Scott Ellington's Blog

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The West Wing

is a radio show that ran for seven seasons on television.  I know that because I’m listening to it again while playing computer solitaire, and noticing that I’m being bombarded by torrents of information that are delivered by a battery of distinctive voices that flow from a wide variety of rapidly-talking heads.

The first season of this masterpiece of exposition (because that’s all I’ve “seen” again thusfar at this writing) requires that I look at the screen approximately 5% of the time for mandatory visual cues that complement, extend and accentuate the raging rivers of information pouring in through my ears.

The signature walk&talks, the long takes, and sundry stylistic visual eccentricities associated with this series are comparatively insignificant aspects of the driving sound-based narrative that continues to be excellent without (and entirely in spite of) them.  This realization leads me to the provisional conclusion that the promise of cinema as a purely visual medium is not only emphatically not-realized in The West Wing, it’s actually utterly contravened by an extremely successful show that went exactly the opposite way, telling (rather than showing) the story in a manner that strongly resembles the struggle between Democrats and Republicans to wield the pen of history.  For now, that’s a minor irony (that probably figures prominently in the gradual, subliminal transition from a currency-based to the coming attention economy).

Try it.  Watch it.  Enjoy the show, but when (for example) Jed and Leo engage in a moving, confidential conversation in the Oval Office, ask yourself who you are to have this absurd window of opportunity to view that private, pivotal conversation.  And how else might these seven seasons of captivating, enthralling, inspiring entertainment be created if the point of view of the audience were not impossible, disembodied, discontinuous and absurd; the point of view of an angel.  Then make it.  I’ll watch.

20 Nov 10 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments