When the erudite Democrat Josiah "Jed" Bartlet is elected U.S. president, he installs his administration. He places confidants from his electoral campaigns in the White House. Each of these people play a significant role in the Washington power game: the Chief of Staff (Leo McGarry), his deputy (Josh Lyman), Communications Director (Toby Zeigler), deputy (Sam Seaborn, and later, Will Bailey), and press secretary (CJ Cregg). Also in key positions are the assistants of each of the power players. We follow these people through many political battles, as well as some personal ones. Also playing roles are the First Lady (Abigail Bartlet), the President's daughters (Elizabeth, Eleanor, and Zoey), and the personal aide to the President (Charlie Young). All make this series, which supposedly follows the political events (often paraphrasing historical reality) almost day by day, more than merely a political soap. The demands of office on each character show the personal sacrifice and the ... Written by
After Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland won an Emmy for writing the episode "In Excelsis Deo," only Sorkin spoke at the awards ceremony. Cleveland published an article in Writers Guild Magazine expressing his disappointment at not being allowed to speak because the homeless veteran aspect of the episode's plot was based on Cleveland's own father, who was a veteran who died a homeless alcoholic. Sorkin (writing under the user name "Benjamin," his real-life middle name) posted on the TV message board mightybigtv.com (later renamed televisionwithoutpity.com) that he had written most of the episode and had only given Cleveland a co-writing credit as a courtesy because Cleveland had worked on a previous draft that, according to Sorkin, bore no resemblance to the final shooting script. Sorkin also said that this was true of almost all of the _"The West Wing" (1999)_ scripts written up to that point (mid-2001), that he was the true and only writer of nearly all West Wing episodes, and the rest of the writing staff only helped him with research and "kick[ing] ideas around" - so he gave "them each a Story by credit on a rotating basis...by way of a gratuity." This internet posting attracted a great deal of mainstream press attention, which led Sorkin to post again, this time retracting his claim of exclusive writing credit. The "LemonLymon.com" subplot in the season 3 episode "The U.S. Poet Laureate" (in which Josh posts on a website dedicated to his fans and sees it come back to haunt him) is based on this series of events. See more »
First-season scenes shot on location in Washington D.C. show the Washington monument encased in the lighted scaffolding that was part of its renovation process. Aerial views of Washington shown in many of these same episodes (e.g., "Five Votes Down") do not show the scaffolding, indicating that these shots were taken from stock footage dating before the renovation. See more »
She should stick around. Your whole campaign is like some Dr. Seuss nightmare - One Fish, Two Fish, Dead Fish, We Fought The Good Fight Fish.
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Episode titles are usually the first thing shown on screen (after recaps). This is one of the only American series to show episode titles before its opening credits. See more »
Now that the last episode has been shown in Australia, and having very much enjoyed the show despite seeing it out of order in several different countries, I'd like to make a few general comments. Thankfully the ABC showed series six and seven weekly in blocks of two episodes without commercials; thus the pleasure was undiluted.
1. Whatever inaccuracies there may have been in the depiction of White House procedure (apparently Clinton adviser Dick Morris was not impressed) and however impossibly smart everybody seemed, "West Wing" caught the essential flavour of politics, US style, where a squillion issues, some great, others trivial, all compete for attention in a complex legalistic and ponderous system.
2. There is a lot of emphasis on the trappings of the "imperial presidency"- flitting around the countryside in Air Force One at a cost of about $10,000 an hour, the amazing White House protocol for almost everything, the veneration of the public for the office. Louis XIV never had it so good. But then I was brought up in a country where until recently the Prime Minister's phone number was in the phone book and he used to walk the 800 metres to work. Of course the security measures don't require much justification in the land of guns for all.
3. President Jed Bartlet is indeed the liberal ideal (the show could well be called "Left Wing") but he is also a patriot, and to those of us who have to put up with the US heaving its weight around abroad this is a problem, not a matter for praise.
4. The "walking heads" delivering rapid-fire dialogue are off-putting at first, but do give the show pace; compare "Commander in Chief" which is leadenly slow (and otherwise dire) by comparison. It no doubt helps to know something about how the US political system works but generally there is enough information provided to at least follow the story.
5. The internal politics of the White House are downplayed; Bartlet's team are portrayed as uniformly bright, keen and loyal, both to the president and each other, and not interested in internecine conflict. Lucky Jed.
6. The acting from the main players is all that one could ask for they emerge as real people, but then they get a lot of air time, sometimes with most of an episode to themselves. Some of the minor roles tended to be written and played as stereotypes. My favourite was Lily Tomlin as the Pres's secretary she acted as if she could do his job herself, although Allison Janney as CJ ran a close second.
7. It must have been a fun series to create and we must thank Aaron Sorkin for the effort he made in developing this show from his "The American President" which was a piece of fluff by comparison. He got away with what must be about the talkiest show on television. Alas, things did tail off a bit after he left (after the fourth series) but the show had enough momentum to make it entertaining right to the end of Bartlet's second term, though the last few shows were rather limp.
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