THE LAST FIVE ...

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2001-05-16 - 11:25 p.m.

Aaron Sorkin, I worship you

Aaron Sorkin is a genius.

I want to mow his lawn or buy his groceries or be his secretary or help him move or be his driver. I want him to search the web and find this entry and sign my guestbook. I want to become a writer for the screen and win some award and thank him for his inspiration, the way I'll thank Dave Barry and Mrs. Betta, my high school English teacher, and my parents and my friends.

In one hour, which is truly 44 minutes of television drama, I was moved by The West Wing, the way I might be by a movie. (A word of caution to those who might be watching the show later or on tape, you may not want to read further.) That doesn't happen often with TV. The writing, the camera work, the banter, the dialogue, the interaction, the lighting, the lightning, the acting, the emotions, the words, the pictures, the sounds ... it made the show the absolute best on television, leaping The Sopranos, perhaps for more than just this week, in my mind.

Martin Sheen's soliloquy in National Cathedral was powerful, and I felt I understood it a little better (not being Catholic myself) having attended Notre Dame for four years, knowing what this president's education is meant to entail.

The flashbacks, to the early days with Mrs. Landingham at the prep school in New Hampshire. Their conversations and the beginning of their friendship, which taken in themselves can be seen as nice rememberances, quaint, touching scenes from the past. But in the grand scheme of teleplay construction are actually building blocks, foreshadowing the end.

And the end. The final sequence, from "talking" with Mrs. Landingham, what might be considered her ghost but can easily and rationally be described as a conversation in his mind developed from all the conversations they'd had in the past (because, in fact, some of her words were verbatim from the flashbacks). The tropical storm whipping Washington, rain pelting the Oval Office, the President walking outside and not saying a word. The music rose in the background and I remarked how W.G. Snuffy Walden went a little electric, thinking how much it sounded like the chords of Mark Knoffler then the husky-smooth voice began and it was, and I felt perceptive at that moment, having just gotten half the answer to Name That Tune in a split second. And then President Bartlett walked to the limo in the rain, turning down the coat Charlie offered and rode past the Cathedral to the State Department, where CJ was addressing the media, as we'd seen, and he walked in, soaked and wet and a fire in his eyes.

And I knew before that what his answer would be will he run? and there was a sense that he would not call on the medical reporter for questions about his health first. And the question came Will he? and his answer, confident, determined, came in his posture: His hands in his pockets, he looks to the side and smiles a slight smile, a smile to himself and Mrs. Landingham and this season ended even better than last.

Aaron Sorkin is a television genius.

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