My son, the 11.5 month year old, LOVES "The West Wing," absolutely adores it. He won't go to sleep without it and sometimes asks, in the manner of almost one year olds, to watch a show when he wants to see the story. I don't know how much he gets from the actual story or script, but his adoration has given me the opportunity to rewatch several (all) of the episodes and to use a more critical eye as I do so.
The first season is not like most of the rest of the show. It is campy, fun and elevates wit to a higher level than normally seen on broadcast TV. Granted, most of the episodes are focused more on the personal lives of the characters - Sam and the call girl, Donna and her "revolving band of Gomers", Charlie and Zoey, etc. etc., but every once in awhile there is an episode that makes you go "what if..."
The episode in the first season that just made me ask that questions is Episode 6 - "Mr. Willis of Ohio." There are two distinct story lines, one about the census and whether or not it is a fair process and whether or not Congress should attach an amendment declaring a census using sampling techniques to be unlawful. The other story line revolves around the President's younger daughter and her lackidasical attitude towards her panic button. While story 2 is significant later on in the overall story line, it is the first story line that has the "What if" factor.
Imagine your spouse is brilliant (not hard for most of us) and is a Congresswoman, but then she falls ill and quickly dies leaving a hole within The House of Representatives that must be filled. You, an eight grade social studies teacher, have been asked to step in and take her seat until a special election can be held. Now imagine you will be voting in a single vote, one that the leader of your committee wants you to vote against unless it has an admendment. What do you do?
In the fantasy world of "The West Wing" you listen to the arguments without emotional and politial loyalties. You listen for valid and valuable statements. Then you vote with your conscience. That is exactly what Mr. Willis of Ohio did. Now, if we could only get more politicians to be as honest...