Review: The West Wing, “And It’s Surely to Their Credit”

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A recurring theme in the early episodes of The West Wing’s second season is that the characters haven’t always been at their best. “And It’s Surely To Their Credit” brings that issue right to the surface, giving one of the deepest looks yet into the staff’s attitude and taking the time to lay out a real explanation.

The focus of the action is new recurring character Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter), the Republican and former media personality who’s starting her first day working in the White House. She still doesn’t have any friends in the building, and her boss, the incredibly bombastic White House Counsel Lionel Tribbey (John Larroquette), calls her an idiot at their first meeting.

Ainsley’s one defender is C.J. (Allison Janney), who accurately notes that the obsession over her is more than a little sexist. But C.J. has to spend most of the episode dealing with General Barrie (Tom Bower), the retiring Army chief of staff, who plans to publicly trash President Bartlet’s record on military readiness while on his way out the door.

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Review: The West Wing, “In This White House”

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On the rare occasions when The West Wing featured a Republican character in its early seasons, they generally just appeared to cause trouble for the staff and then vanished after a scene or two. “In This White House” tried to address this by introducing a Republican with her own distinct personality and story arc, and ended up highlighting an even more fundamental issue.

The show opens with Sam (Rob Lowe) appearing on a televised debate with Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter), whom Sam and the show’s host both assume doesn’t know anything because, in the host’s words, “She’s got blond hair, long legs, and she’s a Republican.” Ainsley proceeds to hand Sam what everyone agrees is a humiliating defeat in an argument about education policy, which impresses President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) enough that he wants to offer her a job.

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Decades TV Network Is Coming To Town: Our Wish List for Santa

Classic TV fans have another treat in their stocking this year: the recent announcement by CBS that they will be launching the Decades TV Network, a new digital subchannel network dedicated to classic series and other assets from the CBS archives.

According to CBS’s initial news release, Decades is scheduled to launch in the second quarter of 2015, with initial distribution through CBS O&O’s, with national distribution to follow. Weigel Broadcasting will partner with Decades to sell the network to additional affiliates.

It’s smart for CBS to launch its own in-house concept, given that it has syndicated its vast catalog of existing content successfully to various outside digital subchannel networks, particularly Weigel’s Me-TV, for a few years now. The colorized I Love Lucy broadcasts on CBS the last two holiday seasons appeared at the time to be an effort to dip a toe in these waters, and apparently CBS execs have a positive outlook on the potential market for (yet another) classic TV option.

Here’s our wish list for Santa setting out what we’d love to receive from the elves at Decades:

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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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