Review: The West Wing, “The Midterms”

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The biggest challenge facing The West Wing after its spectacular season premiere was in deciding what to do now that assassins have shot two members of the cast. So it’s fitting that “The Midterms,” the first normal episode of the season, feels a little out of place. The characters, and the show itself, are both struggling to fit back into a familiar routine after going through an earth-shaking event.

It’s clear that the shooting is still having an impact on the staff. For instance, Toby (Richard Schiff) wants to use the moment – and the president’s newly stratospheric approval rating – to either make a push for gun control or just round up every white supremacist in the country, regardless of the constitutional problems.

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Review: The West Wing, “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen”

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After building most of its drama out of relatively mundane issues of day-to-day politics, The West Wing ended its first season with a pair of would-be assassins opening fire on the president and his staff. That makes “In The Shadow of Two Gunmen,” which deals with the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the show’s biggest story yet, and a good indication of just how ambitious this season will be.

Contrasting peaceful everyday routines and the hectic response to the assassination attempt is a repeated theme in the episode. We see staffers at the White House and at the hospital where the injured president is taken for surgery, in the moments just before and after they realize what is happening. These transitions between calm and chaos play out repeatedly, showing just how far the shock waves from that single act can spread.

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Review: NewsRadio, “Pilot”

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Any show will tend to evolve as its cast, writers, and producers get a feel for the program, so going back to watch where it all began can be a strange experience. NewsRadio‘s pilot episode is a perfect example, in two different ways: there are a couple of obvious differences in the show’s cast, but the episode still captures the zany pace and mood that would define the series’ run.

The cold open establishes the mood and premise in less than a minute, as incoming news director Dave Nelson (Dave Foley) tries to chat up a disinterested security guard while waiting to arrive at his new job right on time, only to discover at the last second that he’s in the wrong building. It’s a simple premise, but Foley clearly has a handle on the character of an earnest Midwesterner who’s out of his depth, a theme that runs through the rest of the episode.

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Review: WKRP in Cincinnati, “Clean Up Radio Everywhere”

The first two rights mentioned in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution are freedom of religion and freedom of speech. In “Clean Up Radio Everywhere,” WKRP in Cincinnati’s third-season finale, these freedoms are seemingly pitted against each other in a sharply written episode that is both timeless and thoroughly of its moment.

Local pastor Dr. Bob Halyers (the excellent Richard Paul, in the first of several career roles portraying a Jerry Falwell doppelganger) visits WKRP on behalf of a group called Clean Up Radio Broadcasting, which is sending letters to local stations encouraging them to “help bring wholesome, life affirming programming” to the public airwaves. To this end, Halyers presents station manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump) a list of songs his group deems obscene. Presumably, if WKRP stops playing songs on the list, they will be doing their part to help the public interest.

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