From the Star Tribune:
"The Bartlet administration, which moves out of the White House next month, always operated outside the scope of reality.
The team was too ideological, too fair-minded, too optimistic, too witty and too gorgeous to exist anywhere beyond the small screen. But the most outrageous legacy these Pollyanna politicians leave behind is that audiences accepted them, turning a dark horse into a historic champion, one of the most critically acclaimed series and addictive soap operas of our time.
"The West Wing," just four weeks from its final episode, hit some bumps along the way, first creatively when creator/writer Aaron Sorkin departed after four seasons, and then in the ratings when it moved from Wednesdays to Sundays two years ago. But after 24 Emmys, including four for best series, no one can dispute that this was one of the airwaves' most impressive, and unexpected, success stories.
There were serious doubts that viewers would be interested in a show that asked us to care about Washington wonks in the same way we embrace hard-boiled detectives. Plots about census taking and foreign diplomacy? That sounds as inviting as "The Jim Lehrer Variety Hour." Even cast members were skeptical in the fall of 1999.
Despite its long-shot status, the show became an instant hit, maintaining a longtime residence in the Nielsen ratings' top 15 and attracting more viewers than any other show in the much-coveted demographic of those pulling down more than $75,000 a year.
But the fans who most amused the cast and crew were their real-life counterparts.
Politicos in Ohio tried to recruit Sheen to run for public office. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told series regular Bradley Whitford that he was disappointed in an episode in which the show's Fed guy died because no one seemed to care. At a dinner last year, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor begged cast member Kristin Chenoweth to tell them who would win the show's pivotal election.
t's possible that those in the nation's capital were watching in hopes of getting a shout-out or at least a Sorkin one-liner they could steal for their next congressional hearing.
But what about the rest of Americans? What excuse did they have for watching a show that demanded more than 15 percent of one's brain?
As they say, timing is everything.
When "Wing" debuted in 1999, President Bill Clinton was dealing with Monicagate and impeachment for lying under oath. Bartlet, on the other hand, never, ever considered cheating on his First Lady. He came across as so true and honest that no one would have blinked if he had grown a long beard and starting wearing a stovepipe hat.
The faux commander-in-chief offered an equally attractive alternative to President Bush. Bartlet's intellectual credentials were never in question -- a former economist, he liked to grill his subordinates with trivia about world capitals and national parks -- and he could get through an entire speech without a single grammatical stumble.
Yes, this was a liberal administration, but it also offered smart, thoughtful opponents, not the least of which was presidential candidate Arnie Vinick, played the last two seasons by Alan Alda with the same charm that made Hawkeye Pierce our favorite Korean War surgeon. Bartlet even hired a political adviser from the other side, nominated an arch-conservative to the Supreme Court and turned over his office temporarily to the Republican Speaker of the House.
As the country's two parties grew farther apart in real life, Bartlet's sense of even-handedness had its appeal.***
You'd think audiences were ready for more political fare, and more public officials as TV protagonists. But subsequent attempts -- "The Court,"Mister Sterling,"Jack & Bobby,"First Monday" -- never caught on. "Commander in Chief," which debuted last fall to mandate-like numbers, has nose-dived in the ratings and become less about politics and more about family squabbles.
"Wing" defied the odds, if only because it was so smart, so funny, so well acted, that it couldn't be ignored.
Don't expect another "West Wing" around the corner. Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, who directed the "Wing" pilot, are developing a series for next season, but "Studio 60" is about the yuks behind the scenes of a late-night comedy show -- a more audience-friendly setting than, say, the office of the deputy White House communications director."
The newspaper also printed a possible "West Wing" time line.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Much to the disappointment of loyal fans, the multi-award winning program is currently filming its seventh and final series in the United States.
Show writer Eli Attie, who has been working on the show for five seasons, says while fans will be disappointed, dropping the axe is necessary.
"There is no question the ratings are lower than they have ever been," he said from the United States.
"The writers and the people behind the show creatively have probably thought for a while that this would make sense (ending the show)."
However, Australians needn't worry - The West Wing isn't going anywhere just yet.
The fourth series is now screening on the ABC, which fought hard for more than four years to obtain rights from the Nine Network. Nine handed the show over last year.
Starring Martin Sheen as US President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet, the series steps behind the scenes in the life of a group of frenzied staffers who work in the west wing of the White House.
Attie says it's the character dynamics and delving into the lives of people behind a political campaign that draws viewers in.
"It's two things," Attie says.
"The series creator used to say that the two minutes before and after what you see on CNN no one else sees and that's what we show.
"But we show it to be an honourable process. It's the politics we like to see."
Attie believes the dislike most people feel towards political motions in the present day is purely brought on through lack of knowledge.
He says by watching The West Wing, voters are given the right to witness how it all works.
"Popular culture usually depicts politics and government as sinister and that everyone is in it for themselves," he said.
"I don't think that's accurate."
If anyone should know it would be Attie, who spent five years working as a special assistant to former president Bill Clinton and was chief speechwriter for former vice president Al Gore.
"Most people who are working there (with Clinton) are decent and honest people who are working to do the right thing," he said.
"West Wing gives people something that is hopeful, optimistic and shows intelligence.
"Everyone has honour even if they make mistakes and I think that's appealing to people."
The Emmy award winner says his and the rest of the team's interest in politics keeps storylines fresh and moving forward.
"All the writers on West Wing are people who devour current events and are interested in issues all around the world, including modern presidential history," he said.
"At the same time, when you are in the seventh season in a show like this, the characters are so rich and the actors bring so much to the roles that you sit down to write a scene and it's almost like they are telling you what their character wants to do next."
Attie still dabbles in politics, "helping a guy right now who is running for the governor of California", and enjoys the rush it brings.
He says his time moving in these circles has helped him as a television writer.
Attie started writing for the show a year and half after it began, just after Al Gore lost out as president.
"It's been hugely valuable for me," he said.
"I wasn't originally a screenwriter. I had worked in the Clinton White House and then worked with Al Gore.
"Then I connected with a guy who created the show and he gave me a chance and took me on.
"It's been the greatest job I have ever had. I just try and bring as many anecdotes as I can to the other writers and facts about my days in the real White House to help writing."
But it isn't just the writers who jot down their thoughts.
Political advisers, consultants and even politicians themselves visit The West Wing's production officers offering their take on episodes.
"The show is a wonderful political salon, we have had a lot of real politicians pass through here when they are in town," he said.
"We meet with consultants and people of government to advise us or come have lunch with us.
"That is something I am going to miss when the show is over because it's not every day in Hollywood that you get to engage on a regular basis in really rich discussions of all things that matter."
Thinking forward to when the final curtain call is made, Attie says it will be the end of a very informative, powerful and truthful show.
"It's very sad for all of us - in the world of the characters and in our own lives," he said.
"This has been like a family for us and it's a show we care a lot about.""From the Broadcasting & Cable Blog:
"I watched West Wing Sunday for the first time in a while.
Like the old Ted Koppel-hosted Nightline (already its the "old Ted Koppel-hosted Nightline" and it has only been three months or so), I had not been watching it regularly in a while, but will miss the idea that it is still around.
In this case I will miss the idea that somewhere a compassionate and highly intelligent president is wrestling intellectually with the great problems of the day.
I'm also reminded of Jon Stewart's joke at the Oscars that the Oscar tally was now Martin Scorcese 0, Three Six Mafia 1.
I can't believe that the other Martin--Sheen--never collected an Emmy for his portrayal of President Josiah Bartlett(sic) on Wing, though I guess a Democrat losing a vote he should have one was an appropriate case of art imitating life."
From the Denver Post:
"Jed Bartlet's presidency made its debut on Sept. 22, 1999, with White House aide Sam Seaborn in the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel, guilelessly hitting on Laurie, a lovely law student who moonlights as a prostitute.
Seven seasons and buckets of Emmys later, "The West Wing" goes dark this spring, cutting a link to our credulous days, before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Aaron Sorkin's dappled drama did his country a service by reminding us, in the wake of Monica and impeachment, that public service can have noble purpose.
"Say they are smug. ... Say their approach to public policy makes you want to tear your hair out. Say they like high taxes and spending your money. ... But don't call them worthless," GOP lawyer Ainsley Hayes tells fellow conservatives after spending a day amid the Democrats at the Bartlet White House.
"The people I have met have been extraordinarily qualified," Hayes says. "Their intent is good. Their commitment is true. They are righteous, and they are patriots."
Sorkin's fluid, sweet, sometimes hokey pen ("The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight") was well-served by a talented ensemble anchored by Martin Sheen. Not since Captain Kirk strode the bridge of the starship Enterprise has so choice a ham as Josiah "Jed" Bartlet filled the little screen.
Could anyone but Sheen have pulled off the second season finale, tormented by fate, alone and ranting in the nave of the National Cathedral, calling God a "feckless thug" and cursing Him - "Cruciatus in crucem! Eas in crucem!" - in Latin? Politics is the spine of each series. In the rancid mud of the Black Hills, in 1877, Swearengen and his fellow sociopaths are organizing a society, no less than Jed Bartlet and Leo McGarry. The tenor of our times has changed. Sorkin's White House was richly romantic, befitting the innocent, confident days of the 1990s. Today's Washington is like David Milch's Deadwood, steeped in dread, corruption and sin. Sorkin steered "The West Wing" for two seasons after Sept. 11, and his successors have soldiered on for another three years. They sought to keep the show relevant, with plots that turned on Bartlet's response to various terrorist attacks. But events in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, proved too big to contain within a fictional West Wing. Milch gives us a metaphor instead. Like it or not, we can see ourselves in the muck and gore of Deadwood."
Well, maybe "Deadwood's" Ian McShane.
It is apt, as "The West Wing" departs, that HBO's "Deadwood" will return for a third season, with its decidedly post-Sept. 11 sensibility, top-notch writing and acting.
Tales of power, and bloody third acts, have mesmerized audiences since the days of the groundlings at the Globe. Sorkin genuflects to Shakespeare, and Milch - a former Yale literature instructor - quite packs "Deadwood" with Shakespearean asides, clownishness and cadence:
Politics is the spine of each series. In the rancid mud of the Black Hills, in 1877, Swearengen and his fellow sociopaths are organizing a society, no less than Jed Bartlet and Leo McGarry.
The tenor of our times has changed. Sorkin's White House was richly romantic, befitting the innocent, confident days of the 1990s. Today's Washington is like David Milch's Deadwood, steeped in dread, corruption and sin. Sorkin steered "The West Wing" for two seasons after Sept. 11, and his successors have soldiered on for another three years. They sought to keep the show relevant, with plots that turned on Bartlet's response to various terrorist attacks. But events in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, proved too big to contain within a fictional West Wing. Milch gives us a metaphor instead. Like it or not, we can see ourselves in the muck and gore of Deadwood."
Sorkin steered "The West Wing" for two seasons after Sept. 11, and his successors have soldiered on for another three years. They sought to keep the show relevant, with plots that turned on Bartlet's response to various terrorist attacks.
But events in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, proved too big to contain within a fictional West Wing. Milch gives us a metaphor instead. Like it or not, we can see ourselves in the muck and gore of Deadwood."
