Monday, January 26, 2009

West Wing Season 3: Jed Bartlett Nails Ephesians 5

My wife and are one episode away from completing West Wing Season 3. For those who care about the show and have some familiarity with it I will explain my 9/10 rating for this season below.

Firstly, however, let me show you one of the best scenes of the season, where President Jed Bartlett complains about the preaching at his church and has a debate with his wife about the proper interpretation of Ephesians 5. In my opinion he pretty much nails it. The only place I'd beg to differ is that I'd say it is about marriage---but he's right; it is about so much more. I think he actually manages in this short clip to expose the absolute beauty and relevance of this remarkably misused and abused passage of Scripture. Watch this fantastic scene:

Unfortunately, the clip here stops short before Leo (the Chief of Staff) walks in and Bartlett says: "Leo, how may I be subject to you today?" and Leo responds: "I'm alright, Mr. President, I have Margaret (his secretary)."

As for the rating of this season, West Wing nuts might be interested to hear why I'm giving it a rating of 9. After all, this season certainly hit some real television highs, and in relation to most TV shows every season of West Wing is a 10. But I want to reserve my 10 ratings for the absolute masterpieces, the near-flawless screen-events.

And the fact is that there are three reason why Season 3 fell short of masterpiece status.

1) There were a few episodes near the beginning which were very very flat. Boring, in fact. One of them was directed by a person who never directed an episode again, and it is a reminder that even with great writing and wonderful actors a director can really ruin something. It gives a person cause for pause before dreaming "oh yeah, I could direct a show like that." Yeah right.

2) Too many guest spots and new characters coming in and out. Now, this is a minor criticism since most, if not all, of them were great characters with winning performances. The problem is perhaps only evident when you watch the season on DVD (rather than over the course of a year), but these characters were too in and out with not enough continuity. At times you don't know who you are going to see again. But this criticism is not major, since on the other hand some of these characters are absolutely amazing (especially Oliver Babich, Ainsley Hayes, Bruno Gianelli, and CJ's bodyguard).

3) The 9/11 episode was fairly potent at the time, but in retrospect is hard to watch. But we give some grace here: It must have been hard to be the West Wing after 9/11. In fact, maybe this explains some of the early-season flops. For the most part I think the show managed to wade through these sketchy waters with grace and dignity, not glamorizing or taking advantage of the event to make a buck, but not ignoring it either.

All in all, however, an incredible season of television. If you've never seen the West Wing, you owe yourself the favour of turning off the garbage on today and renting the DVDs.

In regard to the Ephesians 5 rant above, of course it must be mentioned that the show has its fair share of less-than bang-on representations of Christianity or Scripture. But even then, most of those have a real critical value to them that Christians ought to pay attention to. In amongst those, as well, there are some other real gems. Another of them is this interview between the President and a persecuted Christian seeking asylum from China:


joel said...

Hey, I know my last post on Ben's sight was over-emotional. Sorry, I got caught up in the moment.

I have stumbled accross something which might be really interesting and I would really like to hear your thougths on it.

It involves the imagination, in comparison of religious and the non-religious.

Just ignore Leif's comment, he is being polemical (which muchly as you will see if you read any of it).

Instead, read my 10th comment and tell me what you think. I may have finally found the words I have been searching for, in describing a fundamental difference in-between the religous and the non-religious ontological worldviews.

It might also be a less pejorative way to express my opinion; something which I am sure you have hoped me to find...


jon said...

thanks joel . . . your last post makes sense and i'm thinking about it. i've hit on a lousy day or two here so i'll try to be along shortly. thanks for your candor. i thought my last comment may have unintentionally seemed conndesdcending and am sorry if it did. some real clarity for me in your last comment so we'll start over there.

jon said...

hey folks, how 'bout that west wing? yeehaw what a show.

how would it go over if that first clip were to be played in YOUR church?

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

I love The West Wing. Every season.

Philbert said...

The West Wing sucks.

Philbert said...

What no rebuttals to my crass statement?

I was hoping to kick the hornet's nest and hear some strong defenses for the show.

I've never ever watched it. I think the suits and politics are what make me avoid it.

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

Sucks?!!!!!! Ha.

jon said...

i've seen you wear a suit philbert, and you looked pretty dashing.

i could see not being personally into the show, but i can't imagine if you'd watched five episodes you'd have any reason to deny it is the greatest show that has ever graced the screen.