MTA (More Trouble Ahead) nicknames
James A. Landau
JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Apr 1 23:16:02 UTC 2005
Divers Hands wrote:
>(I nominate "moderate Republican" as a new classic oxymoron.)
Well, there's been a sighting of one, but it's Sen. Arnold Vinick
(R-Cal.), the Republican nominee played by Alan Alda on The West
Wing, and I guess he doesn't count. sigh.
This millenium has seen a paucity of moderate Democrats. I still say that
Kerry would have won had he remembered that he was running against G W. Bush
and not Ralph Nader. But I'd rather discuss Senator Vinick.
On "West WIng" (odd how it seems to lack a definite article, although the
part of the White House where the offices are does carry one) President Jed
Bartlett is first and foremost a likeable man, someone the TV audience feels
comfortable with. Secondly he is an intelligent and honest politician, and only
thirdly is he a liberal Democrat.
The current writers of "West Wing" inherited from Aaron Sorkin five
plausible candidates to succeed President Bartlett. On the Democratic side there is
former VP Hoynes, current VP "Bingo Bob" Russell, and former Chief of Staff
Leo McGarry. On the Republican side there is Robert Ritchie, who was
Bartlett's opponent in the previous Presidential election, and Glenallen Walken, who
was acting President for a few days.
Hoynes, while competent, is widely disliked (a point made in the pilot
episode, I believe).
Russell is a lightweight, the pick of a mediocre litter (i.e. the best
selection from among those that Congress would have voted for for VP) and has
never been presented sympathetically.
McGarry is a curmudgeon, perhaps a very lovable curmudgeon, but definitely
not warm and fuzzy.
Nothing good has ever been said about Ritchie, who has rarely appeared in
Walken, in his brief tenure, came across as aggressive in manner and
bellicose in action. Had he had a longer run on the show he might well have
developed into a sympathetic character (after all we saw him ONLY during a crisis
period), but he did not have that longer run.
So, of the five candidates supplied by Sorkin, not one is capable of
becoming another Bartlett, a man welcomed into every viewer's living room.
Therefore the current writers had to develop sympathetic candidates on their
own. (Caveat: I have no idea whether Santos and Vinick were thought up by
Sorkin before he left, but this is possible.) In order to supply suspense,
they had to have a warm and fuzzy Democrat and a warm and fuzzy Republican,
leaving the viewers wondering over the summer which will win but happy with
So we get Santos, a Hispanic Democrat whom even Republicans will like, and
Vinnick, a California Republican whom even Democrats will like. Casting Alan
Alda (as a Republican!) was a stroke of genius, as he reminds all old MASH
fans of what they liked about Hawkeye Pierce. (Aside: I have seen Alan Alda
on stage, in "Art", and yes he can play roles far removed from Hawkeye).
In other words, the writers did not dream up the character of Vinnick and
arbitrarily make him a Republican. Rather a Vinnic-type Republican is an
urgent plot necessity.
- James A. Landau
More information about the Ads-l