Binge Viewing Revelation: Democrats Can Be Patriots, Too

Depending on their location, Americans living overseas can miss out on some important things: autumn leaves, snowflakes, robins, NPR, Tupperware.

Oh, wait, that's my wife's list. Here's mine: Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Wal-Mart, Southern pork barbecue, live college football, Girl Scout cookies, Wal-Mart.

Thankfully, one thing we don't have to do without is American TV.

Some folks, usually those with diplomatic or military connections, have piped-in Armed Forces Network television in their homes. This is good, as it lets you (and your many, many friends) watch sporting events as they happen. The downside is that commercials are removed. After viewing a half-dozen Super Bowls this way, I've realized that most NFL championship games are salvaged only by the ads, which is all the more noticeable if you're watching between midnight and 4 a.m.

Regular people without friends in the above-named group have to resort to one of the following:

(1) Satellite TV — very pricey unless you go black market.

(2) Streaming broadcasts over the Internet — I watched the NCAA basketball finals via an image the size of postcard. It was great, except that the players looked like Mexican jumping beans.

(3) Downloaded shows and sporting events — takes forever, ethically questionable. I've downloaded regular network broadcasts using BitTorrent and am so far not losing sleep over it, but I'm not so sure about premium cable.

(4) DVD boxed sets — Every expat has a shelf of these. Downside: expensive to buy; can be borrowed, but then people expect to borrow your stuff.

I prefer the last option, but, because somebody else is usually in line, you've got to get your viewing in quickly. The solution: binge viewing.

Three years after its initial broadcast, we watched the first season of “24” the way Jack Bauer lived it — in 24 hours. Actually, we finished a little ahead of Jack, since DVDs are commercial-free.

Our latest binge is “West Wing.” I know, everybody else has seen this series and probably got sick of it long ago. But since we've been out of the U.S. for almost the entire run of the show, to us it's fresh, funny and scintillating.

Like all good binge shows, “The West Wing” is strongly addictive. A few hours into the first season, my wife and I had adopted the “talk-while-you-walk” style of the White House senior staff as we made our way briskly to the kitchen between episodes — only we were discussing whether or not Josh was going to fall for the stunning deaf lady, or if Toby was wrong to tell Leo what C.J. said about Sam.

“The West Wing” is also revelatory. Man, those people work a lot, and they're all headed for ulcers, big time. I'm really glad I turned down the chance to run for president and became a schoolteacher instead.

For all its cut and sheen, the show does get sentimental — a congresswoman's widower, completing his late wife's term, votes his heart rather than give in to partisan pressure; the president skips a state dinner to encourage a young radio operator on a hurricane-endangered Navy vessel. It's pretty much Jimmy Stewart stuff in a Jon Stewart world.

And there's this shocker: Democrats can be patriots.

If there's one thing that has most impressed me about the show, it's that these liberal Democrats are some of the staunchest supporters of American ideals that you'll find anywhere. Tread ever so slightly on (most of) the Bill of Rights, and you'll bring down the wrath of the Bartlet administration in a hurry.

In this regard, the show is every bit as relevant now as it was in the last decade, perhaps more so.

Who's more patriotic? The guy who's already proven his willingness to risk his life at the behest of his country? Or the one who says he wants to broaden the debate about America's role in the world?

No contest. Both notions are 100 percent pure American.

Oops, I gotta get in these six last episodes before tomorrow morning.