On finding inspiration in a Hollywood storyline

While on maternity leave, I became shamefully addicted to reruns of The West Wing, which airs on Bravo every weekday morning for two hours.

While on maternity leave, I became shamefully addicted to reruns of The West Wing, which airs on Bravo every weekday morning for two hours. Ah, the Hollywood president! The rapid-fire dialogue and instant recall of the most arcane statistics. The improbably hot DC wonks. I was intoxicated (and still am, it must be said).

Two senior industry people have confessed to me that they, too, have recently spent an unhealthy amount of time with the show, which went off the air in 2006, and I suspect there are others out there with the same preoccupation.

Given that we have a Democrat in the nation's top office, this is not merely a longing for the Bartlett administration. Rather, there is something seductive about the smart combination of high-pressured workplace and top brains applying their skills to issues of great import.

At the end of the day, it was a show about work, not just Washington. And it's the kind of work that showcases the best of what we do (Hollywood style, naturally), where communications is at the strategic heart of every solution, discussion, and problem. CJ Cregg may have been the face of the administration to the press, but the tenants of integrity, honesty, and transparency were at the center of every conflict.

For the most part, the good guys, the proponents of the most ethical values, win the day. Maybe that's not always true in the real world. But occasionally, we all need a little inspiration. For those of us who may be feeling a little jaded right now, particularly our friends in public affairs, I recommend a visit to Aaron Sorkin's perfectly rosy Washington. Be reassured through the storylines that communications is at the heart of real progress. Also comforting is the reminder, through storylines that seem strangely timely and familiar, about the pain of the 24-hour news cycle, the fear of terrorist threats, and the frustrations behind economic stimulus packages, that there really is nothing new under the sun.

Of course, as Qorvis partner Stan Collender pointed out to me, watching The West Wing for real political operatives is a bit like doctors watching ER. They can't help but howl at the oversimplifications and inaccuracies. Yes, I know, but it really doesn't matter.

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