The West Wing

I’m sure lots of people have lots to say about why The West Wing is jingoistic, navel-gazing mawkish tosh. But I love it.

Watching it as someone quite unhappy with his job, however, is a very different experience to how I felt when I started the first season. At that point I’d just stepped into the breach to shoulder a bundle of new (and exciting) responsibility, just months after starting a new (and exciting) job.

My boss, who I was great friends with, had left – though nothing to do with me having started four months previously. Errr… I was the only person with the experience and know-how to take on his work, and so I did.

At first I wobbled. But with some fantastic support, guidance and motivation I managed to push on and achieve some work that I’m still very proud of. It would always be tough for the replacement boss who was coming in, but I was very sure that, being professionals, we could find common ground and keep working well.

At this point, watching The West Wing was like watching a motivational tape, only with better paid actors and less forced corporate sponsorship. It was the decision making and the mutual respect, the professional manner and ability to discuss ideas and strive for success that hit home – because that was how I liked to think my job was progressing.

Sadly, that didn’t happen. Let he who has never skived hurl the first accusation, and so on, but for one reason or another – some my fault, some not my fault – the last 12 months have been a spiral of disenfranchisement, disrespect and finally disgust.

Watching The West Wing over that time was like watching aliens feed on a distant planet. It may have well been in a foreign language, for all the affinity I felt with the work ethic, ambition and cameraderie on screen.

It made me sick of myself for being so affected by one person’s negative influence, while highlighting exactly the sort of adult working relationship I expected to be a part of.

Fortunately, a few weeks ago I got myself a new job, a very exciting job, and one with a lot of responsibility but also a need for creativity. I can’t wait to start, and yesterday I got back into The West Wing in a big way, slogging through more than eight episodes of Season Six.

And the feeling is back. The feeling that all I want to do is care about my job like these guys do (though, perhaps in a slightly less mawkish fashion) and actually get stuff done that really matters. The feeling is back.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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