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From the Chicago Sun Times:
"Bradley Whitford, who played Josh on "The West Wing," thinks back to the interactions he's had with fans, and one little story comes to mind that illustrates how invested viewers feel about these exiting shows:
"Alan Greenspan once said to me -- you know, with that face that is just trained not to express anything -- he said that he was really upset that when our Fed chairman died, nobody cared. It wasn't even the 'A' story.' "
And Martin Sheen -- President Bartlet on "The West Wing" -- knows the conclusion of his show is the end of a signature job:
"I'll be lucky enough to have three jobs in my life that were earmarks for me. And that was Terry Malick's 'Badlands,' Francis Coppola's 'Apocalypse Now' and Aaron Sorkin and John Wells' 'The West Wing.'"
Looking at the end of his fake presidency, Sheen hopes the depth of "The West Wing" is not forgotten.
"If we achieved some level of grace [for] the country, it would have been that we made the average American appreciate the level of service that 3 million government employees supply; that they are good and decent people [who] serve their country almost anonymously. And they do it out of a sense of patriotism and service.""
From the Fresno Bee:
"Emmy winner Allison Janney, who plays C.J. Cregg, knew from the first day that she had signed on to be part of a quality television show. It wasn't until she started getting feedback from viewers that she fully appreciated the appeal of the program
"I just slowly started to realize how important it was to them and how much they hung onto Bartlet and how great it was to look at these people in public service who you admired and loved and respected. And it was such a fantasy and a dream that it was exciting for me to realize what an impact the show was making," Janney says."
From the Star Tribune:
""We all felt going in that we had something special, but we didn't know whether or not it would work on network television," said Martin Sheen, who played President Josiah (Jed) Bartlet as a cameo for the pilot and wound up being the drama's primary star. "There were no car chases or fires or special effects. The action was in the words. We were public servants and we wondered if an audience would support us and if sponsors would sell their products with us."
Co-producer Lawrence O'Don-nell Jr., who came to the show with a political background, knew enough about TV to figure the series had as much chance as a Gary Coleman gubernatorial campaign.
"I was absolutely convinced that it didn't have a chance. No chance," he said. "As far I could tell, in TV terms, nothing happened. It was a bunch of guys in neckties and some nicely dressed women who were arguing and nothing happened."
"I was guaranteed 13 episodes of employment and my lifetime budget was based on that at the time."
"When I worked in Washington, nobody watched any TV shows at all," said O'Donnell, who was chief adviser to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., and Democratic chief of staff for the Senate Finance Committee. "I was very surprised that they latched onto this thing as quickly as they did."
As the country's two parties grew farther apart in real life, Bartlet's sense of even-handedness had its appeal.
"We felt we were dead in the center and that we would give everyone a fair shot," Sheen said. "We wanted to reflect a hope that this was possible and we should always aspire to it."
Allison Janney, who won four Emmys for her role as C.J. Cregg, said it was clear from very early on that this alternative universe was extremely inviting to fans.
"People were coming up to me, telling me how important it was to them and how much they hung onto Bartlet," she said. "They would say how great it was to look at these people in public service who you could admire and love and respect."
More and more, shows are being tailor-made with specific audiences in mind, said "Wing" executive producer John Wells. While "Wing" attracts a choice demographic, it's not large enough for the network to put a lot of money behind it.
"If we were redoing 'West Wing' right now, we'd have to do it far less expensively," he said. "I don't want to sound arrogant about this, but I think the show will be missed. It will be a very long time before anything similar to this will be on the air.""
From the Sioux City Journal:
"The inauguration of a new president will end the series; the last episodes will detail the characters' futures. "We had the same sort of opportunity when we ended 'China Beach' a number of years ago," Wells said. "It's a great luxury to not sort of discover on May 17 that you're not coming back and you've already done it."
Cast members say their "West Wing" world ended with Spencer's death. He was an "encourager," according to Kristin Chenoweth. "He just made me better."
"He was a man for all of us," Allison Janney added. "He was one of the most important parts of the show for all of us on so many different levels. It's a very sad and bittersweet whole experience."
Spencer "was the biggest enthusiast for this show," said Bradley Whitford.
Others didn't think it had the elements of a long-term success, Spencer did.
Even Martin Sheen who had success in such films as "Apocalypse Now," was skeptical. "There were no car chases or fires or special effects," he said. "We all felt going in that we had something very special. The only real doubt was whether it would work on network television. It was a political show. The action was in the word and we were public servants."
The cast's sense of family helped, he said. "We all knew as actors we were not going to get this opportunity again in our lives, particularly myself and John because we were the oldest."
Aaron Sorkin's creation, however, struck a nerve -- particularly in Washington. Politicians loved the series and welcomed their fictional counterparts into the fold.
When Chenoweth sang at the Kennedy Center late last year, she was seated at a table with former S.D. Sen. Tom Daschle and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
"They said never has there been a show or a movie that's ever been seen by anyone that has been more true-to-life than this show."
Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, once told Whitford he was really upset when "our Fed chairman died, nobody cared."
At one point, Whitford said, he was even lobbied by lobbyists because "they wanted to get their issue mentioned on the show."
Now, "The West Wing" is ready for the history book.
Sheen considers it one of the best jobs of his life and, possibly, a springboard.
"There have been occasions where people have asked me if I was interested in public life," the television president said. "And I thought, 'My God, are we in that bad a shape?' If the show had any effect on the country at all, I think it was a positive one for all public servents. We made the average American appreciate the level of service that the three million government employees supplied. They were good and decent people who took their job seriously, who served their country almost anonymously and they did it out of a sense of patriotism and service.
"No matter what administration is in, the government continues because of the people who care for the country.
"We were like a novel and the real world was like reality. But people were reading the novel and they were getting good ideas and having hope and faith and trust in their leadership. If we go out with that, I don't think we can ask for much more.""
newsbabe posted at Television Without Pity:
"I have a friend who works for Dateline. It's not set in stone, but it's looking like the retrospective will really be a "very special" Dateline, like they did for ER a couple of years ago when it hit the 200 episode mark (I think that was in 2003).
But having Dateline do the honors probably makes more sense. I'd imagine Stone Phillips has greater mass appeal than James Lipton."
From the Los Angeles Daily News:
""The West Wing" may be shooting its last few episodes, but the creators and cast aren't suffering the goodbye blues _ yet. They're too busy readying for the final charge of the revered 7-year-old series.
That, at least, is the word we're getting from members of the team. "It's hard to believe it's ending, because we have so much to do," notes Janel Maloney [sic]. And writer-producer Lawrence O'Donnell adds, "I don't think we're going to feel like it's ending until we're actually shooting the final episode." That won't happen till the end of next month.
In the meantime, O'Donnell says, he and the rest of the creative team are finding "everything is different. A lot of things can happen in a series that's ending that can't happen when it's ongoing." That means a lot of artistic freedom, and "a lot of chances. It forces characters to look at each other in ways they haven't before once you're bringing things to conclusions."
It's like the presidential candidates currently being played by Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits, says O'Donnell. "You know their campaigns are going to conclude. They're going to wake up one morning and the campaign will be over and that huge intense vibration in their daily lives stops, and then what?""
From TV Guide's Ask Ausiello:
"Question: You failed to answer the big West Wing question last week: How are they going to deal with John Spencer's death? — Dennis
Ausiello: That's old news, Dennis. I only report new news in AA. But here's the scoop anyway: Leo will die off screen of natural causes in an early April episode, forcing Santos to find a new running mate just days before the election.
Question: I have this feeling that John Wells is going to have Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) step in and replace Leo as Santos' new V.P. — John Kuehl
Ausiello: Interesting theory. At press tour, I grilled exec producer Alex Graves about Lowe's possible comeback, specifically with regard to the length. "That's part of the negotiation," he said. "Does he have time to do one episode? Does he have time to do two?" But more importantly, does West Wing have time for him? Says Graves: "Once we get past Episode 17, which is the election, we only have five episodes left to wrap up everybody's story line and then get to the inauguration." And he's not even factoring in the inevitable Josh/Donna sex scene, which will eat up at least two episodes."
From the Rocky Mountain News
- First Article:
"The president, on a hotel stage rather than in the West Wing, gave his state-of the-TV-union address.
"I love The West Wing for many reasons," Martin Sheen said. "The show has been a fantasy. But we have offered a parallel universe to reality."
Sheen, aka President Jeremiah (Jeb) (sic) Bartlet, then looked around the stage at fellow cast members.
"To have been a part of this crowd and those who were here before, has been a powerful gift for me. It's a great inspiration to older actors, like me. If you stick around long enough, something good may happen," said the 66-year-old Sheen.
"There have been occasions where people have asked me if I was interested in public political life. And I thought, 'My God, are we in that bad of shape?' "
It was an emotional weekend for The West Wing crew. Last Saturday they attended a final service for the late John Spencer. And early on Sunday, executive producer John Wells announced to them the official cancellation of the award-winning series.
"I don't think anyone was really surprised. The rumors had been all over the place," said the Denver-reared Wells. "I had conversations with Warner Bros. and NBC late last year. We agreed the time had come.
"But I'm thankful we'll have the opportunity to finish in graceful style, while providing a legitimate ending to Jeb (sic) Bartlet's administration."
The West Wing, off the air during the Winter Olympics, will return with episodes leading up to shows April 2 and April 9 dealing with the presidential election between Democrat Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Republican Alan Vinick (Alan Alda).
The series finale will deal with the inauguration of the new president and the departure of the Bartlet administration.
"That's a perfect ending," Wells said. "We were very fortunate to get two more wonderful actors (Smits and Alda), who you could actually believe could be president of the United States.
Paying tribute to creator Aaron Sorkin, Wells said another major success ingredient was showing the remarkable strength of American democracy.
"That was one of Aaron's original concepts," Wells said. "And the peaceful passing of power from one leader to another expresses this strength and makes for wonderful storytelling."
While audience ratings had been declining in recent seasons, the move to early Sunday night last fall almost immediately put a cancellation stamp on the series. The subsequent ratings decline, along with cost-cutting measures by Warner Bros., sealed the series' fate.
"We lost a lot after the time switch," Wells said. "We were damaged by Sunday overruns on NFL football. Many viewers simply stayed with CBS during the evening."
However, the cancellation hasn't put a negative spin on cast members' attitudes.
"It's a miracle to be able make a living in a non-humiliating way as an actor," said Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman). The actor stressed that The West Wing has offered creativity on a cultural level in an arena (commercial TV) where the stakes are high.
Sheen said all the cast members felt they were involved in something special when the series started.
"The only real doubt we had was whether it would work on network television. It was a political show. There were no car chases or fires. The action was in the word. We wondered if the audience and sponsors would support us. And we quickly found there was a market for this type of show."
The series has been regularly criticized for its liberal story lines. "We've maintained a core of viewers who have been with us from the start," Sheen said. "A core is what most politicians depend on for their success, so we sort of fell into that."
That core audience includes Washington politicians, predictably mostly Democrats. But cast members have discovered that some Republicans watch, even though many share the belief of at least one TV critic that "The West Wing has supplied seven years of liberal propaganda."
Broadway performer Kristin Chenoweth, who plays a presidential aide, recalled the response she received recently while singing at the Kennedy Center.
"I was at a table with former Sen. Tom Daschle and Sandra Day O'Connor. After realizing I wasn't going to tell them who would win the election, both said they had never seen a movie or TV show that was more true-to-life about life in Washington."
Whitford chimed in: "Alan Greenspan - you know, with that face that's just not trained to express anything - once said to me he was really upset when our Fed chairman died and nobody cared. It wasn't even the 'A' story line.""
"HOLLYWOOD - During The West Wing's second season, Allison Janney was interviewed by a young reporter who wondered why the series had no real love story.
"Sure there is, between Martin and John," Janney told the reporter.
Of all the cast members mourning the recent loss of John Spencer, Martin Sheen seems to be affected most.
"We were close, mainly because we had so many similar experiences with our demons and had gone through so much of life and family problems. We were coming to grips with where we were with age and career."
Sheen recalled being asked by a reporter if he regularly attended AA meetings.
"I was coming out of my dressing trailer and saw John coming out of his. We waved at one another, and I told the reporter: 'I'm attending one right now.' "
Janney stressed how difficult it has been working without Spencer. "It's a tremendous loss. I walk on the set every day . . . and I just can't imagine doing it without him.."
Executive producer John Wells said there was a brief debate among producers about editing out some of the scenes Spencer filmed before his death.
"We decided to leave his marvelous acting work untouched," Wells said.
