Am I about to run out of good ‘West Wing’ episodes?


I’ve been thinking about the passage above from The Once and Future King. The boy Wart has just met Merlyn for the first time. Merlyn, who experiences time backwards, asks how long it’s been since they met. When the boy tells him, he is deeply saddened, because he is about to lose his dear friend of many years.

In my own strange temporal distortion, made possible by Netflix, I am experiencing “The West Wing,” a series that everyone else saw a decade ago, for the first time. What is old to everyone else is fresh and new to me. And it has renewed me physically as well as regaling me mentally — it’s made me enjoy working out every night, and getting in shape.

But I just discovered something upsetting. I had heard that the series was only as wonderful as what I’ve been experiencing during the years that Aaron Sorkin wrote it. I had looked forward to a full seven seasons of delight, watching the episodes each night while striding away on the elliptical. But I happened to discover that Sorkin stopped writing them at the end of the fourth season.

I watched “Life on Mars,” the 21st episode in the fourth season, Tuesday — the night before my accident. There are only two episodes left in the season. Had I not banged my head, I would have watched them both by now, and would be feeling rather bereft.

Are my friends about to abandon me? The lovely Ainsley, appealing on so many levels, including the all-important UnParty level, has already left, without a warning and with no goodbye, replaced most disappointingly by Matthew Perry. (Donna seems to find it an acceptable substitution, but I lack her glandular bias.)

I look forward to getting back up on the elliptical, but I dread running out of good episodes. I would hate to see the quality decline — it would be like being bitterly disappointed by a friend. And I’m not sure what to do if I no longer have good episodes to watch. I’ve tried getting into other series available for streaming on Netflix. I watched the first episode of “Dexter,” which many have praised, but was quite disappointed. I’ve tried getting into the various series in the “Star Trek” canon, but I doubt I’ll ever be a Trekkie.

There’s got to be something else out there as delightful as these four seasons of “West Wing.” But I haven’t found it yet. And doubt that I shall. It rivals my previous uncontested favorite series, “Band of Brothers” and to me, exceeds “The Sopranos.”

I sense a long quest before me…

Will my friends all abandon me now?

Will my friends all abandon me now?

39 thoughts on “Am I about to run out of good ‘West Wing’ episodes?

  1. Burl Burlingame

    And she got duck-lips plastic surgery.

    Don’t fear. Aaron Sorkin stopped writing every episode but he was still showrunner. Wait til you get to the “live” debate episode.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      The duck lips curse! After seeing one too many of its victims, I determined that looking old beats looking weird!

  2. Burl Burlingame

    Oddly, my morning-arise routine new includes reruns of “Leave It To Beaver” and I’d forgotten how well written the show was. (It’s way harder to write a soft gag than a hard joke.)

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Well, I’ve gotten through one season of Justified, and liked it fine. But my problem with that is that it’s not available streaming, which makes it way less convenient. I CAN watch a DVD on the TV in the room with the elliptical, but it’s a hassle. That’s because I can either have the Roku plugged into the TV — with those three different-colored wires that have to be matched up — or the DVD player. Since I usually use this set for Roku, that means a hassle each time.

              And hassles, however small, can be used as excuses not to work out…

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              As for Game of Thrones… do you mean “Sopranos” racy or “The Tudors” racy? “Sopranos” racy works because it’s about showing how tawdry and amoral these people are.

              “The Tudors” was just ridiculously gratuitous. I watched one episode. First, apparently everyone alive in the second decade of the 16th century was young and strikingly fit and good-looking. Second, the scenes of nudity were so completely unnecessary either to advancing the plot or establishing character that it lowered the show to the level of softcore porn. About all that was missing was a cheesy version of Ravel’s “Bolero” playing as background music…

            3. Brad Warthen Post author

              The nudity of “Tudors” was like profanity in the only episode of “Deadwood” I ever watched.

              Yeah, I get it. The Wild West wasn’t like Gene Autrey movie. It was rough, and grubby, male-dominated culture leavened by a very few, mostly hardened women. Got it.

              But anyone who used the “F” word that often would soon bore himself to death, I would think.

