Wild for West Wing

Let me just say – I love CJ Cregg.

We’ve been watching The West Wing tv series for the past several years, renting one DVD after another from Netflix and viewing the whole series from start to finish. We’re into the final season of as the second term of the Bartlett administration is drawing to a close. It’s an election year, and the parallels between this fictional race and the current real world political drama are simply uncanny. (An upstart young Latino Congressman sweeps the Democratic nomination after duking it out with long standing party favorites and is pitted against an elder statesman Republican.) Adding to the political excitement on the show was the sudden death of John Spencer, an original, beloved cast member, whose character was Bartlett’s Chief of Staff and was on the new ticket as VP…well, it’s just outstanding drama in every way.

And the writing on this show is spectacular – it’s sharp, and witty, and pungent. The pace is fast, and the dialogue whizzes by, meaning I don’t always get what’s happening, so I have to do a quick rewind (another good reason for watching it on DVD).

But the episode we watched tonight (Internal Displacement) was CJ’s show. CJ ( or Claudia Jean) Cregg, played by the inimitable Allison Janney, started out as Press Secretary and is now Chief of Staff in the waning days of Jed Bartlett’s regime. The episode starts out with her rushing in to join her old beau, Danny Kincannon, for a late dinner. He’s a reporter, and she broke up with him long ago, citing “conflict of interest.” But he’s back, and he clearly wants to renew their relationship. However, as is often the case with CJ, her ideals get in the way of her emotions, and before long they’re sparring in fine style.  At one point, Danny’s chiding her (and the administration) for not using their last days in office to accomplish more.

“Don’t you realize how much power you have?” he asks her. “Don’t you want to make some impact here?”

“Of course I do!” she replies, with some desperation in her voice.  “I’m well aware that I’m living out the first line of my obituary!”

Whoa.

“I’m well aware that I’m living out the first line of my obituary.”

Naturally, a line like that sets off a firestorm in my head.  What will be the first line of my obituary?  What would I want it to be?  Have I already lived it?  Am I yet to live it? 

At any rate, CJ spends the next 42 minutes kicking serious butt – from the Chinese ambassador to the  President’s (cheating) son in law – no one is immune from her quest to make her mark on the world.

The show closes on the following day, with the pair of them back in the same restaurant.  Her demeanor reflects her activities over the past 24 hours, and she can now sit back and tell Danny she’s “planning to suck every last  bit of meat off the bone of this experience.”

I think that’s what I’d like the first line of my obituary to say – or at least imply.

“She sucked every bit of meat off the bone of this experience.”

Claudia Jean – you rock.

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9 thoughts on “Wild for West Wing

  1. I loved that show too, but didn’t watch the last season or two. Each week I taped it while watching so I could watch it again the next day because I always missed something. It was a great show and CJ was an amazing character.

  2. Me too. I was such a big fan, and I’m very glad to hear I wasn’t the only person who found it just that little bit too fast-paced to catch every detail on the first go! I have a set of Season 2 or 3 videos. Must haul them out some time! And CJ was truly inspiring as a character.

  3. Hmmm… this almost makes me wish we had television reception or cable. What will be the first line of my obituary? is a great question to keep in mind as we live our days.

  4. We loved TWW also; we missed the first season but were able to watch all of it in reruns the summer before the second season started (back in the days when they didn’t have different summer programming!). That show was packed full of little gems and I appreciated that they didn’t cut back the pace just to accommodate “slow ears” because I think it helped make the show what it was. We always recorded it so we could just watch it without the commercials and review if needed when there was something we missed. CJ was my favorite also.

    You’ve picked out a wonderful bit to highlight here about making the most of the time we have.

  5. I have seen bits and pieces of this show over the years, from wherever in the world I’ve been living and always admired the writing and acting. Will make an effort to find the last season to watch from start to finish. I like your take on the parallels of the show to current-day politics.

  6. I had nothing to offer you on your last post (arts and crafts) but this one…. Oh, how I loved that series. It was our favorite. LOVED it. You’re right about the writing, “spectacular.” And the dialog….I sometimes felt like the lines were shot out of a cannon – rewind. But it seemed so natural. I’m going to rent every single one and watch them all over again. What a great idea.

  7. I’m watching that show too–I’m at the beginning of season 7. I really don’t like the last seasons as much. It doesn’t have the same feel. Haven’t got to the episode you refer to. I liked CJ before but season 7 she’s starting to bother me.

  8. I loved this programme…it was vital and urbane and witty and “real”. That was a great episode and I love the highlights you discussed…we should all endeavour to suck the meat off the bone of life every day in every way we can! Thanks for the reminder!

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