Monday, May 18, 2009

The West Wing Invades USA

I will proudly make it known to any and all anywhere at anytime that The West Wing was one of my favorite series of all time. From the first five minutes of the pilot to final second of the season seven finale, I enjoyed every damn second of that show. That's one of the reasons I was pretty excited by last night's USA lineup.

The other, of course, is that I really like "In Plain Sight" and "Law & Order:CI", so I would have been watching anyway, but the big draw for last night was a special one in my book. In those two short hours we were treated to four West Wing alum spread through two shows. A good night indeed.

First up was "Law & Order:CI" with special guest Janel Maloney, affectionately known as simply Donna in my house. Both I and my room mate, who is more of a casual "West Wing" fan than I, became completely entranced by Maloney's WW character, Donna Moss, and her guest appearances everywhere from Showtime's (amazing) "Brotherhood" (especially her nude scene - yikes!) to "30 Rock" are celebrated heartily.

Her turn as a manipulative, adulterous wife of an equally adulterous pastor was a bit beyond what we're used to seeing her play, but it was, as always, a treat.

Hour two is always WW alum territory with Mary McCormack starring as Deputy Mary Shannon of the U.S. Marshall Service in "In Plain Sight". She's seemingly tough-shelled with a fast mouth and brute atmosphere, until you see a bit deeper when she's bogged down in family problems and guilt after shooting and killing an attacker in the season one finale.

McCormack was a late-comer to The West Wing, starring as a U.S. Naval Commander turned Deputy National Security Advisor Kate Harper in seasons 5-7. McCormack presented Harper much like Shannon, tough-shelled, good at keeping secrets, able to commit bodily injury easily. As with her new characters familial problems and sense of remorse, Kate Harper slowly falling into a romance with a West Wing co-worker showed that she's not all vinegar and nails.

That WW romance took place with Deputy Speech Writer, Will Bailey, the oft-geeky wordsmith played by Joshua Malina. In a pleasing story line of "In Plain Sight", Malina becomes an acquaintance of Mary Shannon's goofy sister via an AA meeting the last few weeks. Malina's appearance this week debuted a bit of character background: he's filthy rich and interested in her sister enough to ask her to the Governor's Ball.

It was nice to see both McCormack and Malina sharing a scene together, though the episode was nearly over before that happened. Atleast when the time came it was with a short quip, "It's better if you breathe", from Shannon to Peter (his character: Peter Alpert) upon viewing Shannon's sister, Brandi, all dolled up for the ball, slightly remniscent of a WW quip.

Thankfully, it seems like Peter will be around a bit this season.

Finally, West Wing alum number four, Richard Schiff, a favorite of mine who has a new show premiering on Fox in next year's mid-season, graced "In Plain Sight" with a one off appearance as a slick Jewish P.I. of sorts. The unnamed character had surprising wit that baffled McCormack's Shannon, and her tough but caring demeanor worked him over, leading from annoyance on her part to a shared admiration.

Schiff, who's character Toby Ziegler over played his Jewishness at times of frustration, which was often - Ziegler was a tightly wound wordsmith and, coincidentally, Will Bailey's boss, played an old-school rabbi known for being able to track down anyone anywhere and being able to talk them into near anything with a patience that's unbelievable to Marshall Shannon.

Their final scene together ended with the unnamed rabbi handing Marshall Shannon a business card and alluding to being able to find her long lost father, so here's hoping for a repeat performance by Shiff.

Too bad USA's Friday night buddy P.I. comedy "Psych" is between seasons or we could have had a whole week of The West Wing on USA as Dule Hill, who played personal aid to the President Charlie Young on West Wing, is now Gus, one half of the Psych Detective Agency. I'm thinking about starting a petition asking Elisabeth Moss, who played young Zoey Bartlett, first daughter and on again off again love of Charlie Young, to take time out from "Mad Men" and her engagement to Saturday Night Live's Fred Armissen to play a damsel in distress on Psych.

It was nice to have a night of The West Wing stars on my DVR, even if it wasn't The West Wing I was watching.

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