"If you knew John, I think he would have been upset with me if we had actually changed scenes. Like, 'What! You're cutting my scenes, kid? What are you doing that for?'"
From the Buffalo News:
" "In the case where it's right up against the election, all of the people that we talked to said the wisest thing for a candidate to do would probably be to either indicate who they want to replace them or to just go silent on the issue," said Wells. "If they lose, it's not an issue. If they're elected, it makes the most sense to wait until the inaugural and then try to get a candidate nominated and then through Congress under the 25th Amendment."
After the press conference, Wells revealed more of his plans for what happens between the Olympics and the inauguration. He feels it is a luxury to know the show is ending so he can send it out the proper way.
"We'll have episodes at the end where we'll follow (chief of staff) C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) and see what is happening in her life. There is an episode about what happens to (disgraced speechwriter) Toby (Richard Schiff). We have a full episode with what is happening with Vinick and Santos, what is happening in the rest of the their lives. We will have an episode about (Santos' campaign manager) Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) and an episode about Bartlet (Martin Sheen).
"It was going to be an episode about Bartlet and Leo. Now it will be an episode about Bartlet."
Those remaining avid "West Wing" viewers may remember that an episode set in the future revealed that C.J. and the reporter played by Timothy Busfield got married and had a child, speechwriter Will Bailey (Josh Malina) was in Congress, former assistant chief of staff Charlie Young (Dule Hill) was working in the government and there remained a distance between Toby (Schiff) and the president because of Ziegler's involvement in a White House leak.
"We'll play all of that out at the end of the season," said Wells. "We have to work around (Busfield's) schedule because he's very involved (as a producer-director) with "Without a Trace.' We're trying to follow through on it. We talked about it long and hard over the summer."
One thing was not addressed in the future episode: Whether Donna Moss (Janel Moloney) and her former boss, Josh, will finally realize they belong together after flirting for years.
"One of the great things is when you know the show is ending, you can actually do stuff that you probably wouldn't do if you thought the show was continuing," said Wells. "I'll say just that."
That paints a pretty obvious picture.
Wells was in such a talkative mood that he even revealed the two choices he has for the final scene. Both will be filmed, but the decision as to which one will be the final scene will be made in the editing room. I don't want to spoil it, but both candidates are strong ones.
And the best choice will have a poignant and familiar ring to regular viewers of the show. "
From TV Guide's Ask Ausiello:
"Question: So, now that The West Wing is coming to an end, is there any hope for us Josh and Donna fans, or will John Wells exile them to the planet of Unresolved Sexual Tension? — Katherine
Ausiello: How much do I love you guys? So much that this was the first question I asked John Wells when I tackled him Sunday following NBC's West Wing session at press tour. I think you'll like his answer: "One of the great things when you know the show is ending [is that] you can actually do stuff that you probably wouldn't do if you thought the show was continuing." You like his answer, don't you? I knew it.
Question: What are the chances that The West Wing will end as great as it began? BTW, you crazy in a good way! — Emma
Ausiello: Considering John Wells told me exactly how the show will end, I'll let you be the judge. "The last scene will either be the new president entering the oval office or it will be Bartlet on Air Force One heading back to New Hampshire, standing up from behind the desk, coming around and sitting on the sofa next to Abbey. We'll shoot them both and one of them will be the next-to-last scene and one will be the last scene. But until we put it together, we won't know which one works best." Personally, I pick Bartlet on the plane. What do you guys think?"
Question: Any truth to the rumors of a possible Rob Lowe appearance in the West Wing finale? — John
Ausiello: John Wells confirmed that an offer is out to him, so the proverbial ball is in his court. "
From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
"Janel Moloney asked for waterproof mascara. Bradley Whitford seemed to choke up momentarily. The "West Wing" cast might agree that it's the right time to go, but saying goodbye won't be easy.
The change of administrations seemed like a natural place to end the series, executive producer John Wells said.
"One of the things that's most dramatic about American democracy is the peaceful passing of power from one leader to another," he said. "We thought that was a really wonderful way to conclude our storytelling."
"I walk on the set every day since his ... you know, since his death, and feel a great loss," said Allison Janney, who like Spencer, is an original cast member. "It feels like a very organic ending to the show with him gone because I just can't imagine doing it without him."
Whitford said, "It's very hard. John was the biggest enthusiast for this show. He was the guy always saying this is phenomenal, relish this."
Moloney didn't need the waterproof mascara she asked for, but she dug in her handbag for a tissue later when talking about Spencer and about the finale.
With so much new business, "I think it's the first time nobody asked a Josh-and-Donna question," she said.
So what about Josh, played by Whitford, and Donna, his former assistant? In the few episodes left, will they finally get together?
"I won't tell you that," Moloney said, putting her tissue away. "But I will tell you that I think viewers will be, um, satisfied by the outcome of their story."
Posted by WhatsNext04 at Television Without Pity:
"...there was an entire segment from Stockard [Channing] saying how the demise of the show wasn't unexpected, and she said, "I wished it had been announced at the beginning of the season becuase the end of a story is alwasy fascinating and I think more people would have been watching that wonderful show if they realized it was the end." The announcer at the end also said that Martin said there were three projects in his career he was most proud of, The Bad Lands, Apocolypse Now and The West Wing."
From the Edmonton Sun:
" "You know, it is a miracle to make a living as an actor. It's a miracle to make a living in a non-humiliating way as an actor."
- Bradley Whitford, reflecting on seven sterling seasons on The West Wing. "
From the Houston Chronicle:
"We spent a lot of time during the Christmas holidays trying to figure out what we were going to do," executive producer John Wells said Sunday night. "We had conversations about whether it was even appropriate to continue to do the show without John. He was such a central part of the ensemble and of our lives together as a group."
Unknown to most, Wells had already had a private conversation with NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly on Thanksgiving. They had discreetly agreed that the show, suffering from anemic ratings, should come to an end.
Wells kept that information mostly to himself. In huddles and e-mails with the show's other producers over the Christmas holidays, a decision was reached on how the series should proceed. Five days before the election Leo will die, leaving Santos with a choice unprecedented in American politics, one without constitutional provision: how to deal with the death of a vice presidential candidate on the eve of an election.
Santos will have to decide to either publicly reveal a last-minute substitute choice for his vice presidential running mate or go silent. If he's elected, he'll have to try to get his choice nominated and passed by Congress via the 25th Amendment.
