The Regularly Scheduled TV Show Blog

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The West Wing 7.03, Desperate Housewives 2.03: Political Fiction Meets Political Reality and More of The Same

A very politically charged West Wing brings quite a bit of energy to the show and brings about the best politics in the campaigns yet, while on Desperate Housewives we are met with a mildly interesting show with only a single character revelation anchoring the episode.

This week's episode of The West Wing started off right after the end of last week's episode when Presidential candidate Matt Santos(D) reports to for reserve training and gets a bump in the polls because of it. The bump in the polls puts Santos within the margin of error with Arnold Vinick(R) and this puts the Vinick campaign into a state of alert, as they were suppose to be far and ahead of the dwarf-like democratic opponents. Vinick proposes a new approach to the campaign by attacking immigration issues and putting Santos on tilt by going after the Latino vote. This bold move to go after the Latino vote from the Latino candidate is very well coordinated as this episode displays a great measure of insight into the political maneuvering to rake in votes. Another great episode that involves almost nothing of the actual West Wing and focuses only on the two campaigns, something that I've gotten use to since the beginning of the primaries during the middle of last season. I've grown to enjoy this type of episode much more as they are more "on the road" and have more emphasis on the actual politics and maneuvering of politicians during the campaigns. Unfortunately, this leaves the story line back at the West Wing much weaker when they do return to episodes involving the administration.

Vinick decision to attack Santos on immigration issues on both the right and the left of the political spectrum boxes Santos into a corner that doesn't receive many votes. He first pushes the issue from the right with a photo op with border patrol officials and proposes that the man power of the border patrols should be doubled to protect Americans from terrorists smuggling into the US from Mexico. This pushes Santos into the left trying to walk the tightrope of defending immigrant rights and not seeming weak on national security. The following day, while meeting with the "Minute Men", a freelance group that patrols the borders on their own dime and time, he refers to them as vigilantes and reverses what was thought to be a photo op for his Republican into a political move closer to the center. The side effect of his comments is the reporter's questions on if Santos agrees with Vinick's characterization of the "Minute Men" as vigilantes. Unable to avoid the question, he admittedly agrees with Vinick's words and is subconsciously dubbed as a follower to Vinick's lead. This continues when Vinick introduces a bill into the Senate that is very leftist, a bill allowed guest worker passes to current illegal immigrants and future ones to work in the US. The realistic feeling of the politics of the show hits a peak when the episode shows Josh Lyman, the head of the Santos campaign, watches an interview of Vinick on "Hardball with Chris Matthews". The politics of Vinick's moves are discussed in a very surreal moment of the show as reality clashes with fiction as the tough questions of Chris Matthews are met with the dodgy responses of the political candidate.

The sub-political plot of the show deals with Vinick and the religious right. A meeting between Vinick and the political head of the religious right about possible future judge appointments is ripe with hostility. At one point of the conversation as Vinick, a pro-choice Republican moderate, points out that Santos voted for partial-birth abortions and that at least he agrees with the religious groups on that. This is responded by the religious group's point man when he says that only means you kill a few hundred less babies than Santos. A VERY, VERY seething Vinick than rhetorically asks if he really thinks that he wants to kill babies. The religious point man seeing where this is going diverts the anger back into politics, reminding Vinick that he still needs the religious right to win the election. Vinick understanding this then tells the religious right's political head a "secret" in confidence, that he will only appoint judges that are pro-life. This satisfies the religious right up until the point when the leak it to the press.

The press takes the story and hammers the Vinick campaign about questions of a promise from Vinick to the religious right about judge appointees. The barrage of questions are hard to dodge and Vinick doesn't want to issue a denial because, well he DID promise it, but in a staff meeting about the issue he informs his chief of staff, Sheila Brooks(Patrica Richardson) the mom from Home Improvement, that he just lied about the judges to get out of the meeting. With no way to avoid the barrage of questions and the fear of the religious right pushing for a public commitment, the Vinick campaign sets up a meeting between the VP on the ticket, the West Virginian Governor Ray Sullivan(R), and the religious right. Sullivan is their kind of conservative Republican and he in a not so subtle manner threatens the religious right's political point man that he shouldn't go after Vinick because they can either be a friend or an enemy to the future administration and that his friend's are always taken care of. This presents a very powerful and manipulative Sullivan, very akin to the manner and style of the current Vice President, Dick Chaney. This wraps up a very campaign oriented episode with a very large emphasis on the issues of the campaign. A great episode for the politically oriented among us and to get a fictional peek into the behind the scenes action of the decisions and reasoning behind the campaign.

This week's episode of Desperate Housewives follows their general formula of separate storylines for each of the women, but I've found this formula lacking the usual inter-relationships between the different women that last season's episodes had. It has felt like a show based on the stories of the people on Mysteria Lane compared to last season's episodes that had a much more interwoven feel to the story as the women met together on the mystery of their friend's suicide/blackmail and the many other issues that affected the lane. This shift may only be occurring at the beginning of this season, but I hope it reverts to its previous form from last season that drew me into the show and kept me here. Onward to the post about the split storylines.

