I was sitting in my dorm room my freshman year of undergrad when the phone rang. I could hear from the quiver in my voice that my mom had seen what happened.
“Josh!” she said.
“I know,” I said, “I saw.”
We were both pretty broken up. The call only lasted 45 seconds.
“It’s back on,” I said.
“I’ll talk to you later,” she said.
It’s a rare day that I return to “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen” parts I and II, otherwise known as the second season premiere of The West Wing. I still tear up.
It was a point of contention between my friends and I.
“You have to.”
“I’ve tried. I just don’t see it.”
“C’mon, it’s brilliant?”
“Really? ‘Cause I had to turn it off the last time I watched it.”
“Give it another try. It’s exactly the kind of show you’d love.”
It wouldn’t be until Arressted Development came out on DVD and my friend Rachel loaned me the first season, that I would truly see the beauty of the show that launched Michael Cera’s career, brought Jason Bateman back into the public eye, and cemented my appreciation for the mind of Mitchell Hurwitz. Though the show was cut down before its time, I am among the throngs of viewers waiting for it’s re-launch next year and subsequent movie.
A backyard surprise party for my best friend Luke somewhere outside of Los Angeles.
The rest of the partygoers have headed home. It’s the first birthday I’ve spent with Luke in our 17 years of friendship and I’ve no intention of moving.
“But I don’t care about football,” I say to his business partner David.
“You don’t have to care about football. It’s not really about football.”
“Yes. I love The West Wing too. And this show might be better than The West Wing. It’s the kind of filmmaking I want to be doing.”
“Yes.” Luke has jumped in. “You have to see it. I know you’re going to love it.”
“Clear eyes. Full hearts,” David says.
“Can’t lose!” Luke yells back in response.
Not until two months later, when I’m alone on the couch and they inspire goose bumps, do I understand the place of those words within the world of Friday Night Lights. One episode in, and I’m in love the way I wasn’t sure I’d ever be after Arrested Development or The West Wing.
I’ve said before we’re miseducating students if we don’t teach television as literature. In the same way I get lost in The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia or Lord of the Flies, I get lost in the words of Sorkin, Hurwitz and Berg.
The West Wing was the second language of SLA. We often drank from the keg of glory and called for the “finest muffins and bagels in the land.” We paused in moments of appreciation when our dialogue become “Sorkinian.”
If your impression of a chicken includes, “Chaw-chee-chaw-chee!” or you are well-versed on never-nudes, I know we can be friends.
More and more, I’m an advocate of teaching Season 1 of Friday Night Lights alongside a reading of The Odyssey. I find the dead-on portrayal of small-town life inspiring and too close to the truth at times.
I’m sure, or at least hopeful, I’ll fall in love again. Until then, these are the three great television loves of my life.