The West Wing is increasingly looking not just like wishful thinking but science-fiction – certainly, it was very much a product of its time and that time has now passed. But it inspired love among many of its viewers, including Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. A self-professed superfan, he’s created a rap tribute to the show for ‘The West Wing Weekly’ podcast. Why not give it a listen? Maybe on Thursday.
In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC In the UK: Netflix. New episode every Thursday
Like most people in Britain, I get virtually all my knowledge about how the US government works via The West Wing. Screw Newsnight – I’ll tell you the first five amendments to the US Constitution and the episodes in which they featured right now, if you want.
So when I heard about Designated Survivor, no explanation was needed: after all, not only had the Mayor from Buffy The Vampire Slayer been President Barlett’s ‘designated survivor’ in He Shall, From Time To Time…, Laura Roslin would never have become President of the 12 Colonies in Battlestar Galactica were it not for a constitution specifying the exact list of people who would assume the position in the event of some terrible tragedy.
Designated Survivor is neither of those two shows. Instead, it’s roughly half-Dave (that delightful movie in which ordinary punter Kevin Kline becomes President and behaves very nicely and decently, unlike the other politicians), half-24 (that less delightful TV series in which highly trained anti-terrorist agents have a very limited amount of time to shoot and torture lots of people to prevent terrible atrocities taking place).
It sees the lowly Secretary of Housing, who’s just about to be fired by the sitting President, accepting the duty of ‘designated survivor’ during the State of the Union. Except then Congress gets blown up and this decent – possibly too decent – pushover family man and educator instantly propelled to the top job, where he has not only to bring the country together and keep it stable, he has to prevent all out war with other nations, find out who was responsible for the bombing and what they intend to do next, and avoid a coup d’êtat from people who think he’s just not up to the job or even eligible for it, given he was unelected.
Can he do all that? Hell yeah. Because that man is Kiefer Sutherland. Yes, boys and girls, Jack Bauer is finally President.
Joss Whedon – you either love him or only like him a bit. I think it’s probably impossible to hate Joss Whedon unless you’re about 12 years old and have no sense of TV history.
Politically, Whedon is, of course, a great big feminist and Democrat, and you shouldn’t be surprised that with a few exceptions – cough, cough, Sarah Michelle Gellar – so are his mates. With President Trump an actual realistic possibility in the next four months, Jossy-baby has got a huge number of his more famous pals to put together a video pleading with you not to vote for the racist, misogynist, homophobic, lying sociopathic conman who could well usher in the Apocalypse. He’s even got half of the cast of The West Wing along for the ride.
The video’s probably preaching to the converted and won’t sway many dissenters, but it’s worth a gander anyway because it’s pretty funny, too.
Sometimes, I wish it were summer all year round. Not because of the weather or vacations, but because it’s when the US networks decide to relax their formulae and let loose a little.
Take CBS. Most of the time it’s the home of nasty, unfunny comedies (eg Mike and Molly, Mom) and a neverending stream of formulaic procedurals (eg Code Black, Elementary, Blue Bloods). Then come’s the summer, it lets down its hair and (ironically) acts like it’s on spring break, giving us the likes of Under The Dome, Extant and Zoo. True, none of these have actually been much good, but at least they’re different, at least they’re trying to shake things up – I’d much rather have them than yet another Criminal Mindsor NCIS spin-off.
So what does CBS have for us this summer? Savour this moment. Brace yourself. You’re going to enjoy this.
This summer, CBS is giving usBrainDead, a sci-fi political satire in which the intractable problems of the US Congress are revealed to be the result of alien ants taking over the politicians by eating their brains and forcing them to listen to The Cars’ ‘You Might Think‘.
Don’t you just love summer?
Here’s a trailer. Minor spoilers, etc, after the jump.
Following on from Tuesday’s White House incursion by Allison Janney, both Janney and Bradley Whitford were guests on The Late Late Show on Wednesday, so a very meta West Wing sketch was naturally the order du jour.