A live debate between Santos and Vinick, performed once for the east coast and once for the west.



(created by), (as Lawrence O'Donnell Jr.)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Forrest Sawyer ...
Forrest Sawyer
Annabeth Schott (credit only)
C.J. Cregg (credit only)
Kate Harper (credit only)
Leo McGarry (credit only)
Josh Lyman (credit only)


In an episode originally broadcast live (there are two versions, one for the Eastern and Central time zones; one for the Pacific time zone), Santos and Vinnick square off in a debate with TV newsman Forrest Sawyer (as himself) moderating. Halfway through the debate, Santos departs from the "script" and begins delivering statements while pacing the stage; Vinnick joins in. Other cast members appear briefly in backstage film segments, and Ellen DeGeneres hosts (also on film) from an adjacent sound stage. Alan Alda (Vinnick), an accomplished stage actor, seems much more comfortable with the live format than Jimmy Smits (Santos) who blows several lines during the East Coast hour. Written by Peter Harris

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Plot Keywords:

live broadcast | See All (1) »







Release Date:

6 November 2005 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


The Debate was advertised as a "live presidential debate" and was actually telecast live twice, once for the East and West coasts, with limited commercial interruption. It was also one of the few times actors were allowed to go "off script." See more »


West Wing Main Title
Written by W.G. Snuffy Walden
Performed by Pete Anthony
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User Reviews

An Original, Perceptive, and Accurate Debate
15 March 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This episode is original, perceptive, and accurate. It is remarkable how each side portray their viewpoints on different political issues – health care, education, dependency on foreign oil, etc. The West Wing has always been a great show examining a vast array of political issues – while remaining fair to both Democrats and Republicans.

This episode is not like conventional episodes. It is literally a passionate debate between two sides. While watching the debate, I felt very engaged, it reminded of the first debate between President Obama and Senator McCain in the sense that an underdog is able to stand toe-to-toe with his competitor and debate with authority.

I highly recommend this episode because it felt like the old West Wing episodes that only Aaron Sorkin could deliver. Like many people that love the West Wing, I will agree that the show took a turn towards dull and uninspiring after Aaron Sorkin stopped writing, but this episode restored itself confirming that it is the best political show television has ever seen.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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