In Bree's life, we start with a visit to her husband's, Rex's, grave with her mother-in-law, Phyllis. They are met with a very empty grave site as the body has been exhumed for an autopsy for the investigation by the police. An investigation incited by Phyllis after seeing Bree being friendly to, well, her friend, George their pharmacist. After Bree learns this, she ends Phyllis' visit early and sends her on her way, I guess the end of the crazy mother-in-law character, but I can see possibilities of her return. When Bree breaks the news to her children, they look at her in doubt. She offers the police to take a polygraph as her children witnesses in order to clear her name with the police as well as her children. She passes quite easily except for the question about if she is in love with George and it marks it as a lie when she answers no. Later in the episode, Bree would ask George to take the polygraph as well in order to clear up any misunderstandings that the police may have and to end the investigation, he does so and passes. Unfortunately, he was the one that poisoned Rex because of his undying and very creepy love he has for Bree.

In Gabrielle’s long distance relationship with her husband Carlos, he's in prison awaiting trial; Carlos pushes Gabrielle for an apology she has yet to give him for her adultery. She instead throws the amount of love John showed and told her, afterwards she decides to spy upon her former lover at work on another women's lawn. She soon becomes aware that John's relationship with her has been extended to his current employer. Enraged by the sudden rebound by John of their recent breakup, Gabrielle grabs the electric trimmer and ruins the lawn. John learns from a witness that the woman who did the vandalism was driving a new Astin Martin and he knows it was Gabrielle. He goes to confront her and exclaims how much he is in love with his new employer, Gabrielle soon learns the love that John has for her was nothing more than an overzealous teenager who could fall in love with anyone or anything in a moment's notice. Gabrielle returns to Carlos in prison a changed woman, she finally apologizes for her actions and all is well once more, save his trial for a hate crime for assault against gays. Very funny stuff actually, a very Seinfeld'esque twist to Gabrielle's adultery in the first season when Carlos attacks men he thinks she's cheating with, unluckily both times they weren't the right guys and both were gay. But at least, the storyline involving Gabrielle and adultery is over, seriously it was dragging on for awhile there.

Lynette's storylines are by far my favorite, short and hilarious. Her character could easily be spun off into a 30 minute sit-com. When her son's first day of school comes around, Lynette must try to find a way to be there when he pushes for her with a sad face ":(". She approaches her boss, Nina, a very evil feminist type woman who goes on a rant about the people who chose not to have children and how is it fair to give her time off and not them, etc. In order to keep her son happy, in a way, she rigs up a very tech savvy remote camera that he can take with him on his first day of school so she can be there at least virtually. This plan meets a road block when Nina calls a meeting and Lynette is forced to take manners into her own hands. Eyeing that Nina's coffee is dangerously close to the edge, Lynette skillfully uses the subtle arts of banging on the table in excitement and lifting the table to drop the coffee on Nina's lap. Mission accomplished! The meeting ends abruptly and Lynette gets to her son's first day of school.

The final housewife's storyline, Susan, involves jealous between herself and local rival Edie, when she finds her daughter, Julie, singing with Edie playing the guitar in preparation for the church family talent show. Susan, quite jealous, gets piano refresher lessons from new neighbor and carrier of the new Desperate Housewives secret, Betty. Susan's and Edie's rivalry hits a pass when Julie is forced to pick between her mother and her father's girlfriend to whom she would rather perform with. The loyal daughter picks the obvious choice of her mother, Susan. When the time for the big talent show comes, Susan breaks with regret as she sees Edie there in support of Julie despite her choice and chooses to apologize right before their performance. Edie, spitefully, says it's convenient that Susan apologized now when she didn't bring her guitar, but informs Susan that she does know how to play the piano as well. Susan agrees to let Edie to play instead of her and it was the best choice she's ever made. Edie is absolutely terrible and Julie can't cover for Edie's mistakes at the piano and a horrid rendition of "This Little Light of Mine".

In the actual final non-housewife storyline, quite a few of them aren't there, the new neighbor's hidden secret makes an entrance. Their chained captive breaks out of the basement in his escape and makes quite a mess in his failed getaway attempt. Betty gives him a pistol whip knocking him out, when Susan comes to door asking for piano lessons; Betty rudely gets rid of her, something that is later corrected when she accepts. This is the only interaction between the different storylines, sadly something that has grown into a rarity on a show rich with the inter-connections of its storyline. The story that Betty told appears to be the truth, as their captive is a black man who, if Betty's story to her psychiatrist is true, was her husband who used to beat her and in a fit of rage killed her son and as an act of retribution, she has made him her captive ever since. A more secure closet in the basement is crafted for him to prevent any further attempts at escape. Yup, that's pretty much it on Mysteria Lane and next week we are met with the return of the very troubled Zach Young. Hopefully, we'll also be met with a more fine-tuned storyline with better unity of the different housewives.


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