at a friend's house after the fact - who watches TV in real time anymore?).
When I lived in Australia (and England), I got a 'little' hooked on a program called Neighbours. Those who lived in either country in the nineties will well remember its hype and alas, after years of build-up, when two of the main characters finally 'hooked up,' it was an episode to remember.
Suspense, action, drama, intensity, embrace.
I use this as my analogy because while I don't regularly watch The West Wing and haven't seen an episode in a year or more, when someone tells me at a business dinner on Monday night that Josh and Donna finally 'hook up,' I'm eager to 'see it'
But where does the episode take me? To a emotionless, brisk place that could only have been written by a man. We see a scene where people are leaving a bar, in pairs, until we're left with Josh and Donna. He asks her a question, a glance, then a look, she moves closer, says no and gets up and walks out.
We then see Josh's eyes locked on her as she walks away. He takes a final gulp of his scotch, slams it on the table next to him, and the editors immediately fade to the opening title sequence.
Perfect. Tantilizing. I can't wait to see more. Show me the next scene. Build up and suspense and a sense of 'finally,' could this be the moment they embrace?
Then, what does the writer give me? I am dished a bedroom scene of them separated in bed 'after the fact.' After years of waiting for 'the embrace,' and 'the act,' there's no emotion, no build up, no lead on........and barely any skin, except for a fabulous scene in the hotel bathroom before Donna leaves to get coffee. As a heterosexual woman, even I realize she's hot in that shot (and my DVR-obliging hetero male friend was beside himself waiting to see this scene again) - well done camera crew.
But, there's no personal exchange or passionate kiss. Is this drama on the 2000's? If so, give me back Carey Grant, or a little Ginger Rogers.
A helpless romantic? Maybe, but c'mon West Wing writers....what were you thinking? Half your audience must be female.
They have a second chance -- and once again, we are 'fed' no physical or romantic energy in any of the scenes between two of the hottest characters of the drama. To top it off, we're in the middle of a hot election, where numbers 'by the minute' are all anyone on the team can think of. Yet, where's Bartlette? We don't even see his mug - not even once.
But because of Bartlette and his election, the only pillow talk we hear in what should have been an intimate moment, is concern over Minnesota and Massachusetts polling numbers.
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I'm reading a lot of criticism about The West Wing right now. I think I'm the exception because I'm loving it...and I AM a guy :) Maybe I'm just relishing the final episodes of my favorite show ever.
But I thought that by not giving us the "embrace" they created cognitive dissonance. I'm still waiting for the embrace myself, but now I have to keep watching to get it.
I guess we'll see.
Posted by: Graham English | Apr 7, 2006 9:16:57 PM
I for one can do without the mushy drivel. Of course what do I know, I'm just another guy ;-)
Posted by: Ross | Apr 9, 2006 11:45:13 AM
Guys, guys, guys - that's not the point. It's not about the mushy drivel. It's about romance, passion, build-up, suspense - take me to another place. At times I want 'factual reality' without that kind of energy, I wouldn't be watching a TV drama. :-) Food for thought.
Give me the embrace West Wing writers.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Apr 9, 2006 12:29:45 PM
Well, I'm a manly man, a guy with a hairy back, who likes movies with car chases and where things blow up real good--but I also like a good romantic storyline, and I was beyond disappointed by Josh and Donna's amazingly passionless hookup on this episode.
I mean, as far as I can see, they never even TOUCHED each other on-camera.
I think the writers were intentionally doing this. But why? We don't know. Maybe we'll get an answer before the series concludes.
Posted by: Mitch Wagner | Apr 13, 2006 3:53:31 PM