Monday, August 21, 2006

Wednesday viewing tip

If you find yourself sorely missing The West Wing, well, here comes the Reality TV version: Ivy Meeropol’s The Hill is a slickly produced and irresistibly engrossing docu-series that offers a multilayered look at various forms of politics – local, national and, perhaps most important, office – while focused on the day-to-day activities of U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler and his sometimes co-operative, sometimes contentious staffers. Set to run in six half-hour segments Wednesday through Sept. 27 on the Sundance Channel, it's bound to leave many addicted viewers eager for follow-up episodes.

Wexler, a Democrat (and occasional Stephen Colbert guest) serving his fifth term as representative for Florida’s 19th District, largely comes across as principled but calculating, compassionate yet cautious. (A singular exception: In Episode 2, he boldly breaks with his party’s risk-averse leaders to support a detailed alternative to Republican-supported “Social Security reform.”) Not surprisingly, he prioritizes the interests of his constituents, sometimes – as in Episode 5, when he devotes his full attention to Hurricane Wilma’s assault on Florida – to the exasperation of staffers more concerned about Iraq and Plamegate. But even as Wexler grapples with complexities and compromises, he recedes to the background during long stretches of The Hill as director Meeropol renders the interactions of Wexler’s staffers as the stuff of a Washington, D.C.-based dramedy.

If you want to learn more, take a gander at my Variety review. Or, better still, make a special effort to peruse The Hill.

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