Sunday, October 23, 2005

Catching up with "Commander in Chief"

From the L.A. Times:
"Most TV shows have a hard time realistically depicting workplaces, but “The West Wing” captures the crushing pressure, frenzied pace and intensity of a stressful office. The president’s supporting cast constantly juggles five crises simultaneously. Their smart, clipped dialogue is the legacy of “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin, and the show deserves credit for the wonkish perplexity of issues it takes on. (My mother once called me to teasingly ask if I had had anything to do with one episode that took up farm subsidies and media ownership rules, subjects I’d often editorialized about.)

“The West Wing” also captures the fatigue of a second-term presidency, and not every character has been comfortable with the compromises President Bartlet has made. Toby Ziegler, Richard Schiff’s character, has been in a deep funk, and it now turns out he was responsible for a leak that has led to an investigation and to the jailing of a New York Times reporter. Did I mention the show can be timely?

Over on ABC, “Commander in Chief” is all about the fantasy of a female president, played by Geena Davis. Her character is as independent-minded (in fact she is formally an independent, belonging to neither party) and principled as Bartlet was at the outset of his presidency. But the show’s episodes seem languid and uncluttered compared with “The West Wing” – as if the White House has the luxury of taking up only one weighty issue at a time. Also, to appeal to the folks who don’t dig farm subsidy debates, President Mackenzie Allen’s teenage kids seem to be acting out an episode of Fox’s “The O.C.” in the White House.
In their politics, however, both dramas depict Hollywood’s slanted take on the American landscape. Anyone tuning in who knew nothing about the real world would assume the United States is a one-party state because Republicans are too evil to be taken seriously. Donald Sutherland’s House speaker on “Commander in Chief” makes Tom DeLay seem cuddly."

"West Wing at its best was both about the grand gestures and the subtleties; about a president unafraid. One of such stand-out moments was when President Bartlet humiliated a talk radio host, loosely based on Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
Reel it back in to Commander In Chief, 2005. We're at the state dinner and Templeton's assistant, tells Gardner, "Now's the time."

Oh yeah. We're going to get a glorious smackdown where the writers shine and points are both made and scored into foreheads; a dressing down that will severely damage - like a knife wound in the stomach - Templeton's plans and probably any chance of any future presidency.
But, ... sigh ... here's what happened. Gardner simply walked to a quiet corner, catching Templeton messily scooping up melted chocolate, and simply said, the loyalty of the office was more important and that everyone should be doing their best to give her a chance."

From the New York Daily News:
"The best "West Wing" shows have been about the way things spill over into other things, with few, if any, playing out into clear, clean, final resolutions. To be President is to be a link in history, to take a few steps toward what you believe to be the right direction for the future.
Yes, "West Wing" has had its share of silly TV moments. But at its best, "West Wing" felt like it was aiming to be more than just successful television. While "Commander in Chief" is early in its first term, so far it has not. "

From the Orlando Sentinel:
" Smits has favorable things to say about Commander in Chief after seeing several episodes. "I'm just happy in the whole framework of art imitates life -- or maybe life should be imitating art -- that there's this move toward inclusiveness with regards to women ascending to higher office, people of color into higher realms of office, different points of view," Smits says. "I applaud that."

Globe and Mail:
"I hate to admit this, but I find The West Wing really hard to follow. They all speak so quickly and the themes are so dry and technical. It's a political drama for policy wonks.

Commander-in-Chief, on the other hand, is purely about people and their foibles. It may be set in the White House, but it's a show about family life in the tradition of programs from Father Knows Best to Eight is Enough -- sort of like The Waltons Go To Washington. And it deals with issues most of us can relate to: the difficulties of achieving work/life balance; of raising kids in a two-career family; of being a woman in a man's world (and vice versa.) But best of all it's about the first woman president of the United States. We can only hope."

The Carlisle Sentinel:
"So far, Mac’s victories are too compact and swift. It’s as if Congress with its Democrats and Republicans don’t exist to throw monkey wrenches in the works as they continually do on “West Wing.” I don’t sound much like a fan of this new show. So, why am I watching it?"

Sun Sentinel
"The West Wing is an idealistic take on the executive branch. Commander in Chief is a fairy tale.

It's unfathomable that these fantasies will continue in a Bocho-run show, so what can we expect?"

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