From the Australian paper "The Age":
"Bush's overall approval ratings are parlous these days, but with solid majorities in both houses of Congress, a weak Democratic Party, and an increasingly conservative tilt on the Supreme Court, the President's opponents for the past six years have understandably flirted with political despair - and, for an hour a week, the escapism of the let's-pretend presidency of Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing.
But now the escapism is leaving the scene. The West Wing, which will expire in May at the end of its seventh season, adopted the ginned-up patter of William Powell and Myrna Loy in the Thin Man pictures and brought that staccato rhythm to the sky-lit halls around the Oval Office. Even when the show was still funny and fresh (and it hasn't been since its creator, Aaron Sorkin, left two years ago), The West Wing was as earnest and high-minded as Yes, Minister was wickedly cynical. Decent, hard-working, noble, highly educated senior staffers walked the corridors at impossible speeds - "pedaconferencing" - clutching briefing books and deadpanning their way through the occasional nuclear bio-weapons attack.
In Yes, Minister, the conceit was that the civil service assistants recognised their superiors as hopeless twits and covered for them. In The West Wing, the young staffers, supervised by a wizened, indulgent chief of staff, serve a president who is a thatch-haired New England aristo, Nobel prize-winning economist, devoted father to three brilliant and beautiful daughters and equal partner to his wife (a doctor of wit and sophistication), devout Catholic, ace Latinist, student of American history and, above all, good decent liberal, yet not damp-palmed. He could make the tough decisions (i.e. drop a bomb when needed) but had the humanity to look sternly into the middle-distance - an expression signifying moral vexation - when lives were lost. In other words, he was Bill Clinton or John Kennedy without the personal issues. He was Truman with a finer mind and more polish. He was certainly not George W. Bush - not one bit.
In between the riffs of snappy repartee, Bartlet's noble satraps would step to centre stage and unburden themselves of some of the most mind-bendingly un-ironic speeches about virtue and public life since Tacitus carried a briefcase.
Rob Lowe's character, speechwriter Sam Seaborn, who kind of had a thing with a hooker, but that was OK because she was a smart hooker putting herself through law school, uncorked this soliloquy in the episode Six Meetings Before Lunch: ". . . education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defence. That's my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet." It was irresistibly decent in an indecent moment. And note the characteristic funny twist of doubt at the end. That was the thing: nobility undercut by comedy.
Apparently, affection for the fantastical goodness of the Bartlet White House was not limited to America. During the last campaign season in England, I was in London to write a profile of Tony Blair for the New Yorker and asked the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, whether it was true many of the same people at No. 10 who had been influenced by the Clinton White House also had a thing for the Bartlet White House. Powell denied it. A day or two later, I was tagging along with the Blair campaign in Gravesend, when one of his press aides, Hillary Coffman, and I fell behind and nearly lost him. As she raced after her boss, Coffman said: "Do you remember that episode of West Wing when Josh and Toby miss the motorcade and they're left behind in Indiana? We can relate."
In the United States, at least, many right-wingers could not bear the show. Some conservative commentators were not content with their absolute dominion over the real-life political scene and begrudged liberals their teary, weekly ecstasies. John Podhoretz, a columnist for Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and the son of Norman Podhoretz, one of the founding fathers of American neo-conservatism, called The West Wing "political pornography for liberals". After Sorkin's drug abuse problems became public, Podhoretz wrote, "I don't know about you, but frankly, I don't need any lessons on theology, destiny, public service, job creation, pay equity, or conservative ideology from a crack addict."
Nice. For a while, all of Sorkin's political consultants on the show came from the ranks of the Democratic Party: Dee Dee Myers, a former Clinton press secretary; Pat Caddell, a former pollster and strategist for Jimmy Carter, and Lawrence O'Donnell, who worked for the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan when he was on the Senate finance committee. Eventually, the producers of The West Wing broadened the staff. Broadminded as ever, they called on the advice of . . . John Podhoretz.
At a certain point, the show's implicit critique of the Bush White House - its untruths, its failures, its distinctly un-Sam-and-Toby-like figures such as Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, the President's inability to put together an English sentence, much less parse a Latin verse - lost its capacity to sting. Another series, co-starring yet another good president of the United States, came to occupy the space. Just as The West Wing was the favoured guilty pleasure of the chattering classes five years ago, 24 seized some portion of the liberal imagination, and we came to trust an African-American president called David Palmer - sonorous, moral, unfailingly right-minded - to keep fantasy America safe from fantasy terror at least for a few seasons.
After Palmer was written out of the series, a third sound-stage chief executive entered our lives. Geena Davis, first seen in her underwear in Tootsie in 1982, is now the accidental make-believe president of the United States in Commander in Chief. She has already brought us back from the brink of make-believe nuclear war with North Korea. We feel safer already.
The West Wing returns to Australian television on February 23 on the ABC."
From the University of Idaho Argonaut:
" Earlier this year, I wrote about the NBC drama “The West Wing” and how its current season hasn’t been up to the same standard fans were used to seeing in its previous seasons. The writing was colder, the original cast split up and many were reduced to bit parts. But it was the untimely death of actor John Spencer, who played White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, which has permanently damaged the essence of “The West Wing.”
NBC recently announced the show’s seventh season would be its last, with the series finale scheduled for May 14. The fate of the presidential election, in which McGarry played an integral role as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, will be decided in April, but it’s how the show will deal with Spencer’s death that will bring the most attention. Series executive producer John Wells already confirmed Spencer’s character would die soon before Election Day, with a multi-part episode airing in early April.
The series already had five episodes completed at the time of Spencer’s tragic death, three of which featured Spencer prominently. The episode “Running Mates” was the first aired after the show’s December hiatus. The episode was the culmination of everything great about Spencer and his warm-hearted presence on the show. It was an episode in which an anxious McGarry triumphantly prevailed during the vice-presidential debate, but to fans it was a heartbreaking tribute. “West Wing’s” cancellation had everything to do with poor ratings, but the show couldn’t possibly go on without Spencer anyway.
The Winter Olympics will keep the show off the air until late March, fueling speculation as to how “West Wing” will return on Sunday nights. Will McGarry’s death bring the scattered characters together, or will the endless election plotline continue to plague the show until its May farewell?
Things have already begun to look up, with the most recent episode, “Duck and Cover,” giving Martin Sheen, Allison Janney and the remaining White House staffers something to do other than weddings and flirtation (the budding Will-Kate office relationship will hopefully be removed from future DVD releases). Janel Maloney’s Donna Moss is a regular cast member again, and Richard Schiff’s disgraced Toby Ziegler has been popping up too, slowly mending his severed relationship with Bradley Whitford’s Josh Lyman. Here’s hoping the writers finally realize Toby Ziegler would never betray his president, and get him back on good terms with President Bartlett [sic].
As a dedicated fan of “The West Wing,” I don’t want to see the show continue without Spencer. But the show owes it to us few remaining loyal viewers to honor his character and the spirit of the show in which creator Aaron Sorkin intended. It’s time to see CJ, Josh, Toby, Charlie, Donna,Bartlett [sic] and yes, even Sam Seaborn together in the Oval Office to honor Leo McGarry. I don’t care how they do it, but it needs to get done. This election business of the past year or so has gone on long enough.
I suppose the death of an actor I’ve never met shouldn’t affect me so much. But I love “The West Wing” and the people who made it so compelling and entertaining. John Spencer was one of those people, and he will be greatly missed every time I even think about my beloved show. R.I.P., John."
From Team Shame:
"Shame Nation came to an abrupt halt on Sunday, January 22nd as news broke the Emmy award-winning drama The West Wing was calling it a series after seven seasons on NBC. The West Wing has been a staple in the lives of many members of the Shame community since its debut in September 1999.
"I don't think there will ever be a show like it," Shame fan Theresa Sullivan said when reached by phone at her home in Delaware. "It was a show that really brought people together and helped form the bonds that made us all such great fans of the Shame dynasty. It was a championship caliber show and I think that is why so many players and fans could relate to it."
Another West Wing enthusiast and Shame devotee, Becca Peters, said that The West Wing is the part of American culture she has missed most while traveling in Belize the last two years. "To paraphrase from Fordham alum Vince Lombardi, the most important things in my life have been my family, my faith, and The West Wing," Peters said substituting the show for the Green Bay Packers in the famous coach's mantra. "I'll miss the show, I'll miss the memories, but I'll never forget."
Shame co-captain Dave Murphy released a statement congratulating the show on its great run. "On behalf of all the members of Team Shame I would like to express our gratitude toward the writers, producers, directors, and actors of The WestWing," Murphy said. "The West Wing will remain in the annals of television history as the greatest primetime drama of all time."
The West Wing series finale will air on May 14th following an hour-long retrospective. The producers have promised that the current plotline of the race to succeed President Bartlet between Sen. Vinick and Rep. Santos will be resolved by that time. A two-part farewell episode for the late John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry, will air on April 2nd.
Team Shame News will devote an increasing amount of space over the course of the next four months to covering the final chapters in the show's history. Sources inside Team Shame indicated that an entirely new website devoted to paying tribute to The West Wing might be launched within weeks."
From the Sunday Herald:
"[Alan Alda] tells me he has plans to direct something on stage in 2008, but for now he is still tied up working on the final series of The West Wing. Although he is a supporter of women’s rights, openly calls himself a feminist, and is an avowed Democrat, he has found playing the Republican candidate for president problematic [but] relatively straight forward.
“Journalists have asked me since I started on The West Wing if it would be difficult for me to play a Republican,” he says. “I said, you know, nobody ever asked me that when I played a murderer. I thought if I can be a murderer, I can be a Republican.”Producers announced last month that the current season of The West Wing will be the last, so even if Alda’s character wins the dramatised election, he will never get to serve. He claims he doesn’t know yet whether his character wins or loses"
From The Age:
"So it's hail to the new chief ... and a sort of delayed farewell to that elegantly manipulative, always reluctant-to-go politician Josiah Bartlet. It's really time to leave Jed, Toby, Leo and Josh's earnest soliloquies for their memoirs, and for us to embrace Geena Davis as Mackenzie Allen, the first woman president of the United States.
The political drama The West Wing finally, enthusiastically, and with extraordinary timing snapped up by the ABC here this year, has been dumped in America over disappointing ratings and, undoubtedly, the huge swing in the political climate since writer Aaron Sorkin first produced the series seven years ago.
There will probably be as many tears flowing during its two-hour US finale in May as for the farewells of LBJ, Nixon or Reagan. It will certainly not be easy. The West Wing bows out over there with a salute to Bartlet's loyal chief of staff Leo McGarry, played by actor John Spencer, who died from a heart attack in December at the age of 58.
With that, they will shut up shop. One of the most intriguing, respected and talked-about series from American TV, a show that marched us up and down, in and around, the West Wing of the White House, as we tried to catch up with every word from Martin Sheen's striding Democratic president, will pass the baton.
Sorkin's historic research and legal references will be filed away on the internet for the terminally afflicted and yet another political fiction will begin.
Like many viewers, I will miss The West Wing. Watching those early episodes on Channel 7 was always a cerebral workout. And it wasn't just a matter of chasing the show around the timeslots.
