Sunday, 20 January 2013

S02E15: Ellie

I'm about to review what is, IMO, by quite some margin the worst episode of season two of The West Wing, and quite possibly the worst one in the show's run so far (Mr Willis From Ohio was my least favourite episode of season one, but I think this one is probably worse).

There are several issues I have with this particular episode. It probably doesn't help that I raise an eyebrow when Sorkin puts drug policy front and centre on the show given his somewhat interesting history with banned substances. He believes in treatment over punishment? I'd never have guessed [sarcasm mode off].

Another issue is our title character. In the pro category we have the fact that she's being played by a moderately well known actress, and a pretty one at that (yes, I'm hopelessly shallow when it comes to that kind of thing). In the con category... well there's no easy way of saying this, but she's just an awful character. I thought Zoey was annoying, but Ellie puts her in the shade (in fact, by far my favourite Bartlet daughter is the one we sadly see least of). Yes, I can grasp that there are certain inconveniences that come with being the daughter of PotUS, but I'd have to guess the advantages monumentally outweigh those inconveniences. With that in mind she just comes across as a spoilt little rich kid. If you think that's just me ranting then you'll probably want to avoid the other eight episodes she appears in, as I'll likely just be copy and pasting this paragraph to save time.

So given that I feel like the entire main plot line is a wash, what else is there to be entertained with during this particular 43 minutes of TV? Well there's a film called Prince of New York which apparently Charlie feels the President wouldn't like as much as Dial M For Murder (and based on the synopsis Charlie gives Mrs. Landingham, who would?). It's a non-issue, merely there to fill time. The same can be said for Toby's discussions with his ex-wife, which seems to be inserted purely to tie up the Seth Gillette issue without having to pay Ed Begley Jr. another appearance fee.

I'll come clean - the first time I saw it I actually thought it was kind of OK. We get to see another of Jed's daughters, and anything that fleshes out his character and backstory has to be good right? Toby's ex is always good value for money, as every time we see her it seems to emphasise that the Democratic party isn't some happy family that never falls out, something we don't see often enough in the show. However, it has a really poor re-watch value, and I'll confess that when I saw it was the next episode to watch I groaned a little inside. Never mind, I'll console myself in the knowledge that the last seven episodes of the season are all corkers.

Random observations:

You know you're watching a pretty risible episode when an argument about time zones is the highlight.

Sam's reporter "friend" is T-Bag from Prison Break.

It must be cool having a bona fide cinema in your house.

Episode grade: D-

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