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Thursday, April 7th, 2005

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Last night was the season finale of The West Wing, bringing to a close a surprisingly satisfying sixth season. I say surprising because season five, the first of the post-Sorkin era, was so disappointing, I had very low expectations for this one.

Last year, producer John Wells managed to strip all the life and energy out of the cast and characters and threatened to drown them in the sort of melodrama that might have worked on ER, but was horribly suited to The West Wing. Announcements in the off-season about the addition of Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits to the cast stank of desperate stunt casting and didn’t excite either. Even the start of this season was awkward, with their “season of change” necessitating head-scratching moves such as making CJ Chief Of Staff for no good reason (at least not over Toby or Josh).

However, once the business of shuffling the deck was over, things really picked up. The addition of Smits and Alda as presidential hopefuls really did liven things up as the show went on two parallel paths, one following the campaigners and one following the White House. The ennui and malaise and other French words that so afflicted season five were gone and replaced with vim and vigor – the cast actually got their sense of humour back and seemed interested again (except Toby, who was horribly under-used all year). I was actually eager to tune in every week again and frustrated that there were only 22 episodes in which to cram everything – they surely had enough material to fill another half-dozen, easy. Last night’s finale certainly managed to make the Democratic National Convention seem pretty damn exciting. I didn’t expect the selection of Leo as VP nominee, either. A nice touch, but did they forget he suffered a major heart attack earlier this year? Surely no one would really be so irresponsible as to nominate someone for the important office of vice-president with someone so at risk for cardiac arrest? Oh wait – never mind.

I’m quite happy the show’s been renewed for a seventh season, allowing them to follow through the conclusion of the Bartlet administration. Certainly not a sure thing in the past couple years, I consider that a triumph of good television over dreck. I don’t know if I’d necessarily want them to continue on with the new administration, it really wouldn’t be the same, but I do know that if they decide to go GOP and have Alda win the election, he’d better bring Gary Burghoff in as his Chief-Of-Staff.

Kathleen Edwards, playing a most-likely sold-out show at the Mod Club tonight, is this week’s NOW cover girl. JAM! also has an interview. I’ve had the new record for a little while now, it’s alright – not a big shift from Failer, maybe a little more with the rock. I will have to get around to seeing her live someday. Just not tonight.

Another day, another Decemberists interview. Today, Amazon talks to Colin Meloy about Picaresque. Also available in audio! And here’s part two of the Prefix interview.

NOW talks to Brendan Benson, in town Monday at Lee’s Palace and again on May 28 opening for Keane at Massey Hall.

Torr reports that the Stars’ Set Yourself On Fire has debuted at no. 34 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart and no. 40 on the Top Independent Albums list. Is this high? I have no frame of reference for these positions. It sounds good, though.

Another sure sign of Spring – I broke my sunglasses. It seems every year, I either lose or break my sunglasses, necessitating the purchase of a new pair. A cheap pair, mind you, since I will invariably lose or break them. Now on one hand, this is good – it allows me to remain just out of fashion. On the other hand, it’s bad – as it keeps costing me money every year and sometimes I actually get attached to a pair. So the question is, do I buy a good, pricier (more durable) pair and take extra-special care of them or do I keep buying cheap ones like ZZ Top recommends? Do I listen to pop music because I’m miserable or am I miserable because I listen to pop music?

Of course, it’s overcast today, so it doesn’t really matter.

np – Ted Leo & The Pharmacists / Shake The Sheets

By : Frank Yang at 9:19 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Torr says:

    Heatseekers chart tracks includes albums by artists who’ve never had an album in the Top 100. It’s pretty good for the first week of a indie label release.

  2. Ryan Waddell says:

    I used to be in the same boat as you – buying a new cheap pair of sunglasses every year, and losing or breaking them over the course of the year. Then I started buying me some good Oakleys, and suddenly they were lasting me 3-4 years a pair. AND, when I’ve sat or stepped on them, I just call up Oakley and they send me a new pair! Awesome! Warranties are a wonderful thing.

  3. MontrealBob says:

    Mountain Equipment Coop sells shades called Slides (I think) for about 15$, and are able to somehow match quality with cheapness. They are of decent quality but I don’t have to stress about scratches, etc.

  4. Paul says:

    I think the show will go GOP next season. Alan Alda has been molded as the kind of Republican that liberal-minded viewers can embrace (a pro-choice, non-church attending GOP nom would NEVER fly in the real world). It’ll be interesting to see how they change the entire cast of the show within the confines of one season, though. Law & Order’s been able to do this, but they’ve done it gradually over years and years. With the West Wing, it’ll just be *poof* new cast! Even if Santos wins, and Leo gets to remain, it would be unreal to keep anyone else on board. The last time the candidates changed but the party stayed the same (Reagan–>Bush Sr.), very few staffers endured the transition.

    Unless they fuck things up, next season could be phenomenal as far as twists and surprises go.

  5. Frank says:

    MEC – good suggestion. I’m usually more of a suave urban type rather than the rugged outdoorsy type, but they’re worth a look. Merci.

    re: West Wing – I expect them to go Republican as well. That would be quite interesting… of course, Democrats would be all "man, we lost all the real seats of government and now the FAKE ones too!"

  6. Hibbert K. Jenkins says:

    Nah, Jimmy Smits = better raitings. Besides, when Alan Alda first signed on, he repeatedly said, in the press, that his character wasn’t gonna win. Now, he’s backed off, cause they wanna build suspense. But it’s gonna be Smits. Otherwise they’d have to dump the whole cast, too.

  7. Paul says:

    If they don’t dump the whole cast next year, any strains of believability will be gone… regardless of which candidate wins.

    The writers of the show really embrace Dem ideals, so with a GOP administration, you can bet they’ll be more challenged to subtley comment through storylines on things Bush is doing wrong and take jabs at the party (an idea which I’m sure Alan Alda would play along with gladly).

  8. xXx says:

    Oh Paul, you silly man.

  9. yoti says:

    Agree with some of the selection at MEC, but you might not get your urban hipster points. SportChek and similar places sell a line called HardCore that are not more than $20. Good selection but leaning towards skibum. I have a pair of them that I can beat up and also a pair of Ray Bans that I take better care of. A good pair of sunglasses is a must have in my book. The problem is finding a good style. I’d check the Bay as well.

    A friend of mine recommended Keane as well, but haven’t checeked them out yet. Brendan Benson, is also featured in an ad I saw in a freebie corp(?) mag called Ukula: "Brendan Benson – ‘The alternative to love’; ‘Paul McCartney wishes he could still write upbeat ditties like Brendan Benson’ " … makes we want to check that out too.

    By the way, the Weakerthans put on a good show on Thursday night with the Constantines and 2 other bands (!) that I can’t seem to find the names of. The one was punk and they were hiliarious – totally not taking themselves too seriously like the first band was.

  10. Frank says:

    the other two bands on the Constantines/Weakerthans bill on Thursday were Brutal Knights and Sean Hewitt. Hope that helps.

    I don’t really like Keane. Any band that sounds like Coldplay could beat them up is just too wimpy for me. Brendan Benson writes great pop songs but I admit that his Lapalco album never quite connected with me.

    Thanks for the shades advice. Didn’t make it down to MEC today, maybe next week. I have a contingency pair of sunglasses to get me through the next while, anyway.