The Bartlet Administration and Contemporary Populism in NBC's <i>The West Wing</i>

J. Elizabeth Clark

in The Contemporary Television Series

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780748619009
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671168 | DOI:
The Bartlet Administration and Contemporary Populism in NBC's The West Wing

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NBC's The West Wing was a television serial drama that focused on the fictional American president Josiah Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen). A deeply intellectual president, Bartlet eschewed the naivety of a Capraesque populism represented by Jefferson Smith in Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Through Bartlet and his industrious staff, The West Wing presented a tangible, populist depiction of an imaginary government working for the people to uphold the principles of democracy. The programme offered audiences the opportunity to engage with a different version of American democracy, one in which serious social problems received the kind of personal attention a populist vision of the United States fervently desires. The West Wing was an opportunity to explore a different facet of White House politics by examining the role of the president's staff who are charged with carrying out the president's ideas, objectives and policies. In comparison to early episodes featuring Bartlet's angry responses to Christian conservatives, The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin presented a fairly standard approach to liberalist perspectives on terrorism.

Keywords: The West Wing; television serial; American president; Josiah Bartlet; populism; terrorism; Aaron Sorkin; democracy; politics; White House

Chapter.  8693 words. 

Subjects: Television

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