Sunday, May 14, 2006

Hello and Goodbye

-As I put another weekend behind me, I am both happy and sad for some of it's entertainment experiences. During these two days, I've been as giddy as a schoolboy on the last day of classes, and melancholy and introspective at the loss of an old friend.

Saturday night I was bouncing around the concourses and soaking in the new baseball environment in downtown St. Louis. Wife Barb, sister Bonnie, brother-in-law Mark, and I all took in the Cards-Diamondbacks game Saturday night. With the beautiful new stadium just about finished, the space where the old stadium stood being cleared for the planned Ballpark Village, and the new vibrancy all around the neighborhood, it's easy to be giddy if you care at all about Cardinals baseball, and the city.

I didn't see everything, but from what I did, I'm totally impressed with the new Busch. The sight lines, the brick and steel beam motif, the wide concourses, the open areas in which to stand, are all pretty darn impressive. Of course, you can't do anything of that magnitude without a few gliches, and I'm sure there are some. But I'd have to say they have been kept pretty well hidden. We experienced a long line at a men's restroom, and certain items being sold out at the concession stand. But, for the most part, the entire night was a blast. Particularly the 9-1 blowout of the Arizona club.

Unless I come into some unexpected windfall, I don't think regular attendance will be in the picture. But, it's nice to know when we do get the chance to see a game, that we will have one of the outstanding facilities in all of professional sports to attend. From this keyboard, a big "well done" to the Cardinal owners, management, and their builders.

The sadness of the weekend comes at the loss of an old friend, NBC's West Wing.

The transition from the administration of President Bartlett to that of President Santos was completed with the Santos inauguration in tonight's final episode. Santos, played by Jimmy Smits, would be a fascinating President to follow if the network and producers had decided to continue the show. Alan Alda, as his Secretary of State would be a great character to enjoy too. Many of the current regulars could have continued in a Santos administration. But, NBC bailed out on West Wing back in December shortly after the death of show stalwart John Spencer, allowing the producers to plan for tonight's inspiring, "sense of history" finale.

I can't imagine a program bringing as much intelligence, emotion, strong production values, top-flight acting, and pride for the American system of government as Aaron Sorkin's creation of 6 years ago. Sorkin left the show in 2003 causing it to begin to falter. But, in the last few years, it found new energy and creativity with interesting characters and well conceived plot lines. Whether you agreed with the lightly-veiled political agenda of the producers, or not, it was always a television presentation of high integrity and production values. Of course, that's something sadly lacking in the current state of broadcast TV. How much time do you think a producer of the show would get to pitch his idea to a network executive right now? Likely not much.

As ex-President Jed Bartlett looked out the window of Air Force One on his way back to his New England home after concluding 8 years in the White House, wife Abby (Stockard Channing) asks,

"What are you thinking about?"


was (Martin Sheen)'s last word, of the last episode, of a great American television endeavor. And the just-retired President's jet soared off into the sunset.

When the names of the producers came onto the screen for the final time, and I began to imagine the fictional futures of all of the many interesting characters, Barb looked at me, and I at her, with emotionally glistening eyes. She said, not knowing where the same type of television enjoyment will come from, "Now what?"

"Now what?"... indeed.

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