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Robert Francis: In the fictional White House things can be great (and not so great)

🕐 2 min read
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Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

Presidents and entertainment seem to have always had an attraction for each other. Sometimes it’s worked out well (Roosevelt in Annie) or not-so-well (Lincoln and Ford’s Theatre).

But fictional presidents have become almost as stock an American drama subject as kings and queens were for Shakespeare.


There’s President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews) from Idiocracy:

“I know sh*t’s bad right now, with all that starving bullsh*t, and the dust storms, and we are running out of french fries and burrito coverings. But I got a solution.”

From House of Cards, President Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacy:

“If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table.”

Those may be some evil fictional presidents, but we also have some who are so good, so admirable, they defy description or reality.

The main fictional president with the most winning qualities has to be President Jed Bartlet from Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. Over the weekend, my wife began to binge watch The West Wing, a show she – like many others – has been obsessed with for years.

Cast members recently reunited for a staged reading of a 2002 episode about election politics and tensions with China that premiered last week on HBO Max and was produced in partnership with When We All Vote, a nonpartisan civic organization whose founders include former first lady Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks and Faith Hill.

The series won four consecutive best drama series Emmy Awards beginning in 2000.

Bartlet is too good to be true, but The West Wing is great drama. Sorkin knows how to write dialogue and the actors on the show know how to deliver it. It’s very entertaining. Sorkin and The West Wing crew worked out a way to “walk and talk,” so seemingly simple dialogue would feel more exciting as two people walk down the corridors of power exchanging quips or having animated policy wonk arguments.

Here are some quotes from the series:

“Some [schoolchildren] don’t … raise their hand cause they think they’re going to be wrong. I think you should say to these kids, ‘You think you get it wrong sometimes, you should come … see how the big boys do it.'” — C.J. Cregg, press secretary, played Allison Janney.

“I drink from the keg of glory. Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land.” – Josh Lyman, presidential adviser, played by Bradley Whitford.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.” — President Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen.

Those are probably words to live by as we wait for results of the election Tuesday night.

Speaking of the election, the Fort Worth Business Press will produce an Election Special on Sunday night. It will be an e-edition, so watch for it on our website or in your favorite email inbox.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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