"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What Kind of Dream Has It Been?

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.


  1. ROFL, I can't believe you forgot to do the Walk and Talk! Great story. So I think I have to take a break after Season 5 (can't break in the middle of a season) cause you didn't mention that Season 5 Josh is SO MEAN!!!
    Have we ever talked about Sports Night? If you haven't watched it I highly recommend, another Gold from Sorkin that was mercilessly cut down in it's prime.

  2. Now, let’s not pick on Josh. This is just plain a MEAN season. For the love, the President denies political asylum to a Korean pianist. Denying it to an oboe player I can understand, but to a pianist?!Things get so mean they have to do a whole episode of far-fetched super-friendliness late in the season: “The Supremes.” That’s one of my favorites of the whole series, in part because it transcends the general dreariness of Season 5.

    So I checked IMDB to see if my mind was playing games with me. I have seen an episode of Sports Night. It was the one where something historic happened in a cricket match, but they couldn’t cover it because no one at the station understood the game of cricket. I would definitely give that show another chance if I come across it.

  3. You're right, ALL of season 5 is mean! That poor pianist, he looked like he could crumble at any second! Sports Night was ahead of its time, 1998-99 just wasn't ready for such an intelligent show.