Okay, the live debate stunt didn’t really work that well.
It was stiff and stuffy and naïve and even the “spontaneous” bits felt wholly scripted and badly staged (at least that’s the way the west coast edition came off…perhaps the earlier east coast version was more engaging.) It wasn’t exactly what we imagine the Lincoln-Douglas debates to have been (the part where moderator Forrest Sawyer had to shout down the candidates in order to get them to behave was kinda funny) but it would be interesting to see real Presidential candidates facing off like the two fictional ones did here (something that will, of course, NEVER happen in my lifetime…”real” campaigns are even more heavily scripted…and often just as badly staged…as this make-believe one.) It was an interesting effort and I give them credit for taking the flyer on it.
But, all that said, overall the current (and, judging by the ratings since the move to Sunday nights, very likely final) season of The West Wing has thus far proven to be a marked improvement over the first frustrating, unfocused post-Sorkin season (about which more here.)
It’s not back to the heady levels of the Aaron Sorkin seasons (that would be too much to ask at this point) but it is better. That said, it is not really recognizable as the show I fell in love with during the earlier seasons…most of the old regulars have been marginalized (even Martin Sheen’s appearances are few and far between this season, the only actor who has appeared in every episode this season has been the always masterful Jimmy Smits) and the goings-on in the titular environs of the White House are mostly an afterthought taking a backseat to the Presidential campaign between Congressman Matt Santos (Smits) and Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda).
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I guess…but I miss the wit and whimsy, the drama and the pathos, the engaging interplay between the original cast of characters. If the show really does end this season, then it will still have had a wonderful run…especially for those first few, often thought-provoking, sometimes utterly wonderful, seasons…and that’s cool with me.