Some of us were beginning to lose hope. As the November elections approach in the real USA (though "real" is a highly debatable term in that context), could we keep managing without the heroic flaws and intellect of (sadly, fictional) President Jed Bartlett? When would we next see the delectable, and I note, yet again, Emmy-award-winning Alison Janney as CJ Cregg? Most importantly, when could we get our fix of Josh Lyman whose humour and manner never fails to make me smile inside?
Well, finally C4 got around to pulling The West Wing off its "to-show" shelf and started screening season 4. At 7.35pm non a Friday... yeah, that works as an audience-drawing time slot..., no matter that in the USA Season 6 is about to start (E4 has not long started screening 5), we WestWingers have to be grateful for anything... even this belated screening of Season 4 at a ridiculous time of the week.
(Damn it, they are so late on screening this season that the DVD boxset is due out before the end of the month!)
The hopeless treatment of this amazing show by the UK television companies is a well-established bone of contention for fans of the show. Heaven knows how we even got to BE fans given the scheduling this poor beast has suffered. Mucked about by Sky 1 (pah, spit, the only thing you were good for was seeing the last two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer during the dark days of my PhD), the West Wing belated got terrestrial broadcast on C4 early in 2001. After an initial run at a good time - 10pm Thursdays - it changed days, changed time-slots (often without notice), got dropped for a couple of weeks, and finally ended up in the death-hours slots (post 10.45 start) in double episode batches.
And I remember sitting up to watch the finale of season 1... This included a guffaw of laughter at a very predictable but glorious visual/aural gag ("I work with some of the smartest people in the world..." cue in the background Josh Lyman falling to the floor as his chair was absent/under repair). It also included me climbing the sofa during the shooting sequences --- especially as I soon realised it was gonna end that way.
What makes me so mad is that this series deserves so much better. It's flawed but its flaws create debate and discussion. Its about politics. Don't get me wrong, I liked Spooks, but it was a dim bulb by comparison to the likes of The West Wing and 24.
I know that Sorkin left after Season 4 and that nothing will reach the heights of consistant brilliance that season 1 and 2 presented. But I'm sticking with The West Wing, glad to see it again and remind myself of what it could do. And the possibilities we wish were a little more rooted in reality.