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Vanity Fair

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In-depth reporting, gripping narratives, and world-class photography, plus heaping doses of Oscar-blogging, royal-watching, and assorted guilty pleasures.

Political intrigue has taken a dark swoop ever since Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing waved farewell from the tarmac on May 14, 2006 (how did liberals survive the Bush era without it?), fading into the afterlife of cable reruns, boxed DVD sets, and fond mentions in Maureen Dowd columns. It’s as if this Emmy-bestrewn series, set in the White House, took TV’s last traces of Frank Capra idealism with it, leaving behind a Venus-flytrap jungle of power junkies and craven flunkies doing the bidding of turf warriors and vicious infighters running agencies that barely have names, only cryptic initials. Forget what you’ve seen on C-SPAN, the nonprofit public-affairs network and insomnia remedy whose static cameras portray the cog workings of government as a vast, multi-chambered drone machine, an ongoing civics lesson devoid of color, dash, and lingerie-model sex romps intended to wrest a bill out of committee. Beneath the glacial pace of progress is a churning, libidinous top-dog struggle. The genre of Washington melodrama is a far more malignant game of thrones, blood pooling beneath the presidential seal.

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Christine Baranski takes the Proust Questionnaire. Here's a peek at what she had to say:

What is your idea of perfect happiness? At sunset or under the stars on the dock of our lake house just being with my family and pals.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? Cleopatra.

Which living person do you most admire? Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who was shot for advocating that girls be educated.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My competitive side, the one that keeps score.

What is your motto? “Wake up expecting things.”

Illustration by Risko.