Friday, March 8, 2013

"Previously on The West Wing"

I am a huge fan of the West Wing, the NBC series.  This year for Christmas, LBA got a Kindle Fire (he really wanted a Nintendo DS, but Mrs. BA and I opted for the Kindle, with the hopes that he would read more than play - which for the most part he has).  The Kindle Fire came with a free month of Amazon Prime, with which I spent most of that month rewatching the entire series of episodes on Prime for free.  I got almost through the entire series, save a few episodes in season 7.

Then of course, after I purchased the last few episodes I didn't get to see, the show is now available for free on Netflix Streaming.  So I'm slowly making my way through it . . . again.  The release on Netflix also prompted two posts, both on BuzzFeed, the first with "18 Things the West Wing Got Wrong" and the other with a list of the "10 Best West Wing Episodes."

18 Things the West Wing Got Wrong
  1. In the pilot episode - one of the Christian fundamentalists states the First of the Ten Commandments is "Honor Thy Father" - Toby responds that it is actually the Third Commandment - however it's actually the Fifth Commandment - although in Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism is it the 4th commandment.
  2. In one episode Josh mentions that Schubert was crazy - although he was never diagnosed with any mental illness.  Robert Schumann, however, spent many of his later years in and out of asylums.
  3. In a scene in the Oval Office with Admiral Fitzwallace and the President, they have a discussion about the Presidential Seal (in the rug).  Fitzwallace points out that in most cases the eagle faces the olive branch, yet in times of war the eagle faces the arrows. In actuality, the seal was redesigned in 1945 to point to its right and the olive branch. Prior to that, the eagle pointed to its left, and the arrows. The reason for the change was that in heraldry, left pointing items were considered dishonorable.
  4. The President has a conversation with Toby in which he declares, "You know what I just found out recently?  To be called bourbon it has to come from Kentucky, otherwise it's called sour mash."  Although, the only geographic qualification is that bourbon is made in the United States, not any specific state. There are 8 non-geographic criteria for something to qualify as bourbon, including recipe ratios, the barrel, and aging.
  5. When the MS story takes center stage (in Season 3), there is a chess set shown in Oliver Babish's office.  The chess set is set up incorrectly. The lower right corner square should be a light square, not a dark one. Also, the kings and queens are reversed.
  6. In the Thanksgiving episode, The Indians in the Lobby, where President Bartlet calls the Butterball Hotline, they need to quickly produce the zip code for Fargo, North Dakota, saying it is 50504. That is not one of the 14 zip codes for Fargo, North Dakota.
  7. Toby makes a reference to a quote, "There's an old Roman expression, when the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers." The quote is not from the Romans but from Irish novelist Oscar Wilde in his 1893 book "An Ideal Husband."
  8. In the episode where Bartlet plays chess with several of the staff (at the same time), Toby makes his opening move in a game with the President, who declares, "Ah, the Evans Gambit." President Bartlet would not be able to recognize The Evans Gambit after just one move. It would require three moves to recognize The Evans Gambit.
  9. In the episode where one of the subplots revolves around Donna's desire to gain recognition for her high school English teacher - resulting in the President calling to talk with her on the phone - and he asks her about Beowulf and the language in which she taught it - "Beowulf" was written in Old English in the 8th century. The language wouldn't evolve to the form now known as Middle English for another 300 years.
  10.  Leo and Josh have a conversation where Leo remarks about the millions of dollars spent by the United States to invent a pen for the astronauts, while the Russians just used a pencil.  Actually, the astronauts used a pencil, too. The Fisher Space Pen was developed privately with no funds from the US government.
  11. In the episode involving President Bartlet's reelection, Josh comments that it is raining in Oregon.  Don't worry about it. Oregon passed Ballot Measure 60 in 1998. Since then, Oregonians have been voting exclusively with mail-in ballots.
