Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bye, Leo, we'll miss you. Now LET'S SMOOCH!

I came down harder than many on last week's "West Wing" for making the death of Leo almost a sideshow to the end of the Santos and Vinick campaigns. I had higher hopes for "Requiem," since, with the election over, the hour's focus could turn entirely to paying tribute to Leo/John Spencer. With Sorkin long gone, I wasn't expecting "Two Cathedrals Part II," but I was expecting more than the wacky bedroom hijinks we got last night.

Look, I get that life goes on, and in the world of politics there's very little time to stop and mourn. I actually liked the scenes with Santos interfering in the Speaker's race and talking with Amy (though if Santos somehow winds up with a female VP, it'll be Nancy McNally). I was pleased and moved to see virtually every important character in the show's history, save Sam and Mandy (was Mandy an important character?) sitting in the cathedral for Leo's memorial. Loved the Toby/Charlie scene and the look on Toby's face as he gave his phony excuse for not going to the cemetary. I thought Martin Sheen was amazing in that sequence where Bartlet went from pained silence to joyous life of the party because it was what his friends needed from him, and I loved the final exchange between Jed and Josh. (Though I would have liked some kind of reference to the fact that both Josh's father and his father figure died during successful presidential campaigns.)

But I felt like too much of "Requiem" was a missed opportunity. How do you gather seven year's worth of great actors and not let a single one of them speak during the funeral? How do you skip over the trip to the cemetary? How do you spend so much time on CJ/Danny and Josh/Donna trying to get laid?

Again, I get that life goes on, and that the show has a lot of stuff to wrap up before we see Santos sit behind that desk in the Oval Office a few weeks from now, but this was an extraordinary circumstance. Rather than devote parts of two crowded episodes to Leo's passing, couldn't we have just gotten one all-Leo episode? If you take his death out of it, does "Election Day" need to be a two-parter?

What did everybody else think? And did anybody watch "What About Brian"?


Anonymous said...

I miss that Sorkin touch. i would like to have seen what he would have done with a Leo send off. i could imagine the whole episode revolving around the National Cathedral memorial service with several characters having flashbacks to some pivotal moments that show what Leo meant to them. That would have WGA award written all over it.

The episode was good, but it should have been more about leo. i think the sagging ratings during the Santos-Vinick episodes show fans would rather see things wrapped up for the old gang rather than spend a whole lot of time on the new team.

Anonymous said...

"What About Brian?" was perfectly charming. The "Thirtysomething" potential is there, and that was an astute observation on your part. The music during this first episode felt a little heavy-handed. I could've done without The Who and I hope the show gets a little more hip with that aspect during future episodes. If the second episode is as good as the first, I think I may be hooked.

Alan Sepinwall said...

When I talked to Nic Harcourt about "Love Monkey," he said he wasn't really involved with the pilot, which is why the first episode had so much more classic rock than the later episodes. I'm guessing the relationship was the same here; from what I remember of the second episode, the songs aren't nearly as recognizable.

Anonymous said...

That's good to hear about the music.

I just read your actual review and I totally agree with you on the small conversations of the show being the thing that makes everything work. Those bits of dialogue are fun and playful but not annoyingly so (ie, "Trish-ing").

Alan Sepinwall said...

"Trish-ing" and the bit where Brian's two friends can tell, from a distance, that Car Girl's breasts aren't the same size, were the moments when I knew I might like it. Barry Watson as a leading man of an interesting show? Who knew?

Anonymous said...

I would say that "Requiem" was very good for what it was. I did not expect the whole thing to be about Leo so I was little bit prepared in that respect. The teaser was one of the best that the show has done - no dialogue other than the priest, scanning the faces through the crowd, the opening with Bartlet, C.J., Josh, Toby, and Donna getting ready. We are lucky at all that the producers were able to work in a Leo episode at all. It is not like it is something that was planned for at the start of the year.

Could it have been better? Probably. Was it still good? Absolutely.

Matt said...

A flashback-heavy thing could have worked, but how do you do that without having Spencer appear? Two Cathedrals worked without having the cast appear because it was such a distant flashback that the roles were properly recast. Even Jed and Leo, who've known each other for the longest time, were adults when they met.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, Emilio or Charlie could plausibly stand in for a late thirtysomething/early fortysomething Jed. I have no idea who looks like a young but still adult John Spencer, however.

In terms of the storytelling scene, I would have liked at least a few of them to actually be scenes from old episodes. Would it have killed them to mention Big Block of Cheese Day?

Anonymous said...

I think it's typical of a Wells script -- he knows his weaknesses, and he avoids them, choosing to write around the scenes that Sorkin would have gloried in. So it can be disappointing, but who knows what we were spared?


Anonymous said...

I thought What About Brian was great. I was SO glad they changed the beginning from the original pilot and got rid of the voice over. VO is totally played out.

I actually really liked the music. I think it was a smart move -- use songs everyone has heard of to give them something to remember the show by the next day, and hopefully that helps them to remember the show and tune in again. It's easy to remember a scene when Baba O'Riley is playing in the background. Although I love indie music, I hope they don't get TOO indie and do what The O.C. is doing now, where they just play songs that are "cool," rather than songs that perfectly fit the scene.

Also, I totally agree about Barry Watson -- who knew?

Heather K said...

I was kind of irritated with all the bed-hopping worry too(although the Donna-Josh-Amy scene was great!). I mean like Donna (or anyone who was around for the first term) would in any way be surprised by the CJ/Danny thing? Her whole deal was Press Secretary and she doesn't have that job anymore (granted she has a fancier one). Also CJ would totally give Donna a thumbs up for her and Josh finally getting together.

Leo/John Spencer deserved a great deal more gravitas in passing then he/they were given in either episode. Splitting his requiem over two episodes was a bad idea. They could've crammed things in two in a way that gave Leo an episode just for him.

highbrow said...

I did not like "What About Brian." It was a very mediocre, and was J.J. Abrams worst pilot by far. I think for the first couple of episodes a little more focus was needed on Brian. And the "swinging" plotline could have been drawn out over time, at a later point in the season, not forced down our throats in the pilot. Let Brian want to get married and then let's discover the uglier side of marriage.