My New Obsession: The West Wing Weekly

Do you find the current political climate to be openly volatile? Does your blood boil the second you turn on the news or browse through social media because of the unrelenting slough of incompetence and vitriol coming from the current Administration? Do you scream into your pillow in the futile hope that answers will come to you between gulps of air? Do you long for the halcyon days of George W. Bush’s presidential buffoonery? Bill Clinton’s sex scandals? Barack Obama’s calm and reassuring demeanor in the face of ridiculous amounts of adversity?

Well, I don’t know what to do about all of those feelings I’m you’re having, but I can recommend a podcast about The West Wing! Will it stop the relentless onslaught of anxiety? No. But it will kill an hour of your day while you listen to an engaging discussion about a fictional idealized behind-the-scenes world of politics!

Okay, that’s a gross oversimplification. Here’s the over-explanation.

The West Wing Weekly is a podcast hosted by musician and composer Hrishikesh “Hrishi” Hirway, also the host of Song Exploder, and actor Joshua Malina, currently of the television program Scandal. The purpose of the podcast? To talk about the much beloved West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin. Week by week, episode by episode, the two recap and analyze the show giving it equal parts praise and critique with some added trivia and real-world examples of the government dealings presented in Sorkin’s fictional White House. Unlike many podcasts devoted purely to talking about a favorite tv show long since cancelled, Malina’s involvement lends the podcast the advantageous position of first-hand access to the actors, writers, directors, and consultants. A friend and frequent player in Sorkin’s tv shows and movies (i.e. Sports Night, The American President, A Few Good Men), Malina also joined the West Wing cast in Season 4 as Will Bailey and stayed until the series’ end.

The dynamic between Hirway and Malina is the real draw of the podcast. Where Malina hasn’t watched an episode since it first aired (17 years ago), Hirway has gone through multiple rewatchings. Where Hirway presents a sunnier, perhaps more optimistic look at Sorkin’s idealized political world, Malina – by his own admission – leans towards a contrarian approach to his analysis. Their outlooks, however, aren’t set in stone. The two frequently change their attitude towards characters, storylines, and dialogue depending on how well conceived the episode ends upon rewatch or how well the other can argue in favor or opposition.