Producers briefly considered reshooting the unaired episodes in which Spencer appeared. They considered going in other directions. A report after Spencer's death suggested that in a September episode he had a scene set after the election. The producers checked and discovered Spencer wasn't seen in the future.
So they decided to proceed with episodes he shot shortly before his death.
"John was so wonderful in those episodes that the best homage we could make to his contribution to the show was to let people see the last days of his work," Wells said.
What is known is that efforts are being made to bring back characters from the show's seven seasons. There's a good possibility, for example, that Rob Lowe (Sam Seaborn) will take a final bow.
Saturday, producers and cast members gathered for a private memorial service in Spencer's honor. At the service, some in the cast asked Wells about a press session scheduled Sunday. He told the cast to gather Sunday and all would be explained. Some knew and others had guessed, but on Sunday Wells made it official when he announced that a decision had been reached to end the series.
Cast members there reflected on the passing of Spencer and the closing days of a landmark series.
Proceeding without Spencer "is incredibly difficult," said Allison Janney (C.J. Cregg). "To be on that set without him, I feel a great loss. It feels like a very organic ending to the show with him gone, because I just can't imagine doing it without him."
"John was the guy saying, 'This is phenomenal. Relish this.' He was always saying that to me," said Bradley Whitford (Lyman). "It's very hard to understand how somebody just goes away."
For Martin Sheen, playing the role of President Jeb Bartlet ranks as one of the three standouts in his career, to go with his roles in the movies Badlands and Apocalypse Now.
"We knew we had a special show," he said, "and we all knew as actors we were not going to get this opportunity again in our lives, particularly myself and John, because we were the oldest and we felt we had a great restarting or rebirth of our careers and maybe the most important parts of our lives.
"Because we were the oldest, and I guess because we had so many similar experiences with our demons and had gone through so much of life and family and coming to grips with where we were with age and career, we felt like the parents to these wonderful children.""
From the Hartford Courant:
""There was some thought about re-shooting all of the scenes Spencer had been in and switching the story, Wells said. But, he added, "John was so wonderful in the episodes that the best homage we could make to his contribution to the show was to let people see the last days of his work."
So it's actually a very interesting kind of gray area, and certainly we wouldn't have gotten into this area without John's death," Wells said. "But having sort of researched this, it's interesting, and it makes for, I think, some compelling drama on the show."
Sheen said he felt a special connection with Spencer "because we were the oldest, and I guess because we had so many similar experiences with our demons and had gone through so much of life and family and coming to grips with where we were with age and career.
"But John brought the best discipline, and all of us got behind that. If he wasn't complaining about anything, you had nothing to complain about. And if he was complaining about something, it must have been serious.
Now having grieved for the man, the cast has to grieve for the character.
"It's a complicated and difficult time for us," Wells said.
"The combination of our show ending and then losing John, I think that we just don't want to spend a second not just really appreciating the last few shows that we have," said Janel Moloney, who plays Donna Moss.
"It feels like a very organic ending to the show with him gone because I just can't imagine doing it without him," Emmy winner Allison Janney (who plays C.J. Cregg) said of Spencer. "He was one of the most important parts of the show for all of us on so many different levels. But it's a very sad and bittersweet whole experience, especially now, knowing that it's over."
From The Toronto Star:
""Frankly, we had conversations about whether it was even appropriate to continue to do the show without John," reveals producer John Wells. "He was such a close friend and a wonderful actor, and such a central part of the ensemble and of our lives together as a group.
"But ultimately, as we started to see the (low) numbers that we were getting on Sunday night, we had a decision to make, which was do we try to press NBC to continue to make the series where we'd go into another presidency, or were we coming to the natural end of our storytelling, a place that would be a really beautiful place to end?"
With Spencer gone, the answer seemed obvious. "It feels like a very organic ending to the show, with him gone, because I just can't imagine doing it without him," says co-star Allison Janney. "He was one of the most important parts of the show for all of us on so many different levels.""
From Entertainment Online (includes video):
"The West Wing" won't be returning after it finishes its seventh season in May, and "Will & Grace," in its eighth season, will be saying goodbye as well, NBC announced Sunday. "West Wing," the critically acclaimed political drama starring MARTIN SHEEN and JIMMY SMITS has been suffering in the ratings since its move to Sundays.
"Seven years, my my it's been great fun, it had to end sometime, it was gonna end for me anyway, and most of us that had started out, this was our final year, there'd be a new administration," Sheen tells ET.
Martin heard the news on Sunday as it was announced at an annual gathering of television critics in Pasadena, CA. NBC said the decision to end the show was made before the passing of series regular JOHN SPENCER and that John's co-stars have already held two memorial services for the late actor.
"But on both of those private occasions, frankly they very quickly turned to great levity and laughter when we started talking about him and remembering him, who he really was, where he came from, what he stood for and how enthusiastic he was about what we all did for a living," Martin said."
From the Post Gazette:
""We had planned out the entire rest of the season, and it didn't end up being what we thought it was going to be," said executive producer John Wells. "We have been re-writing frantically over the last couple of weeks."
Wells, a 1979 Carnegie Mellon University graduate, said he and the show's writers/producers contemplated making changes to unaired episodes Spencer filmed before his death, but opted to leave them alone.
"We wondered, will it be difficult for the audience to watch all these additional episodes that have him in them?" Wells said. "He was so wonderful in those episodes we decided it would not be respectful of his work to not air them exactly as they were."
Spencer died of a heart attack while battling pneumonia, but it was eerily reminiscent of a "West Wing" plot that saw Leo suffer a heart attack while in the woods at Camp David.
"John did not have heart troubles," Wells said. "He had some health problems 16 months earlier that were not connected to this. Giving Leo the heart attack was tied in part to the fact he was going to have to be away for 41/2 months recuperating from surgery. He and I talked and we said, 'Let's give him a heart attack.' We were sort of glib about it, and ironically he died of a heart attack."
Leo, like Spencer, will die of a heart attack off-screen in an episode scheduled to air April 2, throwing the campaign of Democratic candidate Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) into disarray just before the election.
"Because of the Olympics, when we're back on the air in March, the audience will have completely assimilated the shock of his death," Wells said. "So we decided we should just do the best storytelling we can do, which is what John would have wanted."
Wells said that in talking to constitutional experts, "West Wing" writers learned that if a vice presidential candidate dies during the course of the electoral cycle after ballots are printed, exactly what would happen is a gray area.