There was that nourishing Sorkin dialogue, the scripts crammed with obscure detail about American law and diplomatic protocol. There was the pace of decision-making necessary from all the president's men and women.
You scrambled to the web after each episode and learned what Bartlet was shouting out in the cathedral, or where that obscure reference to the Daughters of the American Revolution came from, or who wrote the song Posse Comitatus, or details and intricacies of appointing judges to the US Supreme Court that might well have been a benefit to George W. Bush, if he'd ever watched.
With the patrician Bartlet in charge, you were encouraged to investigate history, politics, culture, migration, diplomacy and literature ... the script always left you seeking more.
This was history and drama together. If John Howard really wants Australians to understand their history beyond the oi-oi-oi salutes to sporting triumphs, then an investment in TV drama would not be a bad place to begin.
Much of the information The West Wing had to pass on, of course, took place in what some came to call "pedaconferencing'', that pacing of the White House carpet with Toby Zeigler and Josh Lyman.
It was like a boardroom long-distance walking race that never seemed to be getting anywhere, not, that is, until the informative line was completed and we could all peel off into a commercial break.
The series wasn't scared to raise questions and ethical dilemmas. It gently touched upon world affairs and gossip ... matters such as White House relationships, homosexuality, the occasional environmental quid-pro-quo.
In President Bartlet's never-publicly-revealed multiple sclerosis we saw a touch of Jack Kennedy's hidden ailments, and, following 9/11, the series explored the anti-terror legislation.
What brought all this to an end? When Bush came on the scene, the fate of President Josiah Jed Bartlet was certainly sealed, though the writers did well for a while dancing around Afghanistan, Iraq and the Kerry-for-President disappointments. But earlier than that, there were troubling grumbles from within.
Sorkin left in 2003. Ratings faltered. Timeslots were shuffled, in America as well as here. None of it helped. Attempts to switch from Sorkin's emphasis on dialogue to the more plot-oriented episodes that followed failed to win new audiences.
The fifth series was considered especially disappointing. Despite some innovative episodes and imaginative new casting (Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits among them), the show has never again managed to get beyond its cult following.
[Commander in Chief's] initial episodes have suggested it will be far more mainstream, easier to digest, than The West Wing. If Prison Break is Oz-lite, then CIC is The West Wing with bubbles.
As a female president, of course, Mackenzie Allen will not be allowed to err. She must be perfection, whatever political and family problems emerge.
And that, as well as the audience's increasingly jaundiced view of Washington, may be the greatest difficulty for Bochco and company. Has America had enough of clever fictional politics? Or will she really be able to surprise us in the way Aaron Sorkin's Josiah Bartlet once did?"
From the Arizona Republic:
" Is this the last season of The West Wing? This is a frequent question that finally has a definitive answer: yes. Its last episode will air May 14, in the now-traditional two-hour farewell - one hour of reminiscing, then the last episode. The election will be decided during the April 2 and 9 episodes. Of course, knowing the show will end shortly thereafter takes a little drama out of finding out who wins. Then again, most of the good drama was taken out of The West Wing a long time ago."
From the Georgia State University Signal:
"A friend is dying. I just found out tonight that I’ll have until May 14th to see C. J., Jed, Josh and the rest of the cast of “The West Wing” before NBC pulls the plug on the show which millions of Americans will shamelessly admit that they have reordered their lives around just to watch. I can’t believe NBC is doing what Multiple Sclerosis and assassins never could do, kill Jed Bartlett. Sure, I know this is a fictional TV show--and I know this is show business and not show show. But gosh, can they at least allow the Bartlett Administration to run the full eight years?
John Spencer who played Leo McGary the Bartlett Administration’s powerful and well-connected Chief of Staff died in late 2005. Jed Bartlett’s M. S. is slowly continuing to ravage his body. And there’s a presidential election on.
Looking back, it’s easy to see that the show’s has nearly completed it’s course. The writers broke up the Richard Schiff – Bradley Whitford comedic tandem which gave the show much of its buoyancy after Rob Lowe’s early departure. Side note: Rob Lowe was born to play Sam Seaborn, the other stuff was just to get him to that point. Stockard Channing left to pursue some show on some other network which won’t ever have anyone writing about how much they will miss it when it gets replaced by a “reality” show. The underrated Dulé Hill, Charlie out in TV land, is now rarely seen. Plus, the campaign they’re running between Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits has such an obvious winner I don’t even know why they bother. Besides that, even I, a “West Wing” addict so hardcore I might actually break down and buy the DVDs now, must admit that the show just isn’t funny anymore.
Still, I’ll miss it. I think my whole building will. On Sundays, at 8p.m., Ican hear every word of “The West Wing” as I go down the long hall to my apartment. That show brings people together who sit on either side of our nation’s cultural divide the way nothing else can. My ex-roommate and I used to disagree on everything, yet we could patch it up long enough on Sunday night to sit through sixty minutes of “The West Wing”.
If it can bring fighting roommates together, shouldn’t that be enough to get my favorite show renewed for next season? Shouldn’t conflict resolution count for something?One of my first memories is seeing Mom cry during the conclusion of the “MASH” finale. I don’t know if I’ll cry once “The West Wing” ends. It is just a TV show after all. I’m sure I’ll look longingly at my TV that first Sunday or two next fall.I may pop in a “West Wing” DVD at 8 o’clock sharp. Maybe I’ll pause it for two minutes four times, just like NBC does for commercials. This way I could get the full effect."
From the Brandeis University Student Newspaper "The Justice":
"If the results of some informal polling I conducted over the past few weeks are a decent barometer of Brandeis' political leanings, then a sad day for many students is approaching.
My poll was a quirky one, but elicited some very interesting responses. I began by asking people to name their favorite U.S. president.
But then I asked people the question a second time, allowing them to name, if they wanted, a fictional president.
Nearly everyone ended up favoring a made-up president rather than one of the 43 we've had in real life. A few people cast their votes for the alien-fighting Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman in Independence Day) or the hapless Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove).
The overwhelming choice was the president who is currently in his final weeks in office: Josiah Bartlet. Of course, this is really The West Wing's Martin Sheen, but with President Bartlet's second term (and the television show it embodies) coming to an end in May, I've been thinking about our contemporary situation.
Why do so many love Bartlet? The West Wing has always been a bit of a liberal fantasyland. When the show premiered in 1999, Bartlet was instantly better than real-life President Clinton. And when President Bush took office, the fantasy only grew. While 9/11 never happened on The West Wing, the Bartlet administration has weathered crisis after crisis for seven years. In Bartlet's America, terrorists are caught and social policies aren't sold to the highest bidder. College tuition is tax-deductible, and the president cooperates with, rather than impedes, investigations into his non-disclosure of a medical condition.
The show was formally cancelled this month, but preparations for its end started last year with the introduction of potential successors: a young and eager Democratic congressman played by Jimmy Smits and a senior Republican senator with John McCain-like qualities played by Alan Alda. Both have merits, but neither would live up to their predecessor.
But preempting a potential Hawkeye administration, ABC served up another fictional president last fall with its freshman show Commander in Chief. In this show, Geena Davis' character Mackenzie Allen is elevated from the vice-presidency by virtue of the president's sudden death. "Hooray," the ABC promotions told viewers to shout at the prospect of not only a female president, but one who is independent of party to boot.
Commander in Chief, to be short, is a horrid program, wholly bereft of the nuance and elegance of The West Wing. What bothers me is not the many burdensome scenes of President Allen's live-in (yes, at the White House) mother, husband and three children (one of whom will undoubtedly be kidnapped when Commander in Chief plagiarizes one of The West Wing's more famous plots) dealing with the ramifications of her presidency on her social life.
No, what troubles me about Commander in Chief is that it is an awful show about an awful president. Allen understands very little about presidential power. In an early episode, she attempted to pardon a death-row inmate about to be executed in Texas, clearly an error by the show's writers. Were it a real scenario, Allen's actions would have been a flagrant abuse of the scope of the Oval Office. More recently, the Allen administration has been making decisions so dangerous that they seem like one of Dick Cheney's nightmares. In a recent two-episode arc about a damaged U.S. submarine off the coast of North Korea, a repeatedly botched rescue mission succeeds only after Allen promises to give the North Korean government $500 million as well as a public apology for the espionage. I shudder to think what she might do if North Korea launched a nuclear missile.
Bartlet, meanwhile, recently averted a nuclear meltdown in California without letting his bureaucracy spin out of hand into a Katrina-like disaster.
Is Commander in Chief supposed to be a subtle hint at a possible Hillary Clinton presidency? If so, the show's producers are doing a great disservice to the junior senator from New York. However, my conclusion from this program is not that any woman is incapable of being president, but that Geena Davis most certainly is.
The two presidents remaining-one real and one fictional-after Jed Bartlet leaves office May 14 are unfortunate alternatives. Those of us lamenting the end of the Bartlet administration may be trapped in a liberal fantasyland, but at least it's worth our real-life aspirations."
Transcript from National Public Radio program On the Media.
From the Santa Paula Times:
"In a move not completely unexpected, NBC cancelled “The West Wing” with the last episode airing May 14… but that doesn’t mean that Santa Paula favorite son presidential candidate Senator Arnold Vinick still won’t face off against the Democratic challenger, and maybe even win.“This may be good news for Santa Paula, since Alan Alda’s character Sen. Vinick may be elected President after all if Alda does not have to continue in the role after this season,” City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz wrote in the city blog. “Stay tuned….
As things go in the world of television series, the announcement that NBC was casting Rep. Santos – played by Jimmy Smits – children, his election to president seemed to be in the bag, but with the show’s term limits looming now anything is possible.
The winner of more than two-dozen Emmy Awards, “The West Wing” is in its seventh season and until recent years was among the highest rated programs on television, although the cancellation “wasn’t entirely unexpected,” noted Krause. “Ever since we started following the chatter on entertainment Web sites this summer,” there have been indications that the show – which was switched for its traditional Wednesday night slot to less friendly Sunday - was coming to an end.
“It was worse for viewers, they couldn’t find it,” and when they could it was frequently preempted for other shows. Cancelled or not, Krause doesn’t hold out much hope that Vinick was headed for the White House: “Based on the campaign being run this year, suddenly his staff is not nearly as smart as they were last season,” and campaign issues seem to favor Rep. Santos in general.
Bobkiewicz, whose next goal is to actually bring Vinick to Santa Paula for a hometown visit and perhaps a stop at his Depot campaign headquarters with a welcoming SPHS marching band, has been planning another event around “The West Wing” episode where the presidential election is decided… stay tuned indeed."
From the Ventura County Star:
"That pride and quest for positive spin explains the connection to NBC's "West Wing" and Arnie Vinick, the Republican presidential candidate played by Alan Alda. Two city leaders were watching an episode in which Vinick said he came from a citrus town in California. They decided that he meant Santa Paula.
Vinick was adopted as a favorite son in a campaign that won the show's support and brought CNN to the mayor's office. Now the show is being canceled. But some in Santa Paula still see a glass that's not empty but is instead brimming with orange juice.
"We think our chances of winning have doubled," said Chamber of Commerce Manager Ken Brookes, referring to the odds of Vinick winning the presidency on a show that makes no pretense of its Democratic roots. "Our chances of winning have gone from 1 percent to 2 percent.""
