It’s just a TV show. An entertaining TV show. A well-written TV show. A well-acted TV show. But, still, just a TV show. It isn’t real. And that is the reason I feel compelled to do something I have never done before. Write something about the end of a long-running television show about a president of the United States who actually cared about the country he was governing.
This last show I expected to be all maudlin and filled with sentiment. But there was very little of that. There is a sadness on the face of Josiah Bartlet as he peers out the window of his 747 flying home to a New Hampshire being pelted by an ice storm while the real New Hampshire is pelted by a rainstorm and a state of emergency has been declared. Is he thinking about his good friend Leo whose character and the actor who played him both died of a heart attach while “in office?” Or is Former President Bartlet peering into the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean wondering what will happen to the real United States as it suffers under the leadership of people who could more easily described as a pack of thugs than the leaders of the free world. I try and imagine a television show in which they would be the stars and realize that every Sunday night we would come away running to the bathroom to be sick.
For an American who gives a damn, the orderly transfer of power depicted in this last tender episode of The West Wing should be somethin akin to a religious experience. I find it satisfying that, in this America, for the moment at least, it still is not. Charlie advises about how to treat the thermostat in his office as his successor is unpacking boxes. And the successor barely looks up as he shovels things out of the boxes. Charlie and two of his colleagues walk toward the door thinking they will go to a movie that afternoon. CJ walks out the White House gate for the last time as chief of staff and a tourist asks her if she works in there. She pauses for a moment. Looks at the building that houses the American monarchy. And says, no. No she doesn’t.
When he walks into his new office, the new President picks up up from his desk an envelope that is the only thing remaining of the previous administration. A handwritten note from the departing leader. We don’t see what it says but there is, possibly, some good advice from a television actor for the people running things in that big house to consider.