Puzzled, baffled, bemused. Trying to explain what “I’m going to see a podcast live!!!” means, and why you are so excited about it, elicits a panoply of confused expressions on the face of the person you’re enthusing at.
My experience of The West Wing Weekly Podcast (Live) taught me a few things. It turns out many people have never listened to a podcast; some have never heard of podcasts. I explain it’s like an amateur radio show, on the internet. It’s brilliant for listening to in the bath. “So what does ‘going to see it live’ mean?” They record it in front of an audience. Like a gig for geeks! This is not an easy sell.
The podcast causing my excitement was The West Wing Weekly, which dissects, episode-by-episode in fan-pleasingly tiny detail, Aaron Sorkin’s seminal political drama The West Wing, which aired from 1999 to 2006 with magnificent Martin Sheen as Democratic President Josiah Bartlet.
Live episodes recorded in the US have had special guests including Alison ‘CJ’ Janney, Bradley ‘Josh’ Whitford, Dulé ‘Charlie’ Hill, Melissa ‘Carol’ Fitzgerald, Janel ‘Donna’ Moloney – most of the main cast. When tickets for the first European recordings went on sale they sold out in hours, and I got one!
I’ve watched The West Wing repeatedly through thick and thin. It’s there if you’ve had a bad day or when you’re happy and want to do the bossa nova with Ainsley Hayes. Fans rejoice in characters’ triumphs, lament their losses. It brings solace in sadness. It’s smart, enriching, comfort-blanket TV. And that’s the key to its recent renaissance.