Friday, May 15, 2009

Things I Slept Through on Cable #2

Okay, so I'm cheating on this one because technically I was awake the entire time it was on. But I fell asleep right afterward, and I wanted to talk about this thing the last time it was on.

Despite having seen what must be every episode of West Wing, I still myself inexplicably watching a handful of episodes when they air. So imagine my surprise and/or joy when I came in from work this morning and discovered that one of my favorite episodes of all time was on.

The episode in question is the fairly entertaining (and most likely technically inaccurate) "Shutdown". The episode follows picks up exactly where the last left off. President Bartlett, after being faced with Republican Speaker Haflie's attempt to alter the already agreed upon terms of the federal budget, not only rejects Haflie's terms but refuses to negotiate further. With this meeting taking place mere hours before the deadline to either have a budget or establish a continuing resolution (the legislative equivalent of a rain check), Bartlett's refusal to negotiate leads to an inevitable shutdown of all non-essential government.

I know what you're saying, but it's not nearly as crazy as it sounds. It's unlikely that what happens following the shutdown is in any way indicative of what would actually happen during a government shutdown, but it is interesting to see the downward spiral that takes place. Most of the White House staff gets sent home. Government services in general go to crap. The press coverage of it does damage to both parties almost equally.

One of the main reasons I enjoy the episode, though, is that in a series full of continuity and season long story arcs, the story here is fairly self contained. You could know almost nothing about the series, and you can still get the gist of what's going on with this episode. And for long time fans of the show, there are a lot of character threads being dangled around. Josh is on the outs with the administration, the President is on the outs with his wife and most of his senior staff (who can't quite grasp what he's aiming for by continuing the shutdown), and the President is on the outs with his wife (which, if you've ever seen the series, is exactly as bad as it sounds).

This, of course, sets up an inevitable TV land conclusion wherein everything gets neatly wrapped up and fixed by the end of the hour, but it was still a crazy week for them. And there a good handful of iconic images and moments strewn about. If you can't get behind the Commander in Chief strolling down the street towards Congress, I don't know what to tell you.

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