"You may signal who that person would be if you think the electorate needs it, but in all likelihood, you'd let it go until after the inauguration before you'd name a new vice president, because then there's a provision under the 25th Amendment to handle it," he said. "We sort of, under very sad circumstances, stumbled into a wonderful storytelling area for us."
Six "West Wing" episodes will air after Leo's death, leading up to the May 14 series finale.
"It's been interesting and difficult," Wells said. "He was a close friend, an extraordinary man and a wonderful person. Trying to talk about and think about dealing with a fictional character's death and at the same time knowing the reason you're doing it is because a close friend of yours has died is really difficult."
""What we celebrated from the beginning was the remarkable strength of American democracy, and one of the things that's most remarkable is the peaceful passing of power from one leader to another. We thought that was a wonderful way to end," he told TV critics, "to conclude the series at its natural place."
The series' presidential election will take place over two episodes on April 2 and 9, Wells said, but he would not reveal the outcome, decided only in the past few days. "We have passionate advocates for both candidates in the writers room, and it's been quite the brawl we've had," Wells said.
Subsequent episodes, Wells added, will portray "the transition into the new government and the new presidency," as well as "spending time with the [original] characters figuring out what they're going to do and where they're going to go next." Former series star Rob Lowe has also been asked to return before the show ends.
Producers said the character will also die of a heart attack.
"It feels like a very organic ending to the show with him gone," co-star Allison Janney said yesterday during the show's press tour panel, "because I just can't imagine doing it without him."
Series writers were forced by Spencer's death to imagine scenarios radically different from their planned storyline."
From the Oregonian:
"The last session on Sunday, and thus the last session of the winter TCA was for "The West Wing," and featured everyone from show-runner/producer John Wells to series regulars Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Josh Malina, Bradley Whitford, Kristin Chenoweth and Janel Maloney. They spoke often about the late John Spencer, and always with great affection. The vibe was less elegiac when Rob Lowe's name came up. No one on the cast said anything mean, or anything. It's just that no one said anything.
There was a cocktail party just after that session, and then a party for NBC down the hall just after that. But in a strange turn of events I found myself going straight into the bar to have a drink with a fellow writer and Malina, but then we all ended up sitting with Whitford, Janney, Chenoweth, another producer and then Wells.
Pretty much the whole thing was off the record. It was 8 pm on Sunday night, it had been a long day for them and an extremely long week for us. But they were all in an elegiac mood, continuing the conversation about Spencer and extending it to cover other favorite, and least-loved cast and crewmembers. Wells showed up and chatted for 15 minutes or so before heading home. They laughed a lot and had a swell time with each other.
Getting back to the first entry in this blog, the one about why coming to the TCA is important, this 90 minutes in the bar with the "West Wing" gang seems like a perfect example. Not because it enhances me personally (it clearly doesn't) or works into my own wish-fulfillment about grooving with TV stars (long since recovered from). But for more than an hour I could sit quietly and listen to half a dozen highly-placed professionals discussing the finer points of their craft w/o the mediating effect of the network publicists; the personal publicists and etc. It was just them, a large chunk of the team that had created one of the most popular and celebrated shows of the last decade, often discussing the traits and quirks of the colleagues who weren't there. And it was all fascinating and hugely insightful, not just into this show but also every other TV show I'll write about.
As ever, TCA press tour is fun, exhausting, boring, exciting and ultimately educational, though not always in the way you might expect it to be. I'm truly done with it now...I'd rather walk over glass than have to sit in a ballroom and listen to actors and producers enthuse about a clearly mediocre TV show for another hour. I'm as sick of my colleagues as I'm sure they're sick of me."
Posted by callie lee 29 at Television Without Pity:
"I hadn't heard this particular bit of information, but I was watching a local news station here in DC and they had an interview with Martin Sheen (not sure if it was their's or borrowed); in it Sheen was saying that Wells had tried to see if other networks would be interested in carrying the show and none were, supposedly due to the high cost of production. He then went on to talk a little about John Spencer and their memorial service for him (the first one), stuff that had already been mentioned by others elsewhere."
From People Magazine:
"But, ultimately, the decision was made to end the series with a bow to the United States Constitution. As West Wing President Martin Sheen told PEOPLE on Sunday: "Constitutionally, within the context of the show, I knew I was done."
Sheen also said that he would like his last lines on the show to be uttered in Latin. "I'd like to go out with something from the Book of Isaiah," said Sheen whose chief executive, like the actor who portrays him, is a classics scholar and devout Catholic."
From the Star Telegram:
" 5:15 p.m.: A West Wing session begins with a montage of highlights from the show's seven seasons. Much to my surprise, I feel myself getting misty-eyed, and not just because of the scenes featuring the recently deceased John Spencer. Maybe it's the knowledge that this once-great show (which has been on a creative resurgence for the past year) is going away; maybe it's just that seeing really well-done writing and acting can actually make me emotional. Even moments I once thought of as unbearably pretentious are getting to me. Critics almost never applaud at TCA sessions, because it's considered bad form. But several of us applaud at the end of the montage.
Then producer John Wells thanks us for all the support over the years, and the cast applauds us. Then the cast does much honoring of Spencer, as well as much talk about how close they've become over the years.
Who would've guessed that the final session of the press tour would be a love fest?
A little after 6 p.m.: At a post-session reception with the West Wing folks, I hang my tape recorder into the scrum surrounding Bradley Whitford, who plays Josh Lyman on the show. I had talked to his wife, Malcolm in the Middle's Jane Kaczmarek, a few days earlier at the Fox party. She sounded like she'd miss the show and its cast, but like she wouldn't miss the grind. Whitford sounds the same way. The oldest of their three children is 8 -- just a year older than The West Wing. If you were in their shoes, you wouldn't miss the grind, either."
From the Associated Press:
"Actors and producers toasted the show's end Sunday night at a cocktail party with television critics, who championed the series from the beginning.
"We knew we had a special show and we remained as a family," said Martin Sheen, who portrayed President Josiah Bartlet. "We all knew that we weren't going to get this kind of a chance again."
Series producers have only in the past few days decided who would win the presidential campaign that has been this season's main story; it will be revealed in April. The contest pits a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and a Republican portrayed by Alan Alda, and the show's writers have fought over who should win.
"It's been quite a brawl," said John Wells, executive producer.
