In the first segment of last night's West Wing - an episode entitled
"The Al Smith Dinner" wherein the candidates debate whether they should
attend the Al Smith Dinner - one of Josh's aides asks him: "Who's Al
Lord, but they're mailing it in.
I'm certainly nobody's political operative, but i feel pretty good in
sayiing that "Al Smith" is kind of one of those tripwires between
people who have studied politics - or just really like it - and those
who haven't or don't. Like Tris Speaker and Bob Lemon and Luke Appling
- maybe you never heard of them, but theyre in the Baseball Hall of
(full disclosure: I have no idea who who Luke Appling was. None)
So the average West Wing viewer (though not, i bet, the average WW
fan) may not know who Al Smith was.
But there is no chance - none - that any character who has ever
passed in front of the camera didn't. Not even that horny british
ambassador, and certainly not an aide to Josh Lyman.
(for the record, Al Smith was the gov of NY and one of the great
progressive politicians of the early century - and i mean that with
emphasis on both words: he was a great progressive and a great
politician - he started as a hired hand in the NY fishmarkets, moved up
through the union ranks, and then city government and then did 4 terms
as governor, where he took on child labor, care for the mentally ill,
factory conditions, expansion and urban construction and a long list of
stuff that needed fixing. He would have been President except he was
Catholic, which back then was enough to sink him. Any decent Poli Sci major (of just anyone from New York) - would know that. I know who Smith is because he is the central character in the first 100 pages of Robert Caro's biography about Robert Moses, The Power Broker, the absolute #1, retire-the-trophy greatest political biography of all time. There is NO WAY a Democratic staffer on a presidentail campaign never read
it. It's not plausible).
So I'm not sure if they're getting too stupid to breathe or too cute by
a mile. This week was Abortion week, always a fun topic, but like the
song said, how bizarre, how bizare. The R nominee, Vinick (Alan Alda)
is pro-choice, a position which his party, obviously, detests. He is
CONSTANTLY defending himself to his own party on this point.
Here's the good bit - Matt Santos (the cancerous Jimmy Smits) is
personally pro-life, and skates as close to pro-life as a D can.
In other words, we now have a show with a D defending his sorta-pro-life
tendancies and an R as a pro-choicer.
And the national women's group - a stand-in for NOW - is thinking of
endorsing Vinick on the shrewd grounds that he'll win and suddenly
they'll be online with a pro-choice R President.
I'm wondering if maybe they think they're all in Australia. Or
Germany. Or Singapore. Because none of the above - none of it -
resembles anything close to America. A pro-choice R, in real life is
called... Hilary. What used to be a great Inside Baseball show is now
fanciful, utopian fiction.
As I've said, real elections are won not
by clever ads and soaring rhetoric but by TURNOUT - voter roles,
registration, base-level organizing. Bad TV, maybe, but if you want a
tv show about how to be President well.... that's how you become
And, much worse, jeanne garafallo is wrestling the show away from
Josh. Here character is an idealogue, she's a well-known real life
leftist flunky and she can't act a lick. Great - let's hand her the
Good news: Donna's back! With Josh! And we even got a flare of the
old black magic:
Josh, curtly and angrily: "Do you have any references?"
Donna: "Santos for President Campaign Manager Josh Lymon, try the
main switchboard." sing it, dollface!
So they've resorted to sitcom antics with a West Wing budget (as
Vinick entered the Al Smith dinner, all the copcars and security had
their flashers on, filling the set with pulsating red lights; when
Santos came in, the same lighting, only it was all blue - GET
And now, we get a LIVE debate next week - between, I assume Jimmy
Smits playing Santos and Alan Alda playing Vinick. nice stunt - a live
TV non-debate debate with 2 non-real people (also, did i see that ER is
going to have a - deep breath - AIRLINE CRASH right outside the doors
of the hospital. What, at NBC, are they saying no to?)
i think the debate will be fun. And as I've said before, it's
STILL the West Wing, and they still lap everything on TV (inluding
Commander in Chief, which is DYING to be called Desperate
Whitehousewive). And I imagine it will be better than Vampire Bats
(starring Lucy Lawless!). I'm just a little concerned about how much