Have you ever had a dream so incredible you felt sad upon waking up?
Ahem! Actually no, I’m not referring to sex dreams. This post is going to be about something better…well, that assertion may prove debatable. In any case, think of your favorite TV show. Think about what elements of that show make it so great to watch, so engrossing.
Recently I had an especially vivid and exciting dream based on one of my all-time favorite shows: The West Wing. As I was having it, the dream rivaled any TV/movie-based dream I've ever had. But from the moment I woke up until now, many days later, I have been drowning in sorrow. You see, my incredible West Wing dream resulted in tragic lost opportunity--an opportunity I may never get back.
Still, let’s first discuss the coolness of this dream. Over seven seasons, The West Wing proved just how entertaining and intelligent television drama can be. It followed the fictional presidency of Josiah Bartlett, portrayed by Martin Sheen. The show took audiences deep, physically and mentally, into the White House. By any standard, it boasted one of the best casts and writing teams (a la Aaron Sorkin) ever assembled for network TV drama.
I’ve certainly had dreams before that included motifs from The West Wing. As a devotee, I’ve been through the series three times on DVD. Of course the show has surfaced in my dreamscape—as I’m sure it does for anyone with a relapsing remitting crush on actress Allison Janney, who portrays the White House Press Secretary.
Let me be clear. Until last week, I’d never had a dream so vivid and well-constructed. In contrast to typical dreams where continuity runs amuck, or I wake up just before the good part, this dream played out like the best, most dramatic scenes in the show. The dream was almost perfect. Almost.
Once in REM state, I found myself in a closed-door meeting with White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry and DCS Josh Lyman. On the real show, Leo McGarry was referred to as the second most powerful man in the world. And by the final episode, Josh Lyman had become the show’s main protagonist, rising to the position of Chief of Staff to President Bartlett’s successor. Here I was having a closed-door strategy meeting with arguably the most important characters in the entire series.
Replicating classic episodes, Leo, Josh and I wrangled over what strategy President Bartlett should take to handle a national crisis--something analogous to the Gulf oil spill. Josh and I were of one accord that the White House should not accept blame. However, Josh wanted to blame the crisis on a political rival. Replicating a central theme of the show, namely that cooler heads should prevail, I suggested we neither take nor assign blame. Rather, the White House should angle passively so that blame fell imperceptibly onto wrongdoers. This, I assured Josh and Leo, would keep the President’s hands clean. (Oh yeah, folks, I’m crafty during REM sleep!)
After this intense meeting, Leo and I stepped into the hall. He charged me with taking our position directly to the President. One of the most beloved characters on The West Wing, Leo leaned in close to me and spoke in a low gravelly tone like I’d seen the late actor John Spencer do masterfully so many times. That was the most electrifying moment of the dream.
Next thing I know, I am sitting in the Oval Office with Sam Seaborn and other senior advisors looking on. SWEET! President Bartlett, or put another way—MARTIN FRICKIN’ SHEEN is looking right at me. COOL!! I’m advising him to stay above the fray. President Bartlett appears skeptical, and my nerves start to rattle. But the President doesn’t interrupt, and I successfully get my point across. AWESOME!!!
As I woke up , staring at the ceiling of my apartment, I grinned ear to ear for a second. Then the metaphorical floor dropped out from under me as I realized my dream lacked one critical element. Astute fans of The West Wing may already know to which element I’m referring.
I’ve been kicking myself ever since. How did my brain deliver up such a realistic West Wing dream, only to leave out the critical technique of actors walking as they talk? By literally moving the story forward, Walk and Talks help fans digest critical exposition as they survey the White House Complex. What is worse, my dream included an obvious place to do a Walk and Talk. For goodness sake, Act 2 of my dream was in the hallway with Leo. But we just stood there. And no, I don't blame Leo. I take full responsibility.
Now I’ve got to watch a whole ‘nother season—again—to prompt a new dream (which reminds me that only watching Kate Beckinsale movies every other week isn’t doing the trick, but that’s a peripheral issue). Oh well, I’m off to watch some reruns.