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Sunday, September 11, 2016

From The Earth To Moon To... The West Wing

I've been re-watching my DVDs of the From the Earth to the Moon mini-series this weekend as I recuperate from last week's teaching and prepare for the next... I must say I didn't remember that there was so much overlap with The West Wing... The miniseries aired on HBO in 1998 and The West Wing pilot aired on NBC a little over a year later, and so some of the connection may derive from that late-Clintonian pre-W place they are both arriving from. The vibe is often quite similar, it seems to me, at once elegiacally patriotic for the accomplishments of good government and earnestly hopeful about inspiring people into public service and celebratory of an ethos of professionalism... I'll add that my favorite episodes of the mini-series, "Spider" and "Galileo Was Right" also feel to me, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most WestWingish of the bunch. Also, the shared casting is pretty striking (at least sausage-wise) -- Gary Cole, Brett Cullen, Mark Harmon, Joshua Malina, Jay Mohr, Stephen Root -- including key characters introduced in the last few post-Sorkin years of the series (which I think are a bit underappreciated). Of course, I have a notorious soft spot for the imperfect but superlative Sorkin series (I've watched the whole run of the series twice since HRC announced, as a weird tension reliever from the actual primary and now general contest, and I listen to The West Wing Weekly podcast religiously), and I'm also something of a NASA fanatic, so I guess it isn't that surprising to find all these proliferating connections among the works. Tom Hanks executive produced and introduces each episode of the mini-series... and I must say his performance in Spielberg's Bridge of Spies felt (as did Lincoln too) rather WestWingy to me. But, then, so does Angels in America, and now we're off to the races. I'm looking forward to the upcoming Hidden Figures film with Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer to fill in a painfully glaring gap in the miniseries, as I pine for a now/next generation Aaron Sorkin -- perhaps famous West Wing superfan Lin Manuel Miranda? -- to tell an immersive multi-episodic tale of the Obama presidency and the coalition of the ascendant that fulfilled and surpassed so much that The West Wing promised... (The grand Martin Sheen/Blair Brown Kennedy mini-series didn't make its way to NBC until the twentieth anniversary of the JFK assassination and the fine fragmentary film Bobby, its coda, appeared in 2006... I suspect the certain success of the inevitable Obama memoirs, from POTUS and FLOTUS alike, will ensure the wait for no-drama-Obama-dramatizations will not be so long...)

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