Thursday, October 30, 2003

IF SEASON TWO WAS 'TWO CATHEDRALS,' THIS SEASON IS HALF A STOREFRONT SYNAGOGUE OFF FAIRFAX NEXT TO THE 20/20 VIDEO: Of course people want off ER -- it has been tired and dull for years. The question is why we're not hearing more about people wanting off of the West Wing. TWW is populated with a lot of auction-glib actors who thrived on Sorkin's dense, textured scripts. They got a lot of lines, they got to seem smart, and they got to do a show that was at times genuinely funny in a smart way.

The only thing that can be said for this season is that it's less preachy. It also has less of everything else -- less dialogue, less intelligence, less humor. The contrivances this season -- Will typing insults into the teleprompter script; people accidentally tipping off the FBI as to the First Daughter's whereabouts -- have been embarrassing. Last night's episode hinted that it's only going to get worse as Wells replaces Sorkin's characters with robots programmed to exhibit one or two traits: Leo as Jerky Hard-Ass Boss; CJ as Idealistic Crybaby. They're already planting the seeds for depatures -- Sorkin vet Malina may be moving to the Navy Observatory; Schiff wants to quit; Janney may get fired -- and I would be surprised if the season ended without a serious loss of talent. The real question is whether anybody will be watching by then.

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