Monday, February 19, 2007

Take This Sabbath Day

I managed to get back on my West Wing rerun odyssey last night after having missed two episodes due to "events dear boy, events".

It struck me when Bartlett told CJ that he went to college in Notre Dame rather than Harvard or Yale, "cause I was thinking about becoming a priest," that the show's treatment of religious inclination and affiliation as a natural, but not dramatically dominant, facet of character is an interesting illustration of cultural difference between the US and the UK.

In "Take this Sabbath Day" in the first series, for example, when the White House is agonising about commuting a death sentence, Toby Ziegler discusses it with his rabbi, and the President calls a priest. In a UK drama that sort of plot device would be a rhetorical or even didactic hint that we were dealing with weaklings or loons.

(Great Facts of Our Time: Father Cavanaugh, the priest Bartlett consults, was played by the veteran Karl Malden and the Bible he carries is the same one he used as Father Barry - the priest he portrayed in "On the Waterfront" in 1954.)

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