            4. Bryan Caskey

              You know, GoT was REALLY racy to begin with. The first season was lots of sex that didn’t necessarily need to be there. It was also pretty violent in a graphic way. However…

              As the seasons went on, the show started to get more into the plot and there was less sex and graphic violence. Now, there’s always going to be some violence. Heck, one whole episode was a battle…the whole time. The wold of GoT is a violent place. But it’s also full of interesting characters. For someone who likes lots of “gray” characters who can be both good and bad, it’s a good series. Don’t worry, there are plenty of very bad people who do very bad things. Actually, now that I think about it, there are only a handful of people who are actually very, purely good. Anyway, if you make it through the first season, it gets better from there.

            5. scout

              I have read all the books that there are so far. Really almost against my will. I’m just hanging on to find out what happens to a few characters that I care about. A lot of the story lines kind of bore me. I’ve had to put up with way more violence than I usually would in order to make it to the bits with the characters I like.

              I agree with Bryan’s assessment for the most part though.

              There are some really cruel characters, and a few good pure ones, and a lot of normal conflicted ones, and it’s all very political.

              I’ve read that there are rough similarities to the historical period in British history of the War of the Roses. But I don’t know that history well enough to tell.

            6. scout

              Not sure, but I’m envisioning that radio shack or the like might sell some kind of little switch box that would allow you to plug in both your roku thingy and your DVD thingy and just flip a switch for one or the other. Maybe.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    Justified as available to stream free on Amazon Prime, which is a good deal anyway,

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Ah, but you see, that would be another thing to pay for. I’m already paying for Netflix. We have no plans in the foreseeable future to increase our entertainment budget…

      1. Doug Ross

        I watched it because it was on HBO in the hotels I stay in but I found it mostly a hodgepodge of too many story lines, too many brooding/unlikable characters, plus the typical devices of fantasy where anything is possible so just go ahead and throw in some dragons, shape shifting, ogres, undead skeletons, etc. Peter Dinklage is about the only interesting character.

        But that’s just me – I never was into Tolkien, Star Wars, or Dungeons & Dragons.

          1. Doug Ross

            Yes, I’ve watched it since the first season. I’m just not into fantasy or sci fi. Dragons, witches, etc. bore me. Plus, there must be at least 50 major/minor characters to keep track of (up until they get killed off, at least — spoiler alert: everybody dies).

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Speaking of everybody dying — I binge-watched the whole third season of “Homeland” over the weekend. I think I’ll do a separate post on that…

            2. scout

              I admit that there are a LOT of characters and a LOT of dying. But honestly most of the drama revolves around regular human dynamics in a harsh feudalistic society. The fantasy bits are there but are not major plot points for the most part. I started reading them before they were on TV not knowing too much about them except that there was supposed to be some fantasy involved and I found myself thinking – where are the fantasy elements….in the beginning. More did come but you get a long way into the plain old human story with the only fantasy bits being seasons lasting years and a few brief odd references to things happening beyond the wall.

            3. scout

              I totally agree Doug. Theon was not a nice guy either, but he got a bad deal as a kid, and he didn’t deserve all that. I don’t enjoy those bits either.

            4. Silence

              Theon Greyjoy/Reek may have “gotten a bad deal as a kid” but that doesn’t excuse his sacking and slaughtering activities in Winterfell. Ned Stark took him as a ward, but raised him like a son. Every indication we have is that he was very well treated during his time in the North. He was a bad seed and deserved what he got.

  4. Bart

    I’ll cast my vote with Kathryn – Justified. My wife and I watch a few select series but mostly watch BBC productions on PBS, Amazon, or Netflix.

    One interesting show on Animal Planet is Treehouse Masters. The host is enthusiastic about what he does and it does bring out the inner child or young boy in me while watching the show. There was nothing any more fun than going into the woods or backyard and building a tree house or platform high up in a tree for a hangout. Amazing what goes into the ones they build and how elaborate and intricate they are. Note, they are not cheap but kits are available for anyone brave enough to give it a go. My wife and I thought about is since we live on 2.5 acres of mostly wooded land but after checking into the cost, decided a new deck and gazebo would be just fine.

    1. Silence

      In Westeros there’s a show called “Wall Masters” where a group of builders who are part of the night’s watch build, repair and defend a 700 foot high ice wall that separates Westeros from the wildlings and grumpkins in the North.

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    Longmire is an old-fashioned Western sheriff show, streamable on Netflix. Female characters are kind of cardboardy, but that shouldn’t bother you.

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