I’ve almost never been one to watch a TV show while it was actually on the air. I simply can’t adhere to the schedule, and commercials destroy the hermetic experience of narrative that I need in order to fully immerse myself in a fictional world. For people like me, Netflix has been a godsend. We’re constantly trading ideas about what shows to watch — for hours or weekends or however long you can call in sick.
I think I might have seen The West Wing once the entire time it was on the air. Then last year I watched all seven seasons from Josiah Bartlet’s first few months in office to Matt Santos’ inauguration. The series has held up well, and some of the issues raised about education, the environment, the death penalty, and so on are even more interesting in hindsight.
I have no doubt that The West Wing is an idealized version of how things work in Washington, but it somehow feels closer to the truth than many other depictions of Washington. Of course, truth may be beside the point. We’re talking about entertainment here. In this case, I just happen to find realism with a dash of happy fantasy more to my liking.