So, like, okay. It's the first day of boarding school, and you're the new kid. Not only that, but you're not like these other boys. You're on scholarship. Your name is Will Krudski, and you feel guilty because you bought the school's entrance exam on the Internet. You know this was wrong, but you didn't know if you could pass the test on your own, and you had to. Your father hates you and he scares you, and you need, more than anything, to get out of his house.
When the second season of NBC's West Wing premiered in October, with nine Emmys on the mantel and the lives of many key presidential staffers dangling in the balance thanks to last season's cliff-hanger assassination attempt, a stunning 25.1 million viewers tuned in to survey the damage. True, a bigger audience--about 50 million--watched the real presidential debate the night before, but that show tied up most of the major networks, and others carried it on tape delay. You practically had to turn the TV off to avoid it. Meanwhile, back in fantasyland a few weeks later, the Miss America 2000 pageant drew only 12.6 million viewers, just about half of The West Wing's total.
The advent of television has long been associated with the beginning of the end
of the "good old days." Historians, sociologists, filmmakers, and yes, even TV
shows (think Brooklyn Bridge and The Wonder Years) have explored
this relationship. In his 1990 film Avalon, Barry Levinson heartbreakingly
rendered the effects of TV on three generations of an immigrant family in
Baltimore, Maryland, as frequent family gatherings were replaced by solitary TV
dinners and aching loneliness. I was 20 years old when Avalon came out.
The irony of watching it on video, alone in my parents' basement, didn't escape
me. The experience left me feeling more palpably than ever before that I had