Although "The West Wing" briefly considered it calling it quits after Spencer's death, or remaking episodes featuring him that were filmed but not yet aired, Wells said they ultimately decided to use the late actor's work.
It's been tricky working the death into the story line; McGarry was a candidate for vice president, and producers found there was no constitutional provision for what happens when a candidate dies so close to the election.
"We're now dealing with the death of a character we loved after having dealt with the death of a person we loved," Wells said.
Lawrence O'Donnell, a former Washington insider who is one of the show's executive producers, said he knew the show was making a cultural impact when he found politicians who rarely watch TV were fans. He found it a better place to debate issues than real political shows on TV, he said.
Actor Bradley Whitford said he once heard from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who was upset that nobody seemed to care when his television counterpart died.
"I actually would get lobbied by lobbyists," he said. "I thought they wanted my autograph. But they were lobbying to get their issues mentioned on the show."
Producers are negotiating the return of Rob Lowe, the early series star who left because he was upset by his diminished role, for the finale. Series creator Aaron Sorkin -- responsible for the rapid-fire style of dialogue -- has no plans to return.
Sheen said the show's most positive impact on the country was, during a cynical time, to make people realize the important job that public servants perform.
"The government continues because of people who care for the country," he said."
From the Los Angeles Daily News:
" NBC announced Sunday that the show would end its seven-year run on May 14, when the victor of the current Presidential campaign between Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) and Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) is sworn into office. The April 2 and 9 episodes will cover an eventful Election Day. Episodes in between will strive to achieve closure for the show's many characters.
Executive producer John Wells, who took the reins from series creator Aaron Sorkin after spats with NBC over production delays, said writers finally came to a decision as to which character would win the election in the past couple of days.
"We've spent the entire year going back and forth on that question," Wells said during the final press conference of the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. "John's passing came at a point when we thought we had made the decision. We spent time over Christmas holing up and asking ourselves . . . was it even appropriate to do the show without John, actually."
Wells said that the dual considerations of Spencer's passing he died Dec. 16 of a heart attack (ironically, his character on the show suffered from heart problems, as well) and the storyline reaching the end of the Administration of Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) convinced producers that they had "reached a beautiful place to end the series."
Spencer "met so much to all of us," said Allison Janney, who won four Emmys portraying C.J. Cregg. "It feels like an organic ending to the show I can't imagine going on without him."
Added Bradley Whitford, who played the impassioned if neurotic Josh Lyman, "It was very hard the first time we go in and he's not there. . . . It's very hard to understand how somebody just goes away."
The cast has a handful more episodes to shoot before production wraps for good and, Janel Moloney, who played Josh's loyal assistant Donna Moss, said, "We don't want to spend a second not appreciating what this is."
Spencer will appear in one final episode. The Feb. 12 [possible misprint] episode will deal with his character's death. Wells said he considered tinkering with the episodes Spencer had shot before he died, but said with a smile, "He would've been p---ed at me if we changed it."
McGarry's death will come five days before Election Day. Since there's no real Constitutional provision as to how to deal with the death of a Vice Presidential candidate that soon before an election, Santos will have the option of announcing a new candidate or keeping quiet and trying to get one nominated through Congress.
"It makes for compelling drama on the show," Wells said, "during this complicated and difficult time for us."
"If the show achieved a level of grace for Americans," reflected Martin Sheen, "it was in how it made Americans appreciate public servants. We can be cynical about the people who lead us, but being a public servant is an honor, and some decent people who serve our country never get any recognition. The show reflected a hope 'This is a possibility and we could aspire to this.'"
Whitford said, only half-joking, "I would never be able to leave this show, so I'm kind of glad it's ending."
From USA Today:
""It's the most dramatic way to end the series," executive producer John Wells says. "The right way to do it is seeing (Bartlet) get on Air Force One and go back to New Hampshire and the new president coming into the Oval Office."
The finale May 14 will be preceded by a one-hour retrospective on the seven-season series, which won four drama Emmys. Wells would like creator Aaron Sorkin, who left after the fourth season, to write the finale but is doubtful because of Sorkin's immersion in a pilot.
West Wing had filmed 15 of 22 episodes at the time of his death, including five that hadn't run. The last of his episodes, which will run when the show returns in March (Sunday, 8 p.m. ET/PT), takes place just five days before the presidential election. The next two scheduled to be filmed are on Election Day and that night.
Writers had to rework those scripts to include McGarry's death, which will come as a result of a heart attack. McGarry, who had a heart attack last season, will be remembered at a funeral and memorial service in episode 18. Wells hopes to shoot it in Washington.
The writers also had to figure out how McGarry's death would affect the election. "If it happens that close to the election, when everything is printed on the ballot, everyone believed you would just go with the presidential candidate," Wells says.
West Wing's end is no surprise considering the ratings decline, which is even more pronounced in the prized young-adult demographic, says Sam Armando of media buyer Starcom Worldwide. "What kept it on the schedule is twofold: It fit NBC's model of quality programming ... and I don't think they've had strong development to be able to go out and replace it."
Wells says it's the right time to end the show. "We've come to the natural end of the cycle of the storytelling. (The presidential succession) is such an appropriate end for the series."
"West Wing hit the peak of its popularity in its third season, ranking No.9 among all prime-time series with 17 million viewers a week. The latest season debuted with just 7.6 million viewers tuning in as the show moved to a Sunday night time slot from Wednesdays.
NBC plans to precede the series farewell with a one-hour retrospective of the show, including a tribute to Spencer."
From the Newark Star Ledger:
"Reilly said he had been in finale discussions with "West Wing" producer John Wells for months, long before the sudden death last month of actor John Spencer.
"It's no secret that the ratings have been tough for the last couple of seasons," Reilly said, despite a minor creative upswing in the last year. "I just wish more people got to see it. There's a point where you want to send a show off with dignity and some semblance of success. Everybody went into the season saying, 'Let's see how we do, we're going to give it our best.'"
Though founding fathers Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme were on an early draft of NBC's schedule for the day (according to someone close to the show, someone put them on the schedule without bothering to ask if they wanted to come), Reilly said both were too busy producing a new series pilot to participate in the series finale."
From TV Gal via the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
"As for your concerns, "West Wing" executive producer John Wells indicated the election will be decided during the April 2nd and 9th episodes, with the inauguration taking center stage in the finale.
Producers also are talking to Rob Lowe about returning for the finale. "Rob will have to decide whether he can make his schedule work and be able to come back for it," Wells said.