From the Salt Lake City Weekly:
"NBC has, however, canceled The West Wing after seven seasons; the series finale will air during May Sweeps. Spoiler: The GOP’s Arnold Vinick will be elected president and, in one last hyper-dramatic rejection of all things Republican, America will be engulfed in flames of hellfire as Vinick sprouts horns and laughs maniacally, “They’re all Red States now!”"
From Valley Advocate:
"I'm sadder about The West Wing , which has done some nice work over the last season-and-a-half reminding us that Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda are two of the better television actors of the last 30 years. That said, I don't think anyone really believed that under the best of conditions the show had the creative juice to make it past the first year or two of the Smits/Alda regime. I'm at peace with its demise, though I'm sad in general about the death of John Spencer, whose portrayal of Leo McGarry was one of the great pieces of television art of the last 15 years."
From The Sccotsman:
"'I'M PULLING a Seaborn." This was the oft-heard excuse at my American university for staying up all night before a term paper was due: to toil and agonise over what would hopefully become 1,500 eloquent, inspiring words.
"Seaborn" refers to a key character in the Emmy award-winning US TV drama The West Wing: President Josiah Bartlett's Deputy Communications Director, played by Rob Lowe. He was everything my fellow students and I hoped to be: eloquent, encyclopaedic, a late-night crammer, very good looking. The West Wing debuted on TV during my first year at university, at a time when it was actually reasonable to think that gaining a degree would help you get into politics (and every first-year student, save the engineering nerds, thinks they want to get into politics). Huge groups of students watched the show together; episodes were referenced in discussion groups more often than the required reading.
But it wasn't just students who loved it. The West Wing, whose cancellation was announced yesterday by NBC Television, was one of the most successful shows of all time. The final series, to be aired in May, will be its seventh. Its viewing figures were never record-setting: it peaked at 17 million, compared to the current 20 million that Lost is pulling in. But with 19 individual Emmys, including a record four "best-drama" awards in a row, it ranks an impressive eighth among the most decorated drama series of all time.
The show, which tells the story of President Bartlett's presidency through the everyday professional lives of his White House staff, brought to life the inner workings of "inside the beltway" politics. Like Shakespeare's histories, the best West Wing episodes succeed in extracting the inherent drama in politics, illuminating the conspiratorial, often claustrophobic world of the modern-day King's court. Critics immediately applauded the show's tight pacing and gripping dialogue; within two seasons, the show had even spawned a new film-making term - "pedaconferencing" - meaning a shot that would follow two characters down a hallway as they converse, eavesdropping in the corridors of power.
It seems remarkable now, as the MS-afflicted President Bartlett limps to the end of his final presidential term, and President Bush swaggers and smiles his way through his, that The West Wing was first conceived as a true-to-life dramatisation of the inner workings of the White House. But it was; that parallel being the cause of its success - and, later, its downfall.
President Bill Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar from Little Rock, Arkansas, was the model for President Bartlett, a brainy but down-to-earth economics professor from New Hampshire. Clinton was famous for corralling his young, Ivy League-educated staff into late-night brainstorming meetings over beer and pizza. So, too, would Bartlett's staff foresake sleep and formalities in service of the President. Bartlett's staffers, like Clinton's, were smart, engaged, unashamedly serious, but also attractive and likeable. The West Wing characters were what would have become of the Friends characters if they hadn't chosen to move to New York and bum around a coffee shop for ten years. "The show is what viewers hope life [really] is like in The West Wing, because these are all good people, trying to do the right thing," said actress Alison Janney (West Wing Press Secretary CJ) of the Clinton administration at the time of the show's debut. "And from the people I've personally met in The West Wing, I would say that we're right on track."
The show's plots also received recognition for their accuracy. Critics admired its willingness to address real-life political issues, from the headlines (terrorism, abortion) to the backpage (federal budgets, squabbles with Congress). And although Bartlett's administration is reliably liberal (Republicans branded it 'The Left Wing'), it was a tough brand of liberalism, hardened by political realities. In one episode, Bartlett denies clemency to a death-row inmate. In another, he orders an airstrike on the Middle East.
The verisimilitude was intentional. The show's celebrated creator and chief writer, Aaron Sorkin, hired a host of Washington insiders to consult on the show. One, Eli Attie, was a speechwriter for Al Gore. Script consultant Kenneth M Duberstein was a chief of staff to Reagan.
One of Barlett's most inspirational speeches, about the Cold War race to the moon ("we gazed up to the sky and with outstretched fingers touched the face of God"), was lifted directly from one of Reagan's.
The problem with investing your stake in real-life politics, however, is that real-life politics change, and not always in ways you can successfully script. Within a year [of the first episode], President Bush and his hawks were perched in office, casting an altogether different shadow on The West Wing. The show has struggled to adapt. When the whole of America shifted even further right after September 11, the show's creators were suddenly in new and unfamiliar territory. The tensions showed in the cast first. Rob Lowe, around whom the show had been conceived, quit in protest over the trivialisation of his character. Tensions were not helped by the tendency of the actor playing the fictional president, Martin Sheen, to outspokenly criticise everything the real president did.
Two seasons later, inevitably, writer and co-creator Sorkin left the show. His resignation followed a series of embarrassments, including an arrest for possession of cocaine and hallucinogenic mushrooms, but was just as likely the result of his reluctance to adapt his far-left political writing to the current political climate. In a final blow, John Spencer, the actor who played Leo McGarry, died unexpectedly of a heart attack just a few weeks ago.
By the fourth season, TV analysts were predicting the show's demise with all the gloom of Democratic pollsters in the South. The show's viewing figures had slipped to eight million. That The West Wing continued into its seventh series is testament both to the respect it gained among NBC executives and its devoted audience of wealthy, left-leaning viewers. Alas, they are the minority. America is now Bush country; there is no room for Bartlett.
For me and my university friends, the show's demise only highlights what we began to suspect after September 11 and what led most of us to give up on a future in politics: most of us cannot bear too much reality. Witness Reality TV, which is anything but real.
As real life becomes more complicated and scary, the desire to escape grows stronger. Is it any coincidence that the current hit US TV show dealing with a horrific air crash is not a thoughtful examination of the aftermath of September 11, but a fantastical tale of a plane wreck far, far away?
TV has always offered escape, a great expanse through a small box. Early episodes of The West Wing were bold in that the great expanse it imagined was the scope of the human imagination itself. Now The West Wing leaves us. Will the public even notice? Probably not. They're Lost on an island. God help us."
From the Daily Breeze:
" The right's persistent gripes over Hollywood's political agenda hit a new peak in 1999 with NBC's debut of "The West Wing." The White House drama was created by Aaron Sorkin, whose 1995 film "The American President" amounted to a two-hour attack on evil Republicans.
Sure enough, Sorkin's TV show, like his movie, starred a brilliant, courageous Democratic president. Like the Democratic president then actually in office, Jed Bartlett (played by Martin Sheen) was both a policy wonk and deeply empathetic with regular folks. But when Bartlett lied, it was to cover up his multiple sclerosis, not a tawdry dalliance with an intern.
Yet a funny thing happened that made the show palatable to a lot more than just left-wing partisans. "The West Wing" came across not as a celebration of Democrats' purported moral superiority but a rebuke of both Clintonian ethical lapses and triangulation and politics in general. For all their flaws, Bartlett and his staff were deeply idealistic. In a time of cynicism, this had no small appeal -- the idea that the people we trust to run the country actually had their hearts in the right places.
Yes, over the past seven years, there has been occasional gratuitous Republican-bashing -- the casting of James Brolin as a thick-witted, callous GOP presidential nominee quickly comes to mind. But by and large that original, endearing idealism remains intact. For this reason alone, we lament the recent announcement that "West Wing" had been canceled.
As for Republicans' griping about unflattering portrayals by Hollywood, well, they have fresh fodder. The president on Fox's smash hit "24" is a spineless, soulless Richard Nixon lookalike who keeps his spunky wife drugged. This isn't what one might expect from the network that brought us Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity."
From UK writer William Gallagher:
"Until one night when I'd been staying away from home and was now coming back. Numbed with boredom, I was on a coach and Battlestar was on a disc rather than a tape. It was the only thing I could watch on my PowerBook. Still didn't rush to do it, but when I gave in and popped headphones on, I was won over completely by a strong percussion soundtrack that kicked in a few minutes into the show. It was striking, it wasn't science-fictiony, and it had that rumbling power that drums do.
I might not have recommended it to you right then, but that was the start for me and I can now only think of one other show where this won-over start is so specifically clear to me. It's The West Wing pilot and this exchange in Leo McGarry's room:
I'm just saying, isn't this more of a military area?
You think the United States is under attack from 1,200 Cubans in rowboats?
I'm not saying I don't like our chances.
Watching the pilot again, as I have many times, I'm surprised that it took so long: there are superb lines before this. More, friends with Sky One had recommended it many, many times; I should've listened to them. But I didn't have to watch until Channel 4 took it so I didn't. And there you go. I type that lot out for you and I see myself sitting at a BBC Ceefax newsroom desk in the White City building, wearing headphones and shaking with laughter through trying to be quiet.
It's too easy to say the show became an obsession, but what else is it? I am and always have been a proponent of the one-hour television drama, I think it's staggeringly powerful and terribly wasted but even I get worn down. And then you find a series that shows you why you love the medium. The West Wing was one of those and I ate it up for four years, cajoling Channel 4's PR people to please let me have tapes even earlier than usual, plugging it on Ceefax every week.
Also buying the script books. (There's a good one with a selection from the first and second seasons, there's a much better one with the third and fourth.)
But as I've said in the UK DVD Review podcast, when creator Aaron Sorkin left the show after the fourth season, it stepped off a cliff. Many people have emailed me since to say that it had picked up, that the fifth was bad but the sixth was pretty good.
Now today we learn that the current, seventh run will be the last and I'm feeling old. It seems a shame to kill it because of falling ratings when one of the biggest reasons for that fall is that the show was moved to another night, but there you go. As clearly as I remember watching the first episode, I remember thinking that some day the show will lose its strength and I'll go off it. I just didn't expect it so quickly.
Anyway, if you have a glass near you, can you raise it to the memory of The West Wing: The First Four Years? And there's a particularly smart article about the end of the show on BBC News Online: I'm biased because I am quoted extensively in it, but I also think it's a very thorough piece of work."
From The Times:
"What The West Wing managed to do was put the drama back into politics when voters in both America and Britain are deeply alienated by the entire political process. British television writers have done a superb job of lampooning politics with Yes, Minister and The New Statesman, but The West Wing attempted something far harder: to make legislation and administrative bureaucracy into soap opera, to take television drama out of the hospital, squad car and courtroom, and place it in a bunch of offices (with, admittedly, rather good furniture) inside one large Georgian house. Rather than focus on the political collision of Left and Right, the series concentrated on the leaking and spinning, the internal decisions, confusions and compromises that are the warp and weft of political power. This was a series about “the art of the deal, and the thrill of the motorcade”.
It worked because politics has historically produced some of the best stories about the human condition, the nature of honour, ambition and loyalty. Politics offers stark moral choices, and thus the best drama, as Shakespeare understood.
