If you’re not up to speed on the 2012 American election, watch The West Wing

With just over a month to go until the next American Presidential election, the news is becoming more and more concerned with polling data, swing states and whether Democratic candidate, and current President, Barack Obama will win a second term in office, or if Republican Mitt Romney will become the 45th President on November 6th. Four years ago, the world was in a frenzy in the build up to the election, Obama vs. McCain and of course, the unforgettable Sarah Palin.

This year the general tone seems to be more subdues, at least on this side of the Atlantic. With Obama already in power, it seems the majority of people want to keep him there. In 2008, Obama’s campaign focused on change and that certainly seems to be what it delivered; there was definitely a sense that he would bring something new to the presidency, a rhetoric and gravitas that others had only dreamed of.

President Obama is hoping to gain a second term in office come November

So, this year, if you’re wanting to recapture the magic of 2008 or just can’t get enough of that polling data, why not watch Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant series, The West Wing. If you just want the election the it’s probably best to just watch season six and seven, when President Bartlet is nearing the end of his presidency and the search for his replacement is on. There is even a live episode in the format of the debates between the two candidates, your’e not going to get closer to the real thing than this.

However, if you’ve got time, why not just start from the beginning and watch the whole box set. It’e been eight years since the series wrapped yet it still holds its place among the best television series of all time. Sorkin’s scripts are witty with fast paced dialogue and a lot of walking an talking that brings a sense of purpose and urgency to the series. It’s primarily about life in the West Wing of the White House under fictional Democratic President Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) but the integrity and complexity of American politics is so ingrained into the format of the show that it would be  half the show it is without it.

The cast of The West Wing

Sorkin does not make it easy viewing and at times, missing a few seconds can make catching up with scenarios difficult. A lot of rewinding and rewatching is required. But the reward is a show that does not assume the complacency of the audience, on the contrary, it asks the audience to think, to put themselves in the positions of the characters and ask whether they would have acted any differently. It is the thinking-person’s entertainment and highly funny. If you’re going to watch one box set this autumn, make it The West Wing,  you’ll feel like an expert on U.S. politics come November. Then again, you might be as clueless as I still am!

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