Monday, 23 July 2012

S01E16: 20 Hours in L.A.

This is the rarest of episodes - one where Hoynes is right and Bartlet is wrong. Don't worry though, by the end Bartlet has come around (kind of), and even looks like the good guy.

The main plot, though, concerns the LA trip, which splits into two main sub-plots - flag-burning and gays in the military. The flag-burning issue is poorly done. John de Lancie makes the best of the material he's given, but the idea that anyone could fall for his argument is somewhat unrealistic, and Josh, Toby and Sam being concerned about it is laughable. Joey sleeping with Al made her plummet in my eyes. Then we have gays in the military. Once again, it's handled in a slightly hamfisted way, with people failing to display the common sense they were born with. My favourite part of the discussion between Bartlet and Marcus is when he asks if he enjoyed the party and they both admit they didn't; it seems like the one real moment between them.

All that probably makes it sound like I thought this was a poor episode, and in the hands of lesser writer that would be the case. I don't know if Sorkin just knows how to push my buttons, but the way he dresses up these flights of fancy really is remarkable. It helps when the acting talent is so good of course, but the writing is the main ingredient in the suspension of disbelief. I remember loving this episode when I first watched it, and it was only under repeated viewings and closer scrutiny that the rough edges become noticeable.

Random observations:

Zoe's new agent is better known from ER and CSI.

Ted Marcus (AKA Bob Balaban) has been in everything. You can IMDb his full crendentials, but if you're thinking "I know the face but can't place him" you've probably either seen him in Seinfeld or as Phoebe's dad in Friends.

Al Keifer is Q from various incarnations of Star Trek.

David Hasselhoff is... well, David Hasselhoff. And Jay Leno is... a really big chin.

Episode grade: B

So what did you all think?

Spoilers for the future follow.

I forgot that they started foreshadowing the shooting this far in advance. I know it's only six episodes in advance but at the time it felt like it came out of nowhere.

Wasn't the ethanol thing a big issue during the primaries that Santos and Vinick were involved in (I seem to remember some pledge that Vinick wouldn't take but Santos did (even though he didn't really agree with it))?

Why is CJ so clueless about movie development given the job she had immediately before working for Bartlet.

"Matt Perry, right there." Don't go rushing after him Donna - you'll see him again in a few years, he'll just be called Joe Quincy.

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