President Bartlet tackled the crucial issues week after week: genocide, terrorism, drugs policy, capital punishment and war, while simultaneously wrestling with human frailties and complex moral choices, his own flawed character and illness, and the frailties of his courtiers.
Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the earliest and best episodes of The West Wing, once described his job as “telling stories about kings and their palaces”, the ancient tradition of saga-telling. Bartlet was always the wise king, enthroned in splendour in his white palace, all-powerful but at one with his subjects. The West Wing gave the glow of virtue back to the presidency when it badly needed shoring up: here was a president who could keep his trousers on (unlike Clinton) and quote Latin verse (unlike Bush). Bartlet’s election came, culturally, just in time.
The series was saved from sanctimony by self-mockery, a knack for bringing its holy characters down to earth with a bump. In one early episode, Sam and Josh, spin-doctor and deputy chief of staff, are walking and talking breathlessly down one of the West Wing’s endless corridors, looking purposeful and important. Then they stop.
Sam: Where are you going?
Josh: Where are you going?
Sam: I was following you.
Josh: I was following you. (Pause.) All right, don’t tell anyone this happened, OK?
The West Wing forgot where it was going a few series ago. Like any US administration, the initial energy began to pall; a few of the stars quit (Sam, Rob Lowe), or died (Leo, John Spencer). By the end of his term in office, Bartlet was a lame duck, and so was the series. After 131 episodes, it is time for a change of regime.
America produces the worst television in the world but also, very occasionally, the best. The West Wing was one of those entertainments that changed the landscape by dumbing-up, reminding viewers that politics, ludicrous and corrupt though it is, can also be funny, thoughtful and important.
Farewell President Bartlet, the best leader America never had."
Quote from Jay Leno on the Tonight Show:
"Some sad news — NBC has canceled "The West Wing."... That's when you know things are bad — when even fictional Democrats aren't doing well. Can't even get elected on TV anymore."
From TV Gal at Zap2It:
"I'll miss the Oval Office drama (which has been on a creative high this season), but the good news is that the end of the show should bring a much desired conclusion to the Donna and Josh relationship (you don't want to be near me if the series ends and those two aren't together). And word is that they've approached Rob Lowe to return for the final episode. As so many of you have pointed out, Sodapop would make a fabulous Vice President."
"Wingnut: A fan of the Aaron Sorkin political drama TV series The West Wing.
I love The West Wing. I'm not fanatical or anything. I don't collect trading cards, action figures or go to the conventions dressed as one of the characters on the show (if I did go, it would be as Reporter #3). As I have said many times before, I like good stories, good writing and good acting. I'd take that over dancing or skating with the has-beens any day. I guess I'm in that minority of people who like the current story line where we not only see the inner workings of the Bartlet (Martin Sheen) White House, but also the behind-the-scenes activities of the Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Vinick (Alan Alda) campaigns. I also looked forward to a new president being elected, a transition period and a new administration going through its first 100 days. I also would want to see which actors would stay with the show and who would move on. You can imagine that I was disappointed to hear that NBC announced that they were not going to bring the show back next season. This news didn't exactly come as surprise, but I was still hopefully optimistic that the show would continue with a new administration. The network cited low ratings caused by the show moving to Sunday nights. I'd say move the show back to Wednesday!
This is what I'd like to see happen in the remaining episodes. Bartlet is able to broker peace between Russia and China over Kazakhstan, thus ending his presidency on a high note and securing his legacy. Bartlet's good press only helps fellow Democrat Santos win the election and as his final presidential act he pardons Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) for his role in the military shuttle leak. The show will deal with the loss of actor John Spencer (Leo McGarry). The show's executive producer, John Wells, recently told the L.A. Times that he has been writing the two-part episode (airing April 2nd) in which Leo will die of a heart attack five days before the election. 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. Since I want to see Santos win, I think that it would be very cool if Santos, on Josh Lyman's (Bradley Whitford) recommendation, appoints Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) as vice president. We will see what happens when the series final episode airs on May 14th.
Finally, to the critics and the critical. I respect those who feel that the show jumped the shark when Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme left the series or even when Rob Lowe left because it was no longer the show that you fell in love with. I also respect those conservatives who may not agree with the show's political point of view but like me value good stories, good writing and good acting. To those who like to refer to the show as The LEFT Wing but could never give me a reason as to why they call it that, I'd like to remind them of what I said in my article, "There are no stupid TV shows, just.... Okay some are stupid":
It's sad that now when someone sees a show that they don't like because they don't understand it or it conflicts with their beliefs, they can easily dismiss the show as stupid. I can't forgive that type of thinking. It's not the show that's stupid.
To quote Leo McGarry: There are two things in the world you never want people to see how you make them - laws and sausages.
Would network programming count as number three?Stay tuned."
From the Modesto Bee:
"It's official, NBC is shutting down "The West Wing," which I find totally tragic. Part of the excitement in watching this season's presidential election story line was in the idea that we're watching the show's writers decide who will star in the drama next season.
Instead of the promise of a whole new White House helmed by Alan Alda or Jimmy Smits, there will be a great big nothing.
Knowing the whole election is a dead end totally takes the steam out of the remaining shows. Now, who cares which wanna-be politico character wins? It's like watching the entire football season, only to find out come playoff time that the Super Bowl was abolished."
From Monday, January 23rd's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on MSNBC:
"Finally, 0 sad note for fans of NBC‘s “The West Wing.” The network canceling a critically acclaimed political drama just before there‘s a new man is to play, as it reads on Martin Sheen‘s stationery, the acting president of the United States. Viewers will find out who wins the election between the characters played by Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits even if they never actually see them serve.
As for the current seven season occupant of the White House he‘s poetically stoic about the show‘s demise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: It‘s been a beautiful, beautiful grace-filled happy run. I‘m mixed—I have great mixed feelings about it. It‘s hard to let go off and yet it must be let go of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And there‘s all that stationery."
From the Daily Herald:
"West Wing' clipped
If only changing administrations was as easy in real life as it is on TV.
NBC announced that it's canceling "The West Wing" after seven seasons, with a special finale and one-hour retrospective on May 14.
NBC keeps saying the show is leaving after seven "hallmark" seasons, but I think it was more like four hallmark seasons, two is-that-show-still-on seasons and one wait-wait-it's-good-again-but-nobody-cares-anymore season."
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
" I first found out about the end of "West Wing's" seven-year run when readers started e-mailing me the Associated Press story.
"How can this be?" wailed one reader.
"This is the only way I've stayed sane through the last seven years," cried another.
Granted, these were e-mails, not voice-mails. You could argue that I didn't know for sure that they were crying or wailing, but that would just mean you're not a "West Wing" fan, and I think we could rattle off quite a list of our other differences, you and I, just from knowing that one little fact standing between us, don't you? Let's not set a match to the bridge we've been building all these months.
Soon after the reader e-mails started pouring in, two of our kids weighed in. Not just any two kids, but two of the really grown ones, the husband and wife whose lives are devoted entirely to helping America's workers and those in need.
Except, of course, when "The West Wing" is on.
Their world, they assured me in separate e-mails, would never be the same. They even asked me to sign an online petition urging NBC to reconsider its decision.
I logged on to see what our young beloveds wrote on the petition, and I must say I was more than a tad surprised to discover that both of them wrote longer notes to total strangers than we've gotten from them in quite some time. I'm not saying this hurt my feelings or anything, but I did have to fight the urge to tell them, "Martin Sheen isn't really our president.
Some things you can't take back, though, and I knew that would be one of them. Every family has its rules, and one of ours is that we never, ever admit that "The West Wing" is make-believe.
In fact, it was I who wrote in this very space on Dec. 9, 2002, "If Martin Sheen isn't really our president, please don't tell me because it's the only way I sleep at night."
Maybe it's for the best that "West Wing" is shutting down. After all, President Bartlet is near the end of his second term, and while I was warming up to the idea of Jimmy Smits taking his place, I was getting mighty worried about his opponent.
He's played by Alan Alda: Mr. Sensitivity, Mr. Feminist, Mr. Man I Hoped to Clone and Marry One Day when I was in college.
He's Mr. Front-runner on the show. Mr. Conservative.
How much change must a woman endure?"
"Spurred by plunging approval numbers and his failure to produce for the American people, the president’s term will come to an early and untimely end on May 14. It seems that the public has had its fill of liberal fantasy-land President Josiah Bartlet.
“The West Wing,” cancelled after seven seasons on NBC, has been a safe haven for those who can’t bear the reality that somewhere, out there, large groups of Americans have elected and re-elected George W. Bush. Some say that the show actually mirrored real life in D.C. and they may be correct. After all, sometimes it’s easier to accept that Alan Alda is a Republican senator than say, Arlen Specter.
But Josiah Bartlet isn’t the only fantasy president cooked up by liberals. There is apparently, another Commander in Chief, and I don’t mean Geena Davis. This president, far from acting in the nation’s best interests, is alternately portrayed as a Constitution-hating dictator, an exploitive warmonger, a greedy capitalist, a scheming theocrat, and Adolph Hitler.
Yet they are sure that GOP corruption goes straight to the top. Their proof? Photos of President Bush with the dastardly Abramoff. Imagine that; a man photographed thousands of times a year poses with a big party donor. Wonder what they would think if he was snapped with sleazy drug dealers, Red Chinese bag men, or lascivious interns?
But at least liberals have one thing going for them, as their ranks may soon increase. It looks like all those who ran for the border in 2004 to escape the dreaded reign of the Prince of Darkness and Kennebunkport will be flocking south like so many Canadian geese as conservatives have now recaptured the Great White North.
When does “The West Wing” go into syndication?"
"Who knew watching -- and talking about -- the government could be so much fun? The Bartlet era -- and The West Wing series itself -- will come to an end at the conclusion of the seventh season. They both deserve a very special eulogy.
And by "special" I do not mean an unqualified homage. As it was for many others, my intimacy with the show for so many years reflected a very complex relationship. The narrative of that relationship progressed something like this ...
1) Love at first soundbite. Or, more accurately, love at first rapid-fire conversation about a real political issue while hustling down a non-descript glass-infused hallway. Are these people really talking about drilling in ANWAR and making it compelling TV? What alternative universe have I just entered?
2) Feeling smothered. Did that episode just end with every major character saying, "I serve at the pleasure of the President!" The line was extra-cheesy the first time -- and then they just kept pouring it on ..
3) Admiration and respect, even if the love is waning. At a protest against the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., according to my activist father's eyewitness report, Martin Sheen actually stands up in front of the crowd, points to that breeding ground of human rights violators and says, "As President of the United States, I order you to shut the School down!"
4) Enjoying each other's presence -- maybe because we haven't had kids. There has never been and never will be a West Wing spin-off. After several years, no one has even tried to imitate it. It has not influenced TV as much as transcended it. Having said that, did Josh just scream at the Capitol? (10 jump-the-shark votes)
5) Needing space. Somewhere in Season 5 I stopped watching (as, it seems, many others did as well). The thrill was gone. I no longer left the show's presence feeling invigorated. For a show that, whatever its failings, never failed to take my breath away each week, this was devastating.
6) Making nerdy eye contact across aisles of political biography at a used bookstore. OK, you definitely changed your look (you are taller -- more Latino?) -- but you've found your inner political geekiness again. Jimmy Smits drew me back, but it was Josh and the writing in episode 11 of Season 6 (Opposition Research) that made me understand all that I missed.
7) Can't live without you. Don't go. It was during the West Wing era that I became an HBO addict. I was excited by where The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and The Wire could take us. I got used to looking down scornfully at broadcast TV -- no risk-taking, cookie-cutter characters, and all the lame, cliched story arcs. There were, of course, exceptions. But few shows dare to present us with something we've proven unable to create for ourselves: good government -- and a president who, on most days, we're eager to serve. The idealism, corny as it may have been at times, truly will be missed."
From the Guardian:
"Westminster has been rocked by the news that broke over the weekend. No one can quite believe it. We are all in shock. But it's true.
The West Wing is to be axed.
The West Wing is every MP's favourite show. It transports us to a world we can only dream about, and which only Tony Blair gets to visit. And when we switch off the telly we are returned, with a bump, to the prosaic nature of Westminster politics.
nd the thorny question of the Lib Dem leadership election.
The Lib Dems' predecessor, the SDP, fragmented and disappeared because of a crisis in its leadership.
The SDP diaspora found homes in all three parties. It may be that the Lib Dems will go the same way.
Like the SDP, they have talented politicians who are too good to lose from front-line politics. There is a home for some of them in the Conservative party.
They know who they are. That would make things interesting. But not as interesting as the West Wing."
From the Independent Florida Alligator:
"That "The West Wing" was a brilliant show for several years has always seemed to me a self-evident truth.
But "The West Wing" is (was?) more than just a quality program. It was centered on politics, yes, but plenty of shows have had political themes or have dealt in some way with current events. "The West Wing's" underlying left-wing philosophy was obvious and undeniable. On rare occasions it was also quite heavy-handed.
But the show transcended its liberal ideology in large part because of extraordinary writing, which enabled brilliant performances from an ensemble cast. Artistic appreciation cuts across all partisan barriers. Brilliance is brilliance, whether the message is liberal or conservative.
It's how liberals who love the English language can consider George Will's columns a twice-weekly treasure chest. It's how they cherish Peggy Noonan's work or Ronald Reagan's brilliant oration after the Challenger explosion.
But artistic excellence, though an admirable end in and of itself, is not usually enough to grab hold of our imaginations. Great writing, great acting, great directing - we understand these things and appreciate them intellectually, but memories aren't always formed intellectually.
In a post-Vietnam War, post-Watergate age when government gives us so many reasons to be cynical, we can never believe that there are decent politicians. We've long since stopped demanding elite behavior from our leaders, and as a result they've long since stopped even pretending to exhibit it.
But then we had this show, an incredibly unrealistic drama where intelligent, idealistic, dedicated men and women avoided being corrupted by power.
We had this show where serious men used serious words to discuss serious problems.
We had this show where language was treated as a sublime instrument, designed to uplift our spirits, not crush them with the sheer, overwhelming banality of regurgitated talking points.
It was a show written by Hollywood liberals who loved and respected their country enough to expect greatness out of even fictional politicians.
For all the eloquence, the erudite vocabulary and the sophisticated themes, "The West Wing" proudly displayed an idealism so complete as to be breathtaking. How could these perfectly intelligent writers living in the most cynical region of a cynical country maintain such an abiding faith in American politics?
That irrational dream fed the creative energy of one of the few shows that actually left its audience feeling more energetic during the ending credits than the opening ones. The energy and idealism inspired by "The West Wing" will shape American culture long after its May departure."
From the Wisconsin State Journal:
"We all knew that Jeb (sic) Bartlet couldn't remain president forever and that, sooner or later, "The West Wing" would close its doors.
But did it have to happen now, now at a time when we need the essential decency and high-mindedness of the Bartlett administration more than ever?
Well, yes, I suppose it did. "The West Wing" is a television show and television shows rise and fall by ratings. The producers didn't even wait for the Democrats to be voted out of office.
But, at a time when the real Washington, D.C., is beset by scandals here, scandals there and Karl Rove promising another campaign in which the alternatives are an imperial president or horrifying, terrible mass destruction at the hands of the enemy, it has been nice to see the fictional Washington operate with some sense of integrity.
If you're a "West Wing" fan, you know that it's not just the Democrats who come off looking good on the show. Bartlett (sic) and his staff are Democrats, of course. They seem reminiscent of what the Clinton White House might have been had it lived up to its highest values.
But Republicans generally came off pretty well, too. Remember when John Goodman became acting president for a few episodes? He had a Barry Goldwater toughness and reversed most of Bartlett's feel-good policies - but he did so fairly and out of conviction. The viewer could at least consider the merits of the policies he espoused.
Likewise, Alan Alda, the current GOP presidential candidate on the show, is presented as a man of conviction with serious proposals that, at least, merit consideration from the viewer.
We'd like to think that's the way the real Washington operates and that all the things we read about in the headlines are mere aberrations. I used to think that was true.
However, I'm increasingly convinced that Lord Acton was right, that power corrupts and the more power you amass, the more corrupt you become. The real difference between the Republican scandals of today and the Democratic scandals of yesterday is that Republicans have all the power today. Sooner or later, we'll kick them out and then Democrats will have the power and will use it badly.
I know that sounds cynical. It is cynical. But it's part of the genius of our political system.
"The West Wing" was an antidote to that cynicism. It posited a fairy-tale world in which the corruption of power was, in the end, thwarted by decent politicians who put country ahead of self, at least most of the time. The show never pretended the politicians were always right - but it did contend they were usually decent.
I'm going to miss that insight, even though I doubt that it reflected reality."
From the Jewish World Review:
"The West Wing is about to be demolished. No, not the edifice that is home to White House senior staff, but the television series that has aired on NBC since 1999. This week, NBC announced that the last episode will air on May 14.
Like many viewers, I tuned out long ago. When Bill Clinton was still in office, there was something mildly amusing about the Hollywood fantasy version of what a White House should be. Josiah Bartlet was everything Bill Clinton wasn't: a devoted husband, a man who got down on his knees in the Oval Office only to pray, a leader who'd rather lose an important vote than compromise his principles. But the series became tedious, the liberal proselytizing more aggressive, and the premise ridiculous once George W. Bush assumed office. The series has been on life support for several seasons, with every effort to revive the excitement first generated seven years ago failing. Not even the prospect of heartthrob Jimmy Smits (Congressman Matt Santos) becoming president has been enough to woo back an audience.
With "West Wing" gone, Hollywood fantasies of wresting control of the White House from evil Republicans will have to rely on the staying power of ABC's "Commander In Chief." But Geena Davis as President Mom is a pretty thin reed. Although the show premiered to record ratings in September, it's been losing ground almost steadily since. Conservatives have criticized President Mackenzie Allen as a fictional stalking horse for Hillary Rodham Clinton, but Davis' President Allen may actually set back the chances of a woman becoming commander in chief any time soon. Do we really want our president grappling with teenage angst and sibling rivalry in the middle of the War on Terror?
The show's creators seem not to realize that most women have long ago given up trying to have it all. Sure, working moms are now the norm, but the evidence suggests that most women who make it to the very top of their professions do so either after they have raised their children or chosen to remain childless. It's hard to balance work and family, even harder to balance becoming the boss in the workplace while maintaining the role of involved mom at home, and nigh impossible to manage a nuclear crisis while supervising the kids' homework.
But Hollywood keeps trying to remake the world in its own image, even if it doesn't sell to the viewing audience. And it's not just political shows that fall flat. NBC's new series "The Book of Daniel" has not only flopped in the ratings battle, it has scared off viewers and sponsors with its in-your-face iconoclasm. The main character, the Rev. Daniel Webster, played by Aidan Quinn, is a pill-popping Episcopal priest with a gay son, a drug-dealing daughter and an alcoholic wife. Jesus -- more of the Jesus Christ Superstar variety than a biblical interpretation -- makes regular appearances on the show to dispense Dr. Phil-type advice, but He, too, seems aimed more at irritating than attracting believers to the show. At a press conference with NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly this week, one TV critic noted that a recent episode ran virtually without ads: "Your commercial breaks were a festival of NBC promos; I think you had maybe one national ad in the whole show. Can you afford to keep putting that show on, or have these pressure groups . . . driven off literally all the advertisers?" A better question might be whether network executives are willing to air shows that drive viewers away if it suits their political agenda.
Hollywood used to try to entertain Americans, now it tries to indoctrinate them. And it has had some success. Shows like "Will & Grace" have made homosexuality appear non-threatening, indeed endearing, for example, advancing as well as reflecting greater tolerance toward gays. But the last four federal elections suggest Hollywood has yet to convince a majority of voters that Republicans are all simple-minded, greedy autocrats. They keep trying anyway, failing to advance their politics at the polls and losing viewers all the while. Maybe one day, they'll get back to trying to win audiences, not elections."
Scripps Howard News Service:
" It was often said that the TV series "The West Wing" was the Clinton administration the way Hollywood wished it would be. As it is, the series outlasted the presidency it was presumably based on by five years, but the May 14 episode will be the last.
Seven seasons is a good, long run, almost two full presidential terms. The show was intelligent political drama, leavened with lightning-quick _ and highly improbable _ dialogue, and taking place in a West Wing, where the president has his offices, not remotely like the real thing. But who cared?
Initially, "West Wing" had a huge following in Washington. At a White House correspondents' dinner early in the show's run, the actors playing President Bartlet, press secretary C.J., speechwriter Toby and chief of staff Leo attracted more attention than their for-real counterparts.
From the outset, the show had its faults _ the characters wore their idealism on their sleeves; it was prone to a preachy approach to issues; and it was suffused with a certain liberal smarminess. But the show was witty and often dead-on. Political junkies loved it _ not that there are a lot of prime-time political melodramas to choose from.
But like presidencies, the show ran out of steam in its second term, an aura of lame-duckery hovered over it and, in striving for drama and novelty, the show fell prey to that fatal phenomenon known as "jumping the shark."
TV is not real-life, and a good thing for Presidents Clinton and Bush. Presidencies aren't subject to cancellation if their ratings fall low enough."
The Philadalphia Weekly calls NBC a "Goat" saying:
"Cancel The West Wing? Noooo. You can't! We were able to cope only by believing Martin Sheen was our president, and Jimmy Smits his successor."
From Slate (January 27)
"On Tuesday, I proposed trying to reincarnate the canceled NBC series The West Wing by continuing its run on iTunes and pay-per-view cable and satellite. I suggested that there might be enough of us passionate fans willing to pay a few bucks a week to keep the show alive.
NBC, take notice: I got a lot of mail, most of it from people similarly willing to open their wallets. But a lot of them also had suggestions for making my proposal more viable.
Of course, a few people, like Frayster Brian-1, found the notion "absurd." And I freely acknowledge the likelihood of this happening is close to zero. But since we're trying to imagine a plausible scenario for how something like this might happen, let's make it as plausible as possible.
I used TWW's current budget of roughly $6 million per episode as the amount we'd have to pony up. Several of you pointed out that TWW was already poised to jettison much of its cast, along with their relatively high salaries, and replace them with "a new administration." One e-mailer, who works at the show's studio, Warner Bros., and wanted to remain anonymous, suggested that the producers may have been planning to build a fresher, cheaper cast around a President Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and, as the main holdover from the Bartlet administration, Leo McGarry (John Spencer). But Spencer died of a heart attack last month, scuttling that plan, if it ever existed.
Still, I think many TWW fans would be willing to adjust to a new cast, as long as there is Sorkin-esque dialogue and a few holdovers. Hell, they're going to have to replace Leo's character anyway—why not make C.J. Cregg (played by the marvelous Allison Janney) the new V.P. candidate?
Also, continuing the show on iTunes/PPV wouldn't require a full 22-episode season (RM "Auros" Harman pointed out that at $4/episode, a full season would cost more than $80). OK, so make 12 or 10 episodes. Or even six (like British shows do). We're in no position to demand a certain number.
As for how much we'd each have to pay, several of you had good ideas on lowering the cost. Javier Perez, who appears to be writing from Panama, asks: "What about the international viewers of The West Wing? If we can purchase it from iTunes, for a buck or two, then you increased tremendously its cash generating potential." Jon R. Koppenhoefer points out that a pay-per-view model doesn't rule out a sponsor or two placing some form of ad in the download (although it would have to be pretty darned subtle to convince me to pay for the show as well).
And then of course there are DVD sales. Writes David Danzig: "Imagine … 7 million or so fans walking into Blockbuster or Virgin Music to see the 13-episode West Wing Season 9 DVD sitting on the shelf for forty bucks, that they have seen none of. It will fly off the shelves."
But the main points on which most of my e-mailers agreed were 1) absolutely we'd pay for more West Wing; where's the petition? (I'll leave that to someone else.) And 2) we'd be even more willing to pay if creator Aaron Sorkin returned (which isn't going to happen since he's working on a new show, Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip). Needless to say, if TWW is reincarnated in PPV form, I will be more than happy to make it my Pod Pick of the Week"
From Slate (January 24):
"When iTunes began selling episodes of hit NBC shows like Law & Order a few months ago, I kept checking and re-checking the listings. Where was it? Where was the show whose affluent, literate, BlackBerry-toting audience would make it a no-brainer for the new iTunes $1.99 per episode model? Where was The West Wing?
Well, now we know why NBC didn't make its long-running political drama available to the video iPod set: It was getting ready to impeach Josiah Bartlet & Co. On Sunday, NBC announced it was canceling TWW. To those of us who still love the show, even after a few less-than-stellar seasons, it will be remembered as the "Sunday Night Massacre."
In the days since the ax fell, my mind has been running through fanciful scenarios in which the condemned gets a reprieve. NBC television chief Jeff Zucker is ousted in a palace coup. The fictional election in this season's storyline becomes so exciting, audiences flock to it. Pigs fly.
Then a more interesting scenario came to me: Why not continue the series on iTunes and cable/satellite pay-per-view? Make the chronicles of the new administration (whoever wins the fictional election, Matt Santos or Arnold Vinick) a download-only experience. I know it sounds absurd, but stay with me for a moment.
Writing in Slate last year, MIT media analyst Ivan Askwith suggested that dead or dying shows might find an afterlife on iTunes. I can think of no current TV show better placed to blaze this new distribution model than The West Wing.
First, it's a soap opera, meaning it has a cracklike effect on its victims. We must know what happens next, and we're willing to pay for our fix. Two dollars an episode? Sure. Four dollars? Fine, just give me my damn program!
Second, it has seven years of audience equity it can leverage. It's hard to imagine paying for a brand new program online, but it's easy to imagine doing it for a series in which I've invested so much time already.
Third, the audience for this particular soap opera is unusually well-heeled, well-educated and (I strongly suspect) tech-savvy. Hey, a lot of us are already TiVo-ing the show and skipping the commercials. We'd be quite comfortable downloading it as well.
So, what would it take for a pay-per-view-only West Wing to be financially viable? I realize the economics of Hollywood involve more trickery than a Harry Potter movie—as Edward J. Epstein points out regularly in Slate—but here are some basic numbers: The West Wing has about 8 million viewers per week. It costs about $6 million per episode. In other words, if every person who now watches the show paid $1 a week, TWW would more than pay for itself.
Obviously not all 8 million viewers could or would pay for the show. But let's say a quarter of them would. That's 2 million people paying $3 per episode (or maybe $4, throwing in a buck for Steve Jobs and the cable companies). The episodes could be viewed on a PPV channel, downloaded to a DVR, or slurped onto video iPods.
This model would have been absurd a year ago. Now it's completely possible, although admittedly improbable. In the near future, I guarantee it will be happening regularly. Once we realize that we can overrule the lowest-common-denominator decisions of network honchos with a few bucks a week, I think it'll become a habit.
So, what do you say, John Wells? We're standing here, wallets in hand, begging to pay you for the show we love. Will you think about it? Please?"
"When "The West Wing" was at its best, I hated it -- or maybe I hated my boyfriend? Sometimes it's tough to tell the difference. But now that "The West Wing" is about to leave the air, like an irritating but charming houseguest, I feel a little sad to see it go. Maybe my sudden rush of nostalgia springs from the realization that no show about the executive branch is likely to compare to "The West Wing" at its best. "Commander in Chief," for one, makes it all too clear how difficult it is to keep a show like this fresh and interesting for the viewer. Veering into schmaltzy or sentimental territory, revisiting tired old stories everyone's seen before -- the pitfalls of dramatizing the presidency are countless. Looking back on "The West Wing," with its smart, lovable characters -- lovable even when we didn't know that much about them (Toby), or they had the same vague crushes for years and years (Josh and Donna) -- it's tough not to wish they could stick around for a few more years. -- Heather Havrilesky
At its peak, "The West Wing" was Nerd Heaven: You learned how the government worked, that it was corrupted but could be saved. You learned Gilbert & Sullivan arcana (Rob Lowe's character was especially useful on this point). You learned that the president can learn to be a better dad, and that high-powered Washington feminists sometimes go home to sit on the floor in an old pair of jeans and listen to "Astral Weeks" and cry.
All this emotion, all this loving chitter-chatter about the Middle East and the tobacco lobby and the "press corps," was self-evidently the work of one man, perhaps more so than any major television drama in the medium's history. If Aaron Sorkin was really a pothead, that would make sense; the peculiar fugue state marijuana intoxication can produce in a highly driven Type A personality might well result in a meticulous and obsessive universe like that of "The West Wing." When Sorkin left the show, its new "runners" tried to keep the nerdiness intact, but the pull of melodrama -- the polestar toward which all TV inevitably gravitates -- was too strong.
When John Goodman, playing a right-wing Republican House speaker, temporarily became president, someone remembered the right geeky details: He had to resign his congressional seat, because you can't work for two branches of government at the same time. So the scene seemed right, but the impulse driving it had gone all askew. For one thing, I can't remember what crisis had provoked this improbable event, and I don't care. In Sorkin's "West Wing," the details -- the pure force of procedure, Machiavellian as it might be in its short-term operations -- always trumped the melodrama, and there was a kind of Yale debating-club certainty that procedural purity and doctrinal virtue went hand in hand. I don't think this has ever been true in the real world, but it made for reassuring television. As the real executive branch in Washington set out to destroy the constitutional separation of powers and swaddle itself in ever-thicker garments of imperial authority, "The West Wing" tried to follow, dreaming big neocon dreams and inhaling the fumes of terrorist fantasies. So it lost its soul. But then, haven't we all?
-- Andrew O'Hehir
Too close for comfort
"The West Wing" lost me when it became no longer possible, through no fault of its own, for me as an avid television viewer to take pleasure in imagining any kind of White House at all other than the one currently occupied, anything other than a place that had come to symbolize something deeply troubling and perverse. Imagine trying to watch "Hogan's Heroes" in, say, 1944, or, for that matter, for heaven's sake, "The Producers" around the same time. It just is not possible to gain the kind of distance on reality necessary to indulge in an imaginative construct bearing some slight resemblance to perhaps our dreams of what the White House -- a good White House, an interesting, engaged White House full of interesting, engaged people -- might be like. The actual West Wing just totally ruined the show for me.
Sorry, but there are limits. Anybody care to watch, say, a series set in a West Virginia coal mine? It's kinda like that.
-- Cary Tennis
I know it's limp -- but I'm still hooked!
There was a time -- maybe in the show's first or second season, back when the people from the Emmys still delivered truckloads of golden statues to Aaron Sorkin's shroom-filled room at the Four Seasons -- when it was cool to watch "The West Wing." No longer, of course; the cool cats who like their TV fast and smart long ago moved on to other shows. (I've heard "The O.C." will change your life.) The thing is, not me. Though I know the show long ago went limp -- oh, do I -- I'm still hooked. As far as I can tell, I've never missed a single episode in all seven seasons; indeed, on Sunday, the very day that NBC announced it was canceling the series, I caught up on the latest four episodes, a TiVo-aided marathon of mediocre drama, middling political intrigue and, afterward, a whole lot of guilt.
Why am I still watching? Oh, who knows; addiction's a difficult beast. Intellectually, I can see that the show's been almost completely dull since May 2003, when Sorkin penned his last episode. And if I were truly honest, I'd probably see its fall occurring before then. After all, even during Sorkin's prodigious tenure, the show looked to be going for some kind of record in jumping the shark: an assassination attempt in the first season; the first daughter's kidnapping in the fourth; a sudden, unexpected death to wrap up each of the first three seasons; and the occasional flare-ups of over-the-top pyrotechnics -- Martin Sheen yelling at God in Latin -- that made me embarrassed for Sorkin.
This is going to sound unbearably corny, but here goes. The truth is, watching "West Wing" is palliative; it calms me, bathes me in nostalgia and hope. (I told you it was corny.) Even now --- especially on the occasional episodes by Deborah Cahn, a writer whose style closely resembles Sorkin's; networks, give her a show! -- you can see glimpses of those magical early years, back when Sorkin was in his groove, and the show looked and sounded better than anything else on television (including "The Sopranos"). But watching "West Wing" now doesn't only prompt memories of earlier seasons -- it prompts memories of an earlier season in politics, those mirthful, merry '90s, when the worst thing we had to worry about in our president was a shameful weakness for a girl in a thong.
The show is a fiction, certainly. There isn't a politician in the world like Jed Bartlet, an exceedingly smart, (mostly) honest man with principles, who doesn't govern by politics, who takes counsel from the cooler, calmer heads on his staff, and even from his opponents. Today in politics, you won't find anyone half as good. And that's precisely why I watch: Some people might look at "The West Wing" under the Bush administration as a fantasy. I look at it as a blueprint. We should be so lucky to have a real White House like that. And maybe, one day, we will. Until then, it's nice to have it on TV.
-- Farhad Manjoo
From the Palm Beach Post:
"Too bad. If NBC canceled The West Wing three years ago, I wouldn't have cared. That's when the show was about as riveting as C-SPAN. Seriously, at that time, watching The West Wing was a chore -- like homework. The show had become one long and boring civics lesson on how a bill becomes a law. It got to the point where I taped The West Wing and watched it whenever.
Then came Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits and a juicy presidential election. Suddenly, The West Wing felt like a brand new show. Which, in a sense, it was. Even the writers admitted they were reinvigorated by the new storylines Alda's crafty Arnold Vinick and Smits' idealistic Matt Santos presented.
The last episode is scheduled to air May 14. We'll finally learn who'll be the show's next president after a fascinating, up-close-and-personal campaign. Unfortunately, that new commander-in-chief's term will be way too brief."
From the Journal Times:
"Mark your calendars, “West Wing” fans – or should I say fan? No, that’s not true. In about a second, I can name six people who are big fans of the show.
After May 14, though, it’ll have to be only on DVD. We’ll find out who the new president will be, but then, that’s it. Over. Kaput.
And, sadly, just when the show is good again. It was bad there for a while, but now it’s back to the political idealism, the fast-paced decision making, the drama that it had in the first four seasons.
I’ve been a fan of the show since the second season. For a while, I wanted to go into politics because of “The West Wing.” I watched it faithfully, even when it was bad. And it was pretty bad. When Zoe was rescued from being kidnapped … that season was bad. But I watched."
" A 'West Wing' amendment
During the low points of the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations, how often did you yearn to see fantasy President Josiah Bartlet in charge? Now that "The West Wing" has been relegated to permanent rerun status after seven (mostly) wonderful seasons, we modestly propose the following constitutional amendment: The trauma of impeachment should be replaced by a simple cancellation by network executives."
From New Hampshire's Union Leader:
"In seven years on television, characters on NBC's "The West Wing" mangled the pronunciation of our capital city, rode the railway we don't yet have and sojourned at an impossibly rustic Manchester farm.
Still, for two Presidential terms, New Hampshire residents could take pride in knowing one of their own was occupying the White House. Even if it was only a TV show.
"I'm sad," said Anne Broderick Botteri, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College. "I certainly felt pride watching that show, and I think other people did, too."
As the fictional President, Sheen plays a gruff and hyper-literate economist-turned-politician with deep roots in the Granite State. Though his last name is spelled differently, Sheen's Bartlet is supposed to be a direct descendant of Josiah Bartlett of Kingston, the real-life New Hampshire governor whose name adorns the Declaration of Independence.
"My family signed the Declaration of Independence," Sheen's character once told an aide who questioned his ability to win votes in Middle America. "You think I've got an ethnicity problem?"
In real life, Sheen visited the town of Bartlett, and the Josiah Bartlett Elementary School, to campaign for Democrat Howard Dean in the weeks before New Hampshire's Presidential primary two years ago.
School librarian Jean Garland, who arranged a photograph in which the actor is holding a picture of the real Josiah Bartlett, said the show has actually helped preserve Bartlett's legacy.
"Anything that can bring his name up and make people aware of Josiah Bartlett is great," she said.
In 2001, a Bartlett descendant joined New Hampshire Magazine in a campaign to persuade the show's producers to film certain scenes in New Hampshire. Producers said that would be too expensive.
Instead, the crew went to rural Virginia to film the Bartlet family farm.
"I was very sad," said Ruth Albert, 55, Bartlett's great-great-great-great-granddaughter. "It would have been so fun to have them come to the real house. It would have brought a little more authenticity to the show."
For those willing to look closely, the show did feature a few authentic flourishes. Thanks to New Hampshire Made, a nonprofit organization promoting local products and services, the show's Oval Office set included several locally produced items — namely, a moose mug, a Shaker box and a piece of stoneware pottery.
Although the politics of "The West Wing" were decidedly liberal, the show managed to appeal to New Hampshire Democrats and Republicans alike. Both the state's Democratic Party chairman, Kathy Sullivan, and frequent Republican campaign adviser, Tom Rath, claim to watch the show religiously.
In a way, Rath said, the show may even have bolstered New Hampshire's argument for preserving its first-in-the-nation Presidential primary.
"It made public service interesting, and I think, to me, that's always one of the great values of the New Hampshire primary," he said.
A few inconsistencies aside, residents said the show captured what New Hampshire politics are all about.
"New Hampshire is a land of myth," said Rick Broussard, editor of New Hampshire Magazine. "And 'The West Wing' is, in essence, nothing but a carefully contrived political myth that's designed to — like all myths — impart some truth, impart a little hope and maybe tick a few people off.
"That's really the strength of our state. It gets under people's skin, it gets in their heads and it causes them to dream. Or to scratch."
From the American Daily:
"A big part of any dramatic television show is believability. If we don’t buy that the characters could be real people, we’re switching over to another show. Of course, this doesn’t explain why “60 Minutes” remains popular in spite of the fact that no one knows if Mike Wallace is a real person, but I digress.
This is where I think “The West Wing” started going wrong this season. We’re in the midst of an election year and President Bartlett is not running. Instead, a relatively young Democrat played by Jimmy Smits is running against an older Republican played by Alan Alda. I don’t care how good of an actor Alda is, there’s no way anybody could see him realistically as a Republican, given his other acting roles and his stated political affiliations. That would be like casting me to play Othello or Shaft.
I’m sure there will be some people who will say “The West Wing” and “Commander In Chief” are going off the air because of some vast right wing conspiracy involving Pat Robertson, the Moral Majority, and orbital mind control lasers under the command of a brain in a jar. But the real reason is because the shows didn’t prepare for George W. Bush being a better real life President than Martin Sheen and Geena Davis could pretend to be.
Now if we could only get President Bush to run his lines better on camera…"
From the New York Daily News:
""Was it something we said?"
"Was our live debate that deadly?"
Odds are those thoughts — and other unprintable ones — crossed the craniums of Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits on Sunday, when NBC abruptly pulled the plug on "The West Wing," the White House drama in which they co-star.
Of course, the show's woes, decline and death extend beyond the tale of two presidential hopefuls — Senator Arnold Vinick (Alda) and Congressman Matthew Santos (Smits), whom the actors have played since 2004.
"The West Wing" has been fading for a while — by many accounts since creator Aaron Sorkin left the show. The stories have gone from gripping to slipping. So much so that the fictional folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are getting hammered in the ratings by (gasp) ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
So now the burning question is: How to deliver an unforgettable, blockbuster finale for the once-required-watching show on May 14? Here's a novel idea for television: Be courageous — like "Brokeback Mountain," a movie that's gained buzz and kudos for pushing boundaries.
One of the mottos of that film is, "If you can't fix it, you gotta stand it."
Apparently, NBC figured, "If you can't fix it, you gotta cancel it."
So why not go out with a bang?
Presidential candidates are a good place to start. We get enough of those boring old politicos on CNN and Fox News. "The West Wing" isn't reality TV, it's fantasy TV. So why not unleash some scenarios that will leave mouths agape from the Beltway to (especially) the Bible Belt?
"I wish I knew how to quit D.C.," says Vinick, his face a picture of pain.
"Let's move to Provincetown," says Santos, reaching for a copy of the Advocate. "There's a fabulous bed and breakfast for sale there."
After all, everyone knows politics makes for strange bedfellows.
President Josiah Bartlet
President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) has been questioning his faith since the untimely death of his secretary, Mrs. Landingham, four years ago. Following his departure from the Oval Office, he has a spiritual awakening after a dream in which he is visited by outer space ruler Xenu. Bartlet undergoes a detoxification ritual — ridding his body of negative alien substances — and becomes a Scientologist. As such, not only does he get to hang with John Travolta and Jenna Elfman, but he is guaranteed considerably more money for speaking engagements, couch time on "Oprah" and gets to preside as godfather to the TomKat baby.
Donna & Josh
The time has come to consummate. Seven years of sexual tension between Donna (Janel Moloney) and Josh (Bradley Whitford) is enough already. By the final episode, they are lovahs, to use "Sex & the City" parlance, and done "serving at the pleasure of the President." The two look forward to carving a future as media sluts in the James Carville/Mary Matalin mold. Of course, that requires Donna to become a Republican, but having betrayed the Santos/McGarry campaign before, she is so ready. They debut with George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," but save their best stuff for "Meet the Press," when Donna tells Tim Russert that one late night when she was alone with Jed Bartlet in the Oval Office, he put his finger on the button, if you know what we mean.
So long White House, hello Great White Way! Communications director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff, r.) is imprisoned for being the secret space-shuttle snitch ... and discovers that the jailhouse rocks! He and cellmate Jack Abramoff (far r.) form The Chain Gang, a stage troupe that delights inmates with cautionary tales like "Julius Caesar" and "12 Angry Men." A visit to the prison by troubadour Joaquin Phoenix leads to The Chain Gang's Broadway break: as extras in the musical "Walk the Line." But Abramoff won't settle for a nonspeaking part. He lobbies for star billing, launders funds and ruins careers until he and Ziegler grab the Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane roles in "The Odd Couple."
Chief of staff and former press secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) moves to Hollywood with Danny Concanon (Timothy Busfield), who quits his gig as Washington Post White House correspondent to become a writer for the WB's "One Tree Hill." (Despite their public flirtation on the show, the two have been on-again, off-again since C.J. was a Tinseltown publicist.) And, thanks to her pre-political connections, C.J. and Danny's love child, Dakota Fanning, has become one of the biggest child stars since Shirley Temple.
Charlie & Debbie Fiderer
After that thing with the President's daughter ended, Jed Bartlet's personal aide, Charlie (Dulé Hill), was a little lost and a little lonely. One day, though, his eyes lighted on Debbie Fiderer (Lily Tomlin), Bartlet's private secretary, and the motherless boy felt something: Lust. They kept their affair away from the Oval Office — hence his intermittent appearances of late — but now they're free to cozy up to the card table on the Celebrity Poker circuit. We wish them only royal flushes.
Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe, above r.) rushes from California to the White House for advice on handling a gargantuan media firestorm about to break. Unfortunately, he's at its center. It seems the former deputy communications director, ever the ladies' man, is the actual father of Angelina Jolie's (below r.) baby. It was love at first sight when the covert couple met in Libya a year ago — she was on a U.N. good-will mission, and he was doing "consulting" work for Moammar Khadafy. Conveniently, Jolie was shooting "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" with Brad Pitt at the time, and the actor was chosen as an ideal cover.
Abbey Bartlet (Stockard Channing) is standing in a pale-blue power suit, holding a handful of lush, red roses. "Put these in my office," she instructs a young man. "Yes, the Oval Office. And put some in my husband's room." Abbey, we learn, has ditched medicine for politics and has herself run for President — victoriously. She unseats Mackenzie Allen of "Commander in Chief" in a hard-fought race decided on ethics — or, as she reveals to a writer from Vanity Fair magazine, what's become known as "Sausage-Gate." Turns out, she tells the scribe, that the very married Ms. Allen lost ground — and votes — when she was discovered to be carrying on a torrid, and cheesy, affair with a thong-snapping pizza-delivery boy. Bartlet's winning campaign slogan: "I'LL DELIVER FOR YOU."
AND also from the New York Daily News:
"But in recent weeks she has outmaneuvered Templeton several times, and perhaps because "Commander in Chief" is a less subtle show than "The West Wing," she's stepping out of the shadