Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Promising but not fantastic start, and will it ever be as good as The West Wing?

So, yesterday Swedish channel TV4 showed the two first episodes of Commander in Chief, “the new West Wing”. I had to tape the episodes since I had a late political meeting with my local branch of the Swedish Social Democratic party. When I got home I saw the first episode (the second will have to wait, I play indoor floor bandy at 06:45 on Tuesday’s and needed my beauty sleep...). Anyway, some initial thoughts:

1. Too early to tell if it can match The West Wing, of which I have been enjoying six full seasons… But my first gut reaction was that Commander in Chief will be somewhat more shallow/less nerdy/less party political than the West Wing. Even if we do not know the full background yet, I cannot understand why you should be “Independent” in American politics (story so far: Mackenzie Allen/Geena Davis is the Independent Vice President who – against the will of the dying President – becomes Commander in Chief/President of the US). The only time you can be Independent is if you were a Republican, saw the light, and are soon about to become a Democrat. I want everyone to be as partisan as Toby.

2. Why does TV4 buy the series, spend a fortune on advertising, and then mess up with the subtitles in the first episode? When the key-characters were presented with name and title written in English, the Swedish subtitles with the dialogue covered the English presentations, which were not translated (and thus could not be seen). That was a stupid, annoying mistake that easily could have been avoided.

3. The show seems to be very close to reality. Mackenzie Allen/Geena Davis mentioned Gore and Cheney as predecessors, a portrait of Nancy Reagan was shown, etcetera. The link to Hillary Clinton is thus very apparent, and for a Fred Perry progressive it is great to use a TV-show to pave the way for a female and hopefully very progressive President of the world’s most powerful country. Also: when the teleprompter “did not work” as she addressed the two houses of Congress, I saw a clear flirt with the Clinton years. During one of Bill Clinton’s first major speeches (one of his first SOTUs?), the teleprompter did start, but with the wrong version of the speech. As the story goes, Clinton improvised until George Stephanopoulos had rushed back and forth to the White House to get the right floppy disk. And nobody understood that Clinton was improvising… (Remember the floppy disk by the way? And can you imagine George W Bush improvising an important speech for some 15 minutes? Maybe, but we would all notice and write funny lines down...)

Anyway, not a fantastic but a promising start, and I will for sure continue to watch. The alternative is to wait and watch it on DVD later, but since the premiere in the US was only in September that might take a while. Otherwise I like to watch series like this on DVD; no commercials and you can see a couple of episodes when you have time to relax. But my guess is that I will see the second episodes right when I get home tonight...


Blogger Martin Tollén said...

It was during Clinton's SOTU 1994 the problem with the TelePrompTer occurred. Off course you can watch the speech on C-SPAN!

10/1/06 11:06  
Blogger Anna, Fair and True said...

I too was so annoyed with the subtitle mess-up!! How come nobody at TV4 noticed?? Isn't it quite a job to translate a series?! We should overload them with complaints!

I also found it a bit funny with President Allen's husband being called "First Lady" and assumed to do exactly what all the previous ladies had been found interesting to involve themselves in. Sadly I suspect the show will deal a lot with how she works too much and her husband having to "sacrifice" himself and take care of the household (albeit with a big staff), and how this will cause problems in their marriage, etc.

10/1/06 19:17  
Blogger mike d said...

what the hell is a Fred Perry progressive? and what the hell is "floor bandy"? does the former play lead guitar in the latter?

Happy 2006, Svenksi...

11/1/06 05:38  
Blogger Eric Sundström said...

Martin: C-Span.org is great, saw that you wrote about Commnader in Chief as well!

Anna: Glad to hear that you were annoyed as well, hope they will do something about it. Guess you are right about the family stuff.

Mike: Floor bandy is basically a form of hockey played indoors. Go to www.innebandy.se! And a Fred Perry progressive is an individual who is for sure left of center, who loves both equality AND trade and growth, but who besides politics also has a strong interest in for example music, clothes and American TV-shows. And happy 2006 to you as well!

11/1/06 10:47  
Blogger Martin Tollén said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/1/06 21:07  
Blogger Martin Tollén said...

Okay, now I finally understand what a Fred Perry progressive is. But if you are sure left of centre, loves both equality and trade and growth, but prefer C-SPAN to MTV and don't care about clothes or TV-shows, what are you then called?

11/1/06 21:10  
Blogger AndersML said...

I believe I can resolve the question of when the TelePrompTer incident took place. As it happens, I'm currently reading "Buck up..." by Clinton strategists James Carville and Paul Begala, in which they they describe it like this:

In 1993 President Clinton traveled to Capitol Hill to address a joint session of Congress to introduce his health care plan. In typical Clinton fashion we'd labored [sic] on the speech up until the last minute. As Clinton took the rostrum in the House Chamber, he turned around and said to Vice President Gore, "Al, look at the TelePrompTer. They've got the wrong speech up there."'
     Sure enough, the speech on the TelePrompTer was the speech he'd given months ago, in support of his economic plan. He had a paper printout of the correct speech but the type was too small for him to see without his glasses, which he didn't have.
      Holy shit.
      Gore told George Stephanopoulos, who, along with the brilliant Clinton communications aide David Dreyer, frantically tried to load the correct speech into the machine. But before they could fix the problem, the applause died down. Congress - and the nationwide TV audience - was ready to hear the speech.
      Of course, Clinton improvised. He riffed. He knew the policy and the politics so intimately that the stuff he made up was as good or better than the text we'd spent weeks preparing. All this while the wrong speech was furiously whizzing up and down, backwards and forwards, on the screen in front of his face - in a despearte effort to find the right speech.
      After an interminable nine minutes, Dreyer finally saved the day. He'd loaded a backup copy of the speech on his laptop and transferred it to the TelePrompTer. And when he saw the correct speech coming up on the screen, Clinton seamlessly transferred to the prepared text."

(Carville & Begala, pp163f)

13/1/06 20:28  
Blogger Martin Tollén said...

I've been doing some research and i think Anders is right. The TelePrompTer-problem occurred when Clinton spoke to congress om his health care reform september 22 1993. Next time he spoke to congress was SOTU 1994 and then he joked about his problem last time in congress.

16/1/06 18:47  
Blogger Martin Tollén said...

By the way, I can't find a recording of Clinton's health care speech on C-SPAN - do anybody know where I can find it?

16/1/06 18:50  
Blogger Eric Sundström said...

Martin: You would be a biking-Tollén-progressive, maybe?

Anders and Martin: Yeah, it must have been the health care speech. But I don't know where you can find it, if C-Span don't have it...?

17/1/06 23:23  
Blogger Martin Tollén said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

18/1/06 14:05  
Blogger Martin Tollén said...

If Eric say, I would be "a biking-Tollén-progressive". I say, "Then I am a biking-Tollén-progressive."

18/1/06 14:07  

Post a Comment

<< Home