  12. When Toby and Will Bailey are working on Bartlet's Second Inaugural Address, Toby says that "there's an incredible history to second inaugurals, 'fear itself, Lincoln . . .' " - FDR used the line "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" in his first inaugural address, not his second.
  13. In "Angel Maintenance," where Air Force One develops a problem, Josh remarks about the fuel used on Air Force One and it's fuel to octane ratio. Water doesn't mix with jet fuel. Water contamination is a serious problem for jet fuel. Also, jet fuel does not have an octane rating. Octane ratings are only used for internal combustion engines.
  14. Intern Ryan Pierce mentions that he is a descendant of President Franklin Pierce.  Not possible,  Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, never had a son live past 11 years old.
  15. In Season 7, several of the characters turn on the TV to see a news story about a woman being sentenced to death for adultery in Turkey. Adultery is not a crime in Turkey. Turkey has also outlawed the death penalty (except in times of war).
  16. In the plot arc about the failure at the International Space Station, in actuality a Russian Soyuz TMA spaceship is always docked to the International Space Station. It is capable of carrying three men and reentering the atmosphere.
  17. In another episode, C.J. works behind the scenes to try and secure a resolution in the United Nations Security Council, from Germany.  However, Germany is not a member of the UN security council.
  18. In the final episode, Abbey Bartlet mentions that it is going to be so cold, who decided that January was the best time to hold an outdoor ceremony?  The President replies wistfully, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin . . .  but the drafters of the Constitution that President Bartlet mentions, originally chose March 4th for Inauguration Day. It was changed to January 20th by the 22nd Amendment which was ratified January 23, 1933.
BuzzFeed's Top Twenty West Wing Episodes (and my own):
  1. Two Cathedrals 
  2. In Excelsis Deo (not one of my favorite Christmas-themed episodes)
  3. Game On (the debate episode with Republican Robert Ritchie / James Brolin)
  4. Celestial Navigation (where Josh narrates the episode - Corcoran Gallery of Art cameo!)
  5. Posse Comitatus (in which they take down Sharif)
  6. In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Parts I and II (also on my list, I like them for the flashbacks and the filling in of the backstory.)
  7. Let Bartlet Be Bartlet (also one of my favorites - "This is more important than reelection, I want to speak now!")
  8. Shutdown (as a government employee currently living in the shadow of sequester - this is also on my list)
  9. Take This Sabbath Day
  10. Pilot (also on my list)
Their next ten:  "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics" (Season 1, Episode 21); "In This White House" (Season 2, Episode 4); "Shibboleth" (Season 2, Episode 8) - one of my favorites; "Noël" (Season 2, Episode 10) - possibly my most favorite episode; "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail" (Season 2, Episode 16); "The Stackhouse Filibuster" (Season 2, Episode 17); "Bartlet for America" (Season 3, Episode 9); "Twenty Five" (Season 4, Episode 23) - not on my list, the set of episodes dealing with Zoey's kidnapping does not do it for me; "2162 Votes" (Season 6, Episode 22) - I love this episode for the moment when Josh tells a surprised Leo they have picked him to be the VP nominee; "Tomorrow" (Season 7, Episode 22) - it's of course the last episode, but it was very well done and the right way for the show to go out.

My Other Favorite Episodes:
  1. The Midterms - "In this building when the President stands, nobody sits!" (when the President dresses down the "Dr. Laura" character with the biblical quotations)
  2. He Shall From Time to Time - "You got a best friend?  Is he smarter than you?  Would you trust him with your life?  That's your Chief of Staff."
  3. Lord John Marbury - "I thought you were the butler!" (the episodes with Marbury are some of the funniest).
  4. Election Day (Parts 1 and 2) - finally, Josh and Donna.
  5. The Supremes (Glenn Close for Chief Justice!)
  6. Gaza (although it features the death of Percy Fitzwallace and the near death of Donna, it's a very powerful episode)
  7. 20 Hours in America (Parts I and II) - Josh, Toby, and Donna get stuck in Indiana but come up with an idea for tax deductible college tuition.
  8. Manchester (Parts I and II) - again, a favorite for the flashbacks that fill in some backstory.

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