What I Learned from "The West Wing Weekly"

From The CRPG Addict


This is one of those moments where I’m going to use my blog to express something that only has tangential relevance to computer role-playing games. I just don’t have anywhere else to express it. (Even the real-life alter-ego of Chet Bolingbroke doesn’t participate in social media.) This doesn’t take the place of, or delay, an article on the next RPG.
This week marks the final episode of my favorite podcast, “The West Wing Weekly,” which covers one of my favorite television shows. The podcast started in 2016. I didn’t discover it until last fall, and for the last half-year, it has kept me entertained on the way to and from my new job. I’m not sure what I’ll do without it.
I hope most of my readers have watched The West Wing, but if not, it’s on Netflix and well worth a watch. Though the pilot is more than 21 years old, it seems more relevant today than ever. More important, I’m convinced that if you could make a list of the 20 best television actors of the last 20 years, 10 of them will have been regulars on The West Wing, and another 8 will have appeared as guest stars. Everybody on the show (with one exception that I’ll leave unnamed) is incredible. If there was a character in the script who had two words to say, they managed to find someone who absolutely nailed those two words.
The television series ran for 7 years and 156 episodes, and “The West Wing Weekly” covered an episode a week with analysis, background information, and a lot of humor. As the podcast developed and became popular, the co-hosts were able to get writers, producers, and actors from the show, plus real-life political figures, as guest commenters. The final show, recorded live in Los Angeles, had 30 cast and crew members from The West Wing in attendance, including creator Aaron Sorkin and actors Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, Marlee Matlin, Jimmy Smits, and Martin Sheen. 
Emceeing the entire thing was Hrishikesh Hirway, a name I didn’t know five months ago and will now never forget. When the whole thing was over, I went home and made an impromptu speech to Irene about how much I admire him. I repeat the crux of it here. Hirway isn’t a “regular guy,” exactly–he’s a talented composer who went to Phillips Exeter and Yale and already had several successful podcasts–but he certainly wasn’t famous. Yet when he was thinking about show business, he decided to write West Wing actor Joshua Malina for advice. He didn’t know Malina, but they’d both gone to Yale, and why not? The worst he could do is not respond. Malina did respond and they became friends. Later, Hirway got Malina’s advice on moving to Los Angeles. And still later, he convinced Malina to lend his name and fame to Hirway’s new podcast idea: obsessively analyze the ins and outs of his favorite television show. Five years later, the guy is standing on a stage with more than two dozen of the best actors, writers, and directors working in television, including Martin freaking Sheen.
Irene, who I thought was only half-listening, then stunned me by saying, “Well, isn’t that what you do?” I couldn’t even fathom what she was talking about. I thought she was making fun of me. But she explained: “On your blog. You started talking about your hobby, and now you’re always talking with game developers and fans.” She was right. The games I write about aren’t as well-known as television shows, and their authors aren’t as famous as Hollywood stars, but it was still idiotic of me not to have made the comparison. I get a couple thousand readers a week and a few hundred comments. I’ve been personally congratulated by Lord British. The co-creator of the Quest for Glory series sometimes comes by to chat.
My point here is not to elevate myself by comparing myself to Hirway and Malina and their podcast. Rather, it is to say that the podcast–which I often enjoyed more than the actual episodes they were based on–has emphasized for me that criticism is an art of its own. Although criticism owes its existence to some other original art, it need not be less interesting, less informative, or less insightful than that original art–indeed, at times it can be more so. I don’t mean to suggest that my work always, or even ever, reaches such a level, but it’s certainly a nice reminder that it can aspire to such a level, just as it did with more than several episodes of “The West Wing Weekly.” What a great podcast, and what an uplifting message to carry us into my blog’s 10th anniversary.
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You can listen to “The West Wing Weekly” on its web site or wherever you get your podcasts.


Original URL: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2020/02/what-i-learned-from-west-wing-weekly.html