- The West Wing: The American Presidency as Television Drama
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 2, 2003
- pp. 6-8
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Rollins I Regular Feature point scale, with 1 being the best score, he is at a 3 or 4. He is still waiting to emerge from the shadow of caution defined by the cardiologist , but is pleased by the progress and grateful for all the notes of good wishes and concerns from the many friends out there in the land of film and history studies. Best Regards, Peter C. Rollins Editor-in-Chief BOOK REVIEW: JOURNAL OF AMERICAN CULTURE 27.2 (2004): TBA (Ray Browne is the founder of the American Culture Association and the Book Review Editor of the Journal ofAmerican Culture.) THE WEST WING: THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCYAS TELEVISION DRAMA Eds. Peter C. Rollins and John E. O'Connor. Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press, 2003. ISBN#0-8166-3026-3 The Presidency of the United States, and its seat in the Oval Office, like any overwhelming power, is a charge powerful enough to save or destroy the country and the world. An effort to understand the White House, its power room, its personnel and the President was the 2002 NBC special entitled The Real West Wing, hosted by Tom Brokaw. Depending on your politics, and perhaps your knowledge of the politics of Washington, you praised the production for its truthful insights or lambasted it as a whitewash. (Either way, the documentary only scratched the surface.) That conflict of opinions continues today and needs academic analysis and reflection, both ofwhich it gets in this enlightened and knowledgeable coverage of both angles of the cameras and producers. The essays of The Wests Wing: The American Presidency as Television Drama explore in multiple directions: major issues are examined; language and structure critiqued; documentary and perceptual matters are evaluated. All sides in some way add light to the perceptions offered by the Brokaw special for TWWs home network, NBC. The cynics among us may find the most amusing (or most infuriating) essays those in the last section where the harshest attacks on the series are lodged. But not to worry. Power is most impressive when it is not used. But in a democracy it must be used and tested and all sides heard— though we in the middle ground always wish for more "truth" or reason in the arrows, even when we expect none. Yet a less abused and more informed public would strengthen not weaken the real West Wing. The two editors of this volume recognize this truth and have given needed approaches. They stand in the middle looking and hearing both ways. In an insightful and comprehensive Introduction they give a history of a much praised and condemned series—and the furor it has raised in some quarters. They recognize the human dimensions— frailties and nastinesses—of all participants. Yet through all the din their voices—and most of the rest of us Americans— ring clear: "There is much to be learned if we approach such issue-laden television as The West Wing in a thoughtful manner, informed by both historical scholarship and media analysis that translates the politics of visual language." This collection ofessays and the ongoing NBC television series itself may, as the editors say, "reflect America's best image of itself." If not that, only comments on human nature and both are commendable and necessary for in an effort to achieve democracy through our popular culture; we need to remember the words of the nineteenth-century English poet Robert Browning "One's reach should exceed one's grasp or what's a heaven for?" In this splendid effort the editors' grasp almost touches their reach. —Ray Browne Bowling Green, OH 6 I Film & History Adrian Cronauer is Conference Speaker! A good friend of Film & History is Adrian Cronauer, a man whose "life" was captured in the RobinWilliams/Barry Levinson film GoodMorning, Vietnam (1987). Veteran, communications lawyer, POW/MIA expert, his varied career makes him the perfect keynote speaker for our conference on "War in Film, TV, and History." Vol. 33.2 (2003) | 7 BIOGRAPHY Adrian Cronauer Former U.S. Air Force sergeant Adrian Cronauer coauthored the original story for the major motion picture, Good Morning, Vietnam! In that film, Cronauer was portrayed —loosely—by Robin Williams whose performance was...