Katelynn Singleton, Campus Carrier staff writer
With finals quickly approaching and stress levels growing, it’s good to have a comfort show to fall back on. A show that you know well and can rely on to tell you the same story each time you watch it. For me, that show is “The West Wing.” I know a political drama is usually a strange choice to destress, but whenever the theme song starts playing, I get ready to ignore my problems for 40 minutes. When looking deeper, it’s the star-studded cast and brilliant dialogue that keep me coming back for more.
The cast features legendary actors including Martin Sheen, Richard Schiff and Allison Janney as President Bartlet, Communications Director Toby Ziegler and Press Secretary C. J. Cregg, respectively. They, and the other four main cast members, are the show’s focus with episodes revolving around their relationships and the way they navigate the ups and downs of the White House. The characters are not pigeonholed into one character type. The cranky, by-the-book character can also be a caring and funny person. You find yourself becoming invested in them as they go through their life and returning so you can see what they’ll be up to in the next episode.
The dialogue is a piece of art in itself. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin writes at a rapid pace, with one line coming immediately after the next. The dialogue is never dumbed down, with characters talking about government policies at every turn (which is expected – they work in the White House). One character, Donna Moss, is utilized to explain concepts that might not be general knowledge. She effectively acts as the audience, asking questions about policies, and engaging in a debate with other characters to clarify what she, and the audience, do not know. And the show isn’t just focused on dramatics. There’s a healthy amount of humor spread throughout the show, preventing episodes from feeling too heavy.
A staple of the show’s cinematography is “walk-and-talks,” a continuous shot where characters are, you guessed it, walking and talking. Sorkin uses them to transfer focus between characters and topics seamlessly. The walk and talk strategy is used to emphasize how busy the characters are, that they can’t stand still and talk it out; they must use even travel time to converse. This strategy is used almost every time the characters walk from place to place.
In a time where politics are more divisive than ever, it’s nice to be able to check in to a show where they make a little bit more sense. The characters are good people, trying to do good work for a country they care about. Sure, the show romanticizes daily life in the White House, but that’s what makes it so good. “The West Wing” shows us how great the country truly can be, a much-needed reminder in our current day and age.