And Wells knows who's going to win but as one would expect, he refused to spill it."
From Calendar Live:
""We went back and forth with NBC about it," Wells said. "The audience was getting smaller. We had a moment in time in which it was right in the cycle to inaugurate a new president. And the question was, is that the right moment in the life of this series for this series to end?"
But before the show's writers commit to paper which candidate will become the next president — Democrat Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) or Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) — they must grapple with the death of actor John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry, the former chief of staff who became Santos' running mate. The actor's death did not precipitate the ending of the series, but it did alter story lines significantly, Wells said.
Since the beginning, lovable Leo has served as the show's anchor and has remained a viewer favorite. Five episodes, including the compelling Jan. 8 installment, which centered on Leo's vice presidential debate, had been produced before Spencer's death Dec. 16, just days after the show had wrapped for the holidays.
"We thought the best way to honor his work was to actually let people see it and not overreact," said executive producer Wells, a friend of Spencer's for 20 years. "But it does mean that we can't, on the air, deal with it until after the Winter Olympics," which will air on NBC next month.
Since the new year, Wells has been writing the two-part episode in which Leo will die of a heart attack. The cantankerous politician with a soft side and a sense of humor survived a heart attack last season, an illness Wells said he would have never written for the character had they known Spencer would be prone to it. The episode in which Leo dies, five days before the election, will air on April 2,
"I've never been confronted with this, and I hope I'm never confronted with it again," he said. "Not only do you have to deal with the death of your friend — the person that you know — but then you have to keep reliving it....We'll all have to continue to grieve it because we have to put it in the narrative. The character will, sadly, die on the show. We really didn't have any other way to deal with it."
When the show's writers began researching how the government would handle the death of a vice presidential nominee just before an election, they were surprised to learn there was no constitutional provision for it. Based on the advice of election attorneys, Wells decided that Leo McGarry's name will remain on the ballot and if Santos wins, he will then appoint a vice president after his inauguration.
"To John and his team's credit, they've concocted a story that really honors his memory and his spirit and the value that he brought to the show," said Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television, the studio that produces the show. "They managed to make it as organic as one could hope for. But as well as this may have worked out logistically, we would have much preferred to have scrapped this notion and followed through with a great man and a great actor."
Because Spencer's death occurred during the holiday hiatus, the cast and crew of "The West Wing" held a memorial service for him on their first day back to work, Wells said.
"He was at my house on Sunday, before he died on Friday," Wells said. "He was a good friend. So before we even started to deal with the notion of this wonderful character being gone, we had to accept the sad reality of our friend's death. It's been a very hectic month."
Last Thursday, Wells faced a deadline for the second part of the episode he would do anything not to write.
"Oddly, it's very dramatic, and I think it will be dramatic and very moving on the show, but boy, oh, boy," he said. "I would much rather be writing five or six more episodes with John Spencer in it than writing that."
From the Washington Post:
"NBC's fantasy White House drama "The West Wing" will end its seven-season run on May 14 with the inauguration of the new president, executive producer John Wells told television critics Sunday.
The election will be covered on April 2 and 9 and viewers will know by the end of the latter episode whether the presidential candidate played by Jimmy Smits or Alan Alda won the election -- a decision the producers "have only really in the last couple days made," at the end of "quite a brawl," Wells told critics at the very last session of Winter TV Press Tour 2006.
The show's declining ratings since its move to Sunday led producers to think that the peaceful passing of power from one leader to another would be a "really wonderful way to end the series" at its "natural place," he explained. So far this season, viewership has dropped by about a third compared with last season's numbers, which were already well below what the series had averaged in its heyday. These days it averages about 8 million viewers a week, but it remains the most upscale series on prime-time broadcast TV.
The sudden death of actor John Spencer in December has "changed a lot of the storytelling" for the final episodes, Wells said, sharing the stage with some of the writers and cast members.
The producers had shot five episodes, three of which Spencer was central to, at the time of his death. Wells said they talked about how to handle the situation over the holidays and decided the best homage they could pay Spencer was to change nothing and "let people see the last days of his work." He joked that Spencer would have been angry at him if he had changed the episodes -- "cutting his best scenes . . . so we left it."
Scrambling to deal with the reality of the actor's death, Wells said, the producers discovered there is no real provision for dealing with the death of a vice presidential candidate on the eve of an election.
We "are now dealing with the death of a character we loved after dealing with the death of a man we loved; it's a complicated and difficult time for us," he added.
Martin Sheen, who has played our fantasy president for seven seasons, was asked to reflect on what the show has meant to the country over the years.
"We can be very cynical about the people that lead us," he said, adding that he hoped the show managed "to make people realize that being a public servant is an honor . . . and that so many good and decent people do it and never get any credit.
"We were a fantasy but we had a parallel universe to reality," he continued. That changed radically, he said, when the Bush administration came into office and then 9/11 happened and "the country moved much further away from the center and we felt we were dead in the center and we gave everyone a fair shot."
The show has continued to "reflect a kind of hope that this was possible and we should aspire to this always," Sheen continued. "We were like a novel that -- the real world is like reality, but people were reading the novel and getting ideas and kind of having a hope and faith and trust in their leadership.
"If we can go out with that I don't think we can ask for much more -- all the rest was a gift."
Critics were taken aback by the electrifying performance of the New Bucked-Up Reilly, having grown accustomed to seeing him at press tours honing his impression of a Washington lobbyist refusing to answer questions without the advice of his attorney.
"You guys helped make ["The West Wing"] a huge hit . . . We're going to give you DVDs . . . Watch the work, connect with it or reconnect with it and let's try to give it the send-off it truly deserves!," Reilly urged critics -- a calculated risk, given how testy they can sometimes get when someone hints they are perceived as an adjunct to a network's marketing and promo departments. But no one seemed to take it that way -- there was only "You betcha!" in their eyes.
"I don't think this was a news flash to anybody," Reilly said of the decision to pull the plug on the seven-season-old series, which he denied had anything to do with the death of Spencer. "There is a point where you want to send the show off with dignity and some semblance of success."
He did a handspring over one critic's request to divulge information about the series's finale story line, deferring to the cast and crew who, he noted, would do a Q&A session later in the day, at which, he said, "I'm sure they will tell you really little."
From the New York Post:
" The final episode, a two-hour special, airs May 14 and will focus on the inauguration of the successor to President Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen.
