My Favourite Christmas Show: West Wing
Legendary and beloved political drama The West Wing is known for a lot of things: sparkling dialogue, raw emotion and unprecedented ability to make the US legislative process entertaining. But another thing it did brilliantly was Christmas specials.
I was meant to be choosing my favourite West Wing seasonal episode for this post, but I’ll be honest, I had trouble. Because they all, in their own way, are amazing, a bittersweet combination of everything Christmas could be. Whether tackling the heartbreak of homeless veterans in the first season’s In Excelsis Deo, or lead character Josh having a breakdown in the following year’s Noel, they always strike a note of genuine redemption by the end.
The third season's festive effort is more of an “episode that takes place at Christmas”. Which is a shame, because it would make my decision a lot easier – Bartlet For America is one of the best episodes the show ever did. A lovely study of one man’s struggle to find forgiveness from his friends and himself.
Whereas the next year’s Holy Night, as the title might suggest, has all the festive moments. Everything from choirs to the Church of the Nativity, as well as the reunion of a grumpy speechwriter with his estranged father. It doesn’t quite transcend itself, perhaps, but it’s a lovely episode with many heart-warming scenes.
It’s traditional to complain that West Wing nosedived utterly when lead writer Aaron Sorkin left, but the only post-Sorkin Christmas episode, Abu el Banat, still had some sweet moments. It’s notable for being the only time all of the President’s daughters shared a scene, amid much family strife and weary dialogue from the man himself. Yes, overly melodramatic at times, but not awful.
And that was all of them. Due to complex timeline jiggery-pokery, the sixth and seventh seasons ignored Christmas, which keeps this blog post at a reasonable length. So, now we come to the question: which is your favourite West Wing Christmas episode?
I’d take Barlet For America if it were eligible. If not, I like season 2’s Noel best, for the clever plotting and sheer lovability of the Josh character. But I might be wrong.