The West Wing is about to be demolished. No, not the edifice that is home to White House senior staff, but the television series that has aired on NBC since 1999. This week, NBC announced that the last episode will air on May 14.
Like many viewers, I tuned out long ago. When Bill Clinton was still in office, there was something mildly amusing about the Hollywood fantasy version of what a White House should be. Josiah Bartlet was everything Bill Clinton wasn't: a devoted husband, a man who got down on his knees in the Oval Office only to pray, a leader who'd rather lose an important vote than compromise his principles. But the series became tedious, the liberal proselytizing more aggressive, and the premise ridiculous once George W. Bush assumed office. The series has been on life support for several seasons, with every effort to revive the excitement first generated seven years ago failing. Not even the prospect of heartthrob Jimmy Smits (Congressman Matt Santos) becoming president has been enough to woo back an audience.
With "West Wing" gone, Hollywood fantasies of wresting control of the White House from evil Republicans will have to rely on the staying power of ABC's "Commander In Chief." But Geena Davis as President Mom is a pretty thin reed. Although the show premiered to record ratings in September, it's been losing ground almost steadily since. Conservatives have criticized President Mackenzie Allen as a fictional stalking horse for Hillary Rodham Clinton, but Davis' President Allen may actually set back the chances of a woman becoming commander in chief any time soon. Do we really want our president grappling with teenage angst and sibling rivalry in the middle of the War on Terror?
The show's creators seem not to realize that most women have long ago given up trying to have it all. Sure, working moms are now the norm, but the evidence suggests that most women who make it to the very top of their professions do so either after they have raised their children or chosen to remain childless. It's hard to balance work and family, even harder to balance becoming the boss in the workplace while maintaining the role of involved mom at home, and nigh impossible to manage a nuclear crisis while supervising the kids' homework.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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