Episodes slated for April 2 and April 9 will deal with election night, said executive producer John Wells.
"West Wing" producers are in negotiations with former cast member Rob Lowe to make an appearance down the stretch, Wells said.
NBC President Kevin Reilly insisted the series still has good stories but conceded ratings were down. "
From the Hartford Courant:
"NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said the intent to end the highly honored show with a one-hour episode preceded by an hourlong retrospective was to "give the show the send off it truly deserves."
The demise of the show, which has won four consecutive Emmys as outstanding drama, is not because of the sudden death of actor John Spencer Dec. 16.
"That was a shocker to us all," Reilly says. "The discussion of making this the final year was determined before that.
"It's no secret that the ratings have been tough the last couple of seasons," he says. "There's a point where you want to send off a show with dignity and some semblance of success."
"The cast was just officially notified very recently," he says. "I don't think anybody was shocked by this."
Reilly wouldn't reveal details of the finale, but he said that executive producer John Wells "walked us through everything that's happening. I don't use the word `extraordinary' very lightly but it will include a great sendoff to John Spencer.""
From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"Once the darling of critics and viewers, West Wing, starring Martin Sheen as President Jeb (sic) Bartlet, has been struggling for several years. Buried this season at 8 p.m. Sundays, it averages just eight million viewers, 63d among prime-time shows. Sorkin left after the fourth season.
Canceling the Peabody Award-winning series was a difficult call, Reilly said in an interview. "It's been a huge part of our history and the profile of the network. On a ratings basis, it's time. On a quality basis and history basis, it's tough."
Reilly said the cast was told "very recently," and that the decision had been made before the Dec. 16 death ofJohn Spencer (Leo McGarry) from a heart attack.
What went wrong?
"I think there were some creative changes that probably needed to happen in the show at a vulnerable point a couple of seasons ago," Reilly said. "We lost momentum. We just couldn't recapture it. Other than that, I don't think anything went wrong."
If NBC had kept West Wing at 9 p.m. Wednesdays, it probably wouldn't have made any difference, Reilly said. That time slot, which includes ABC's monster hit Lost, "is no walk in the park.""
From the Mercury News:
"The series will end with the inauguration of the new president -- whether it is Democrat Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) or Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) is still to be determined. But the emotional high point may come several weeks earlier with McGarry's funeral, which may involve the return of former ``West Wing'' cast members such as Rob Lowe.
``It's no secret that the ratings have been tough for the last couple of seasons,'' said Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment. ``There's a point where you want to send a great show off with dignity and with some semblance of success.''
Reilly said the network and show's producers went into this season hoping to extend the series' run by electing a new president to succeed Bartlet. But by late fall, it was obvious ratings weren't going to improve.
Sometimes, Reilly said, ``you look at the ratings and you have to say, `Feels like it's time.' '' He added that the decision to end the series was made before Spencer's death on Dec. 16."
From the Associated Press:
"The decision to cancel it was made before actor John Spencer, who played former presidential chief of staff Leo McGarry, died of a heart attack Dec. 16, said Kevin Reilly, NBC entertainment president.
"There's a point when you look at the ratings and say, it feels like it's time," Reilly said.
The series finale will be May 14, preceded by a one-hour retrospective. The campaign to replace the fictional Josiah Bartlet as president will be settled, NBC said.
Producers Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, who created the show and guided it through its early years, will not be involved in the finale, Reilly said."
NBC is also moving Law & Order to "West Wing"'s old timeslot on Wednesday nights.
"NBC announced that its multi-Emmy Award-winning drama "The West Wing" (Sundays, 8-9 p.m. ET) will conclude its storied run on Sunday, May 14 after seven hallmark seasons with an hour-long retrospective (7-8 p.m. ET) followed by a special series finale (8-9 p.m. ET), it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Entertainment.
"We are proud to have had the opportunity to bring television viewers one of the most acclaimed series in television history," said Reilly. "From the venerable, moving performances by the first-rate cast to the sterling creative team behind the camera, this series has left an indelible imprint on the landscape of television drama."
As the critically acclaimed winner of four consecutive Emmy Awards as Outstanding Drama Series, "The West Wing" -- under the direction of executive producer John Wells (NBC's "ER") ? has always offered viewers a realistic, behind-the-scenes peek into the Oval Office and the campaign trail that leads there.
The sophisticated, one-hour drama series stars Emmy winner Martin Sheen ("Apocalypse Now"), the late Emmy-winning John Spencer ("L.A. Law"), Emmy winner Bradley Whitford ("My Fellow Americans"), Emmy winner Richard Schiff ("Deep Impact"), Emmy winner Allison Janney ("American Beauty"), Emmy winner Jimmy Smits ("NYPD Blue," "L.A. Law"), Emmy winner Alan Alda ("M*A*S*H"), Emmy nominee Dule Hill ("Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk!"), Emmy nominee Janel Moloney ("Sports Night"), Emmy winner Stockard Channing ("Six Degrees of Separation"), Joshua Malina ("Sports Night"), Kristin Chenoweth ("Wicked") and Mary McCormack ("Private Parts").
"The West Wing" holds the record for most Emmys won by a series in a single season (its first) and has earned 90 total nominations to date. Other awards include a Peabody Award for Excellence in Television, five Golden Globe nominations and one Golden Globe Award for Best Drama Series, and three Television Critics Association Awards.
At the core of the current 2005-06 season is the campaign between Democratic nominee Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Republican challenger Vinick (Alan Alda) for the Presidency. President Bartlet (Sheen) and his team find themselves leading the country with the administration's days coming to a close.
"The West Wing" is from John Wells Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television Production Inc. Wells serves as the executive producer along with Christopher Misiano, Alex Graves, Lawrence O'Donnell and Peter Noah. Aaron Sorkin is the creator."
From the blog of TV critic Roger Catlin at the Hartford Courant:
""The West Wing" will come to an end at the end of the current season, executive producer John Wells confirmed to reporters Saturday.
A formal announcement would come from the network today, during the NBC session that closes the two week winter press tour. The announcement will come a day after a memorial service for John Spencer, the Emmy-award winning actor who died unexpectedly in December. At the time his character, Leo McGarry was a candidate for vice president in the election that's been taking the whole season.
When his death is noted on the show, it will be just five days to election -- too late by law to change ballots and likely to affect the (fictional) vote that will culminate the season of the show, which has been failing in ratings in recent years and suffered further in a move to Sunday nights this season."