Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What's Next?
The West Wing's final episode is this Sunday night, but the night's not going to be what it could have been--NBC has decided not to air a tribute special, like they've done with almost every other high-profile series in recent memory, reportedly because some cast members wanted too much money to appear. Instead, NBC will repeat the first episode of the series at 7:00 before showing the series finale at 8. I understand the economics of TV, but we're talking about one of the most honored series in NBC's history, and it seems petty for them to balk at ponying up, especially at the last minute. You'd think they could take what they make from one episode of Deal or No Deal and throw it at the West Wing cast, but apparently not.

Fortunately, there will be nearly endless West Wing retrospectives in the media over the next several days, and they're already starting to appear. The Los Angeles Times had a story today about the formerly unrequited relationship between Josh and Donna. At BuzzFlash, guest writer Michael Winship reminisces about the show as a fantasy world for liberals who respect speaking in complete, humorous sentences, as epitomized by the late great Leo McGarry. And AP television columnist Frazier Moore writes a letter to Jed Bartlet.

I'm hopeful that the final episode will focus on the outgoing administration and not the incoming one. And I am eager to know what the final line of dialogue will be. If the writers have a solid grasp of the characters and the show's history--not a sure bet week-in and week-out, although they've been better about it this season--the final scene will go something like this:
Matt Santos has been inaugurated. We're in an underground garage, where Jed and Abbey Bartlet are getting into a limo for the ride to the airport and the flight back to Manchester, New Hampshire. They hold hands but don't speak. Their faces tell us that every memory they have of the last eight years is flooding back at once. Finally, the former president says, "Let's go." As the limo rolls away, they take one last look at the White House. Then Jed looks at Abbey and says: "What's next?"

Fade to black.
"What's next?" is a recurring Bartlet-ism, and ending the series with it would leave dedicated fans limp with closure.

If Aaron Sorkin were writing the script, he'd do it.

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