Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Simple People for Simple Times
NBC's The West Wing is in the midst of its presidential campaign, and they'll be doing a live episode Sunday night featuring a debate between Democrat candidate Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). The most recent episodes of The West Wing have been the best in a couple of seasons, striking just the right balance between the campaign storylines and the White House drama surrounding the firing of a key aide for leaking classified information. (Only the fictional president of the United States fires leakers, apparently.) The show is clearly back on track--now let's see if they can keep it up.

However: The Mrs. and I have pretty much given up on the season's other presidential drama, Commander in Chief. The show's deadly combination of simplistic and/or ludicrous plotting and painful earnestness finally got to be too much for us. We may go back for one more look, however, once new executive producer Steven Bochco, who created behind Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, takes command. Unlike C-in-C creator Rod Lurie, whose vision for the show began and ended with putting somebody's mom in charge of the free world, Bochco knows how to envision entire fictional worlds, populate them with interesting characters, and involve those characters in stories that ring true.

He's already fired a bunch of the show's writers. Let's hope the next thing he does is send Mackenzie Allen's three kids to military school in South Dakota so viewers never see them again.

Shameless Theft Department: "Wanker of the Day" is an Atrios feature, but I'm borrowing it today for Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, who's just fine with Samuel Alito. He says he got assurances that Alito won't be a judicial activist or "take an agenda to the bench." Well, of course Alito assured Nelson of that. It's called "saying what the potential employer wants to hear." Such naivete is pretty amazing for a grownup who presumably knows how to read, and who should understand the political dynamic in Washington these days. Alito's record is a lot more persuasive regarding what kind of justice he will be than "assurances" so ambiguous that they mean almost nothing.

What is it about U.S. senators that they're tougher on the guys they hire to mow their lawns than they are on people appointed to the highest offices in the land?

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