When John Spencer died, I know the writers of "The West Wing" were placed in one of those impossible situations, but last night's episode really pissed me off. Would it have been so hard to wait a week, keep Leo off-screen during the election stuff (I think the audience would have accepted whatever excuse they gave for Leo not being on stage for the acceptance speech) and deal with his death more fully at a time when we could devote an entire episode to the reactions of the original characters?
And yes, I know that that's exactly what next week's episode is going to be about. But the initial reactions of the characters is half of what I wanted to see, and with the exception of Josh and, to a lesser extent, Jed, we didn't really get them. How do they skip over Margaret finding out about the heart attack in the first place? How do they cut away just when C.J. and the prez are about to have their first conversation? How do you leave Toby out of the episode altogether?
And how do you end the episode where the most beloved character in the show's history dies with a scene where everyone's dancing and cheering and happy? I know, I know: for the new people like Bram and Otto and even Santos, they didn't know Leo long enough for the grief over his passing to overwhelm their joy at winning the election. And they did have that beautiful bit at the end where Josh said, "Thanks, boss." But after getting genuinely involved with the campaign storyline in the last year and a half, I felt angry that these interlopers were having themselves such a big ol' party; didn't they realize how much we, the people who'd been around for seven seasons, cared about Leo McGarry and John Spencer? It was realistic, and yet a slap in the face, and it's really killed my interest in any transition scenes in the remaining episodes.
Well, not entirely. Predictions on the replacement veep? Vinick seems too obvious and corny even for this show, and while Rob Lowe's coming back, Sam Seaborn has all of Santos' young and inexperienced liabilities, only moreso (Santos at least served a few terms in Congress; Sam has never held any elected office that we know of). So my guess is either Bingo Bob or John Hoynes. Gary Cole and Tim Matheson are both coming back, both characters have experience in the job and would probably have an easy time getting confirmed in the wake of Leo's sudden death. Plus, if either of them ever has any aspirations of running for president again when Santos is done, they'd have to take it. My money's on Bob, since he doesn't have any scandals in his past like Hoynes.
Moving on... About nine years ago, my friend Mike Schneider (you may know him from such websites as Franklin Avenue and Variety.com) were joking around about how "The Simpsons" should do an episode where Patty and Selma meet Richard Dean Anderson, are horrified to discover he's nothing like MacGyver, then imprison him in their apartment, "Misery"-style, until he finally escapes by cobbling together everyday household objects. So what happens? Nine years later, they freaking stole our idea, man! I mean, yeah, we never actually told anyone about it, or wrote anything, or copyrighted it, or... but you get the idea. Intellectual property is intellectual property, and... ah, nertz. As Mike put it, if we cared, "maybe we should have written it nine years ago." And now that I think of it, the other plot we came up with for that episode was Bart getting a job at the comic book store, and they did that one, too. Does Matt Groening have some kind of psychic powers? Is there any way we can get residuals?
Actually, the thing I'm most surprised by is that it took the "Simpsons" writers seventeen seasons to get around to bringing Patty and Selma together with the object of their obsession. (I think the last time they even mentioned "MacGyver" was 11 years ago in "A Star Is Burns.") And what a weird episode overall. The Homer goes to India plot felt like large chunks of it were missing, possibly pasted over by the MacGyver scenes, and the entire thing was basically an excuse for the Bollywood number at the end. Now, who am I to complain about a good Bollywood number, especially one that has Carl sporting two extra arms? That's the kind of gratuitous dance scene I can get behind.