After the usual flag tag, we move to a blue screen with the word "Access" repeated over and over again in little gray letters. A voice tells us that what we are about to see was made possible by the Kenneth C. and Mary E. Blackburn Foundation, the Samuel Jones Charitable Trust, and Individual Viewer Donations. Damn you, Kenneth C. and Mary E. Blackburn! Charitable Trust this, Samuel Jones! May your dog set upon your Thanksgiving turkey, Individual Viewers! Sadly, of course, the best joke of the episode is the one they didn't make right here, which would have been to thank the people by whom the episode was "underwritten." Because it was.
We fade up on C.J., seen through a video camera's viewfinder that we pull back to about eight inches behind. She is sitting at her desk. Not really paying attention but mostly looking at work she's doing on her desk, she says, "'Why?' That's the right question. Your bread and butter, huh? Having the right questions?" "Like having the right answers is yours," says a male voice. Ooh, good one, off-camera know-it-all. "Did we start?" C.J. asks as the camera jiggles nauseatingly. This is apparently somehow not really the documentary, but sort of setup footage of someone filming the people making the documentary, because we're looking, as I said, at the viewfinder without being behind it. So it's like this is the making-of documentary about the documentary, I suppose. Now, it seems to me that if this part before the title card isn't going to be part of the documentary but instead is going to set up the documentary, it should have been done in regular West Wing style, shouldn't it? And then you'd show the documentary after the credits? Moreover, the silly "sponsored by" PBS stuff that's supposed to make you feel like the entire thing is the genuine article is shot to hell, because there's all kinds of crap that breaks the spell -- this "raw footage" opening, the title card, the credits...it all makes the opening "sponsored by" thing irritatingly cutesy, because they didn't follow through.
Anyway, we're still looking partially through the viewfinder and partly around the viewfinder directly at C.J., if that makes sense. Video problems are experimented with and the shot briefly goes to white as the camera tries to adjust to the window light, while C.J. talks disjointedly about the fact that she agreed to do this, although she never gives much of an answer about why she agreed to do it, really. She starts in saying, "I think your concept of a day in the life -- a day in my life -- is..." and then she cuts herself off to start talking about the ground rules. Why didn't they let C.J. finish that sentence? It seems reasonable to establish what she thinks of the idea, because nothing I've ever seen from C.J. explains why she would participate in this. Anyway, C.J. lectures Documentary Guy about the fact that he has access to her and to her staff, but that he shouldn't expect to spend the day with senior staff in the Office of O. I'll never have the energy to point out everything over the next hour that rings false, as you can already tell, but wouldn't this talk have taken place already? Wouldn't the damn White House have sent several large men with badges to obtain airtight, unambiguous written agreements and execute background checks and take temporary custody of your dog as collateral in case you do anything sketchy with the raw footage, if they were going to let anybody into the offices with video cameras? I don't think C.J. would be handing out ground rules on the fly. Anyway, as she settles into a chair and starts to talk again, the video goes screwy and starts rewinding itself or fast-forwarding itself or what have you. Because it's raw video footage, get it? Do you? Speaking solely for myself, I am overwhelmed by the very authenticity of it all. In fact, it's so authentic I may fall authentically asleep right in the middle of it.