The new production and writing folks behind The West Wing had it easy for last night’s season premiere. Picking up the story where series Aaron Sorkin had left it, they were dealing with one of the darkest moments on this series. With President Bartlett’s daughter kidnapped and Bartlett himself turning the office over to the Republican Speaker of the House, the mood in the White House was very dark with no one in much of a bantering mood.
That’s a good thing, because as SportsNight viewers may have noticed, when Sorkin’s name isn’t on the writing credits, the banter doesn’t sound quite right. Other writers seem to have trouble catching the light, quick rhythm of his scripts. And without director Tom Schlamme there to adjust things, the wrong banter on West Wing could have seemed jarring. So the new team gets a transitional episode or two, either to try to find the Sorkin voice or to rebuild the series in their own voice.
John Goodman was, of course, the proper person to cast as the temporary president. He can pull off the impressive carriage while still having at base a folksy, real guy charm, the sort of thing that is a strong asset for a candidate and also served Goodman richly on Roseanne. And it was nice to see that John Amos is still filling the role of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, despite also being a regular on the new sitcom About The Andersons.
The jury is still out on how well the show will survive the switchover, but I’m willing to wait and see.