This episode contains a brilliant turn by Bob Balaban as a heavyweight Hollywood Studio Chief, who, as it happens, is gay The culmination of the trip to California is a campaign fundraiser he is hosting at his home. He attempts to hold the fundraiser hostage unless President Bartlett makes a statement in support of Gays in the military. Towards the end of the evening, there is an exquisitely played scene with Balaban and Martin Sheen discussing Balaban's tactics and the wisdom of the President not making such an overt statement. The quiet intensity and weariness of both men, men who are charged with overseeing massive humanity on a daily basis, combined with an actor's generosity to create a scene that remains memorable 10 years later. The rest of the staff wander this party, star-struck, fending off development deals and pseudo-celebrity hangers-on. Much humor in this episode.
Spoilers - In this season 1 episode of the hit TV show The West Wing titled 20 hours in L.A. President Bartlet and most of The West Wing staff travel to L.A. to attend a program to ban flag burning and go to a fund raiser hosted by a Hollywood studio owner. Meanwhile back in Washington D.C. Leo and Sam try to get the Vice-President to cast the winning vote in a senate tiebreaker. Overall I thought the episode was really good and not bad. I like the L.A. storyline because we get to see the characters outside of The West Wing which made the episode refreshing. The rest of the storyline of the episode were great as well
After the misfire that was Celestial Navigations, this superb episode features whip-smart dialogue and an especially strong performance from Martin Sheen, portraying a President under increasing strain.
I am compelled to write another review to ensure the record shows that I love this show. Season One has been terrific, but I know there are truly brilliant episodes ahead, so I hesitate to offer up a 9.0 or higher. Then there was the vast disappointment of Celestial Navigations, which seemed to have arisen out of writers in some alternate universe. 20 Hours in L.A. was a robust return to form.
The Aaron Sorkin script is crackling with sharp exchanges. I particularly liked the discussions around flag-burning polling data, red meat for political junkies. Great guest performances. Marlee Matlin reels you in. Bob Balaban was electric as a David Geffen-esque Hollywood mogul, who is prone to "adolescent tantrums". And then there was Martin Sheen, who is always terrific, but really shines in this episode, as President Bartlet is overcome by fatigue, and you feel his exhaustion in his scene with Balaban, and later aboard Air Force One speaking to his Vice-President.
Loved the cold open, as Bartlet is boarding Air Force One.
Bartlet: If you want to see the best part about having my job... (into telephone) Colonel, this is the President. I'm ready to go. (Engines Rev, Bartlet grins)
Scenes like that just make me think he takes nothing for granted about getting to be the President. Got to say I agree with him about the Secret Service Agents guarding Zoey.
Bartlet: Let me tell you something, when it's your kid you don't want 'em blending in. You want 'em wearing a sign that says, 'I'm caring a loaded gun and the safety's off.'
I also agree with him on the flag desecration issue.
Bartlet: I mean it, man. Is there an emergency level outbreak of flag desecration no one's kept me posted on?
Bartlet: You would honestly think that there's an epidemic of flag burning going on, endangering countless lives...
I imagine the majority of flag burning goes on outside the US, where such a law would have no effect.
Felt bad for Josh, with Joey Lucas ending up being with Al, the guy Josh spent his lunch arguing with.
As I haven't mentioned Leo's secretary Margaret(NiCole Robinson), I thought I'd do so now. She's funny and I like her and Leo's dynamic almost as much as Josh & Donna's. Really speaks to how good she must be at her job that Leo would put up with so much guff from her(as can be said about Donna).
It was nice seeing Bob Balaban(one of my favorite actors), even if his character, Ted Marcus, was a bit of a jerk.
Bartlet: Right now, right this second, the worst thing that could possibly happen to gay rights in this country, is for me to put that thing on the debating table. Which is what happens the minute I open my mouth. Do you get that? I'm a human starting gun, Ted! You gotta trust me, I know what I'm doing!
I understand Ted knew all that and just needed his 10 minutes alone with the President so he could then allay the fears of the contributors. But still, he could have just tried asking instead of threatening Josh right off the bat. Though Ted did show concern for Bartlet in the end.
I imagine Bartlet's insomnia is going to come up again, but for right now it just seems like everything is falling down for them.
No Mandy + Plenty of Bartlet = a good episode. Plus it was interesting seeing almost all of the staff outside the office for an entire episode.
Another really great episode with cleverly plotted intrigue, full of comic accidents and moments (like CJ on that party - all ways trying to escape conversations and asked Sam to pretend to talk with her). And also it had quite many hints what will be their problems in near future - the all storyline with vice president. It has been very promising from the first moments it was brought up and the security of Zoe and her relationship with Charlie - I am sure they will build something out of it. And Joey Lucas - she again did impressive performance. great episode.
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