Lowe and behold

Saturday, July 15, 2006 by

On last night’s episode of The West Wing there was a real, genuine, bona fide “yes!” moment of the kind the show used to do as a matter of course, but which hasn’t bothered with for ages.

It happened in the pre-credits sequence, when the camera slowly pulled back to reveal that the back of the head we’d seen in shot was actually that of none other than Rob Lowe, not seen in the series for almost four years. He turned round, muttered one line, then bang: into the titles. Wow.

Of course Lowe has only returned to The West Wing because the show is about to end for good, and was shamelessly coaxed back to give the thing something resembling a bit of dignity in its desperate dying moments. Yet even though he was only in a few scenes, it worked. Suddenly the whole programme felt far more substantial, robust, earthy. The West Wing had credibility again. It didn’t have a load of people acting out of character, alternately shouting at and sleeping with each other. Well, it did, but they weren’t the only ones in it.

Three episodes remain. Will the show exploit the goodwill of its former star and serve up a trio of memorably above average escapades? It’s rare to be in at end of a long-running American drama series, even more of a thrill when you were also in at the start. Even so, The West Wing‘s departure is worth watching whether or not you ever followed the show in depth. Once it’s gone, Radio Times for one will have to find another series to continually print spoilers about.


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