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The West Wing debuted in September 1999 and gave us seven wonderful seasons of gripping television. Of course there were times when, unless you were a political junkie, you might not have understood exactly what was happening, but the acting was so compelling you couldn't take your eyes off the screen.
It didn't matter whether you were a Democrat, Republican or Independent, The West Wing crossed party lines because it gave us all something to believe in. Though the series was based around a Democratic White House, it focused more on the need for Americans to unite than to divide. Now, 10 years have passed since the credits rolled on the last episode, but this is a show that will never be forgotten — thanks in large part to Netflix for keeping it streaming! — and here's why.
It had a President willing to do anything for the American people.
Jed Bartlet never let pride stand in the way of doing what needed to be done for the American people. He once said he was the president of the United States, not the president of the people who agreed with him. It was a powerful line that reminded all of us that we were united no matter our party and that the President was representing all of us, not just half of us.
The staff was about so much more than keeping Washington working.
After Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman was shot, the team rallied around him, most of the staff closest to his staying at the hospital through the night. And when Josh struggled with PTSD after the shooting, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry recognized his friend's need for help.
It was a poignant reminder that though these people were working to keep the wheels of Washington turning, they were human beings first. They'd grown close to one another, loved one another, and couldn't imagine a day in the White House with each of the familiar faces. It was more than a staff working together; it was a uniquely bonded group of friends.
They stood up for one another no matter the party.
Ainsley Hayes was a Republican lawyer working for a Democratic President. She clearly wasn't welcome...at least, not at first. But the staff of The West Wing were willing to work with anyone who was willing to work with them. They didn't cast anyone out who had the best interests of the American people in mind, thus showcasing how life could work if politicians could work with one another in reality.
The humor was off the charts.
Whether it was C.J. Cregg lip-syncing to The Jackal or Toby Ziegler's zinging one-liners, The West Wing delivered abundant, clever humor that came as sarcastic retorts and witticisms that dared you not to laugh. Though the series dealt with the harsh realities of running the government, it was never too heavy that it couldn't offer a laugh to the viewers. That added one more mark in its favor.
It had President Josiah Bartlett.
The role could not have been played by any other actor than Martin Sheen. He infused President Barlet with dignity, strength, honor and the love of mankind. To me, he was the backbone of the series and took it to new levels each week. It didn't matter if you agreed with his politics or not because this was a man who saw past party lines and into the hearts of the people. He cared about more than scoring victories, and if Jed Bartlet were ever actually on any ballot, he'd win hands down.
These are just a few of the reasons why The West Wing still resonates with people after a decade of being off the air and why new viewers are tuning in each week on Netflix. Though it ended in 2006, it isn't a show that is going to be forgotten. I can imagine that twenty years from now, The West Wing will be shown as a lesson in what good television can be.