Maybe it’s this raft on the BBC of remakes of sitcoms that weren’t particularly amusing in the first place, and are now downright embarrassing. Or the plethora of ill-written stuff in general. Or the lazy fashion for movies that spend trillions on special effects and ritzy locations, and pay the screenwriters peanuts. Or maybe it’s the fact that most movie actors mutter and mumble, so it’s hard to know if the scrtipt would have been good or not. Maybe it’s just the tide of mediocrity scouring the cultural landscape…whatever. I’m not a happy bunny. But I’m taking time away from the usual celebration of poems and poets tonight, because last night I watched the last episode of the seventh series of ‘The West Wing’.
A bit of context. I have an addictive personality. I like to be hooked. I like authors who write big fat books, and lots of them. I have to like the author, of course, but then I like then to be prodigiously productive. Dickens. John le Carre. A.S. Byatt. When it comes to books and films I like a marathon. I also come to things long after everyone has raved about them and moved on. Motown and Stax. 80s electropop. Diesel-engined cars. And series. Friends, for instance. I like bingeing on box sets. True Detective, The Bridge, Borgen, Wallander, The killing, Spiral, The wire. You don’t have to be acute to see a pattern there. I have Netflix, and Amazon Prime. I gorged on House of cards. I utterly failed to engage with Breaking bad.
But three months ago my son lent me the box set of all seven series of The West Wing. Give it three or four episodes, he said. It takes a bit of time to settle into it, but I think you may like it. I was hooked after twenty minutes. I’ve been watching two and half episodes a night for about five nights a week ever since. Why two and a half? Because I fall asleep. Fourteen DVDs. Over a hundred episodes. Watched fascinated as the format changed to widescreen in series 3 or 4. Fell in love with the editing, the dialogue, the camerawork, the savvy scriptwriting, the characters, the cliffhangers, the plot twists…the sheer exuberant unrepentant grown-up pzazz of it all. Last night I watched the very last episode. Two presidential terms. Eight years. The insanity of a presidential campaign. The insanity of the business of news management and media spin. It should have been repellent. But it wasn’t…because of the people. I love them all.
What shall I do of a night, without Charlie, Josh, C.J., Toby, Leo….and above all, Donna Moss, whose smile would light a stadium? Off they’ve gone. It’s like the kids leaving home. What shall I do?
Write poems. Happen.