bartlet for president


confession: i think aaron sorkin is a genius. when crafting a list of writers i admire, he's at the top of the list. i know that literary purists will laugh at me, claim that i'm somehow less of a writer myself because of it, but it's true. he has a gift for dialogue that i covet with white hot envy--he's the only writer who can use repetition in dialogue to an advantage without making it seem like a device to lengthen a scene or add a few seconds before a commercial break. his characters are vivid and deep. his ability to make hour-long drama out of a few people locked in a room the whole time. the way he weaves history into everything he writes, deftly coloring his own stories with little-known figures and stories in history without making it heavy handed and unpleasant. the way he thumbs his nose at standard expectations of entertainment and tells the story he cares about. not the story that will naturally sell. let's face it...he's about the only person who could get me to care about the story of facebook.

i met sorkin with the american president and a few good men, but i didn't really get to know him until sports night, which i honestly believe is the greatest half-hour television show ever. and then there was the west wing, built from outtakes of the american president, a show that gave me hope in our government and made me believe that presidents could be not simply egomaniacal, but really GOOD. Bravo is currently playing blocks of the west wing, i assume their programming department is capitalizing (like so many companies) on the nation's current election fever.

Here's the thing...the last season of west wing is more about the battle for the white house than it is about the bartlett administration, but it throws into stark relief the issue of life imitating art and vice versa. It's eerie to watch this season on the eve of our current election, with references to vice presidential candidates "a heartbeat away from the presidency" and a republican nomination all shored up while the democratic battle becomes more and more heated (while concern of getting to the convention without a confirmed candidate throws the party into chaos). and the funny thing is, sorkin created two characters in Vinick and Santos (played brilliantly by Alan Alda and Jimmy Smitts, respectively) who actually seemed reasonable, livable, and not so bad--even though you can't manage to quash your wish that Bartlett would have stayed for a third term.

if only life could imitate art on that one.