The Fable of the Truth-Telling Candidate

Wednesdays on NBC (9-10 p.m. ET)

Cousin Max dropped in last night and plugged me into Netflix and we watched a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad, which, as everyone else in the world knows, is a very very good series.

Surprise, surprise. Viewers actually like great writing and great acting!

I had only seen a bit of it because it was on HBO, and I have a Yankee aversion to premium channels. This has caused me to miss a lot of great television over the years, but I usually catch up with the shows that sound really good.

I’m the guy at the water cooler talking about the cool show everyone else was talking about five years ago.

Last night I did some serious time traveling and binge-watched a season of The West Wing — what a great show that was!

I caught a few episodes when it originally aired from 1999 to 2006, but I kind of saw it as a vehicle to comment on the political issues of the day and didn’t realize the depth of the characters and the inspirational sweep of the story as a whole.

I watched the episodes where President Josiah Bartlet and his aide Josh Hamilton get shot, and the anxious scenes in the hospital are interspersed with flashbacks to Bartlet’s campaign in New Hampshire.

I worked in state government in New Hampshire for six years back in the 80s, so the show brought back memories of my salad days in the office of Senate President Vesta Roy, who served briefly as governor when Governor Hugh Gallen died.

When the governor was hospitalized, a snowy owl landed on the dome of the State House. The day he died, it flew away.

The West Wing flashbacks showed how each of the characters came to join the Bartlet campaign, and I was swept up in this (sadly apocryphal) tale of the truth-telling candidate, an economics professor of all things, who refuses to posture or equivocate.

At one of the first campaign events, Bartlet tells New Hampshire dairy farmers he didn’t support their dairy compact because it would raise the price of milk for children.

Up in New Hampshire, we used to have a joke — or at least I did — that we had a litmus test for a candidate’s character.

We would ask the candidate whether he or she supported New Hampshire’s right to hold the first national primaries.

If the candidate said yes, we knew he or she had no character whatsoever, because what right does one small, ethnically homogeneous state have to wield that kind of power?

I also loved the West Wing episode where the characters get sick of making deals and decide to fight for what they believe in without counting the political cost.

I wonder if that will happen with the Obama administration? Haven’t seen it yet.

It’s nice to see I’m not the only one caught up in the fable of the truth-telling candidate. The series won 26 Emmy awards, including Outstanding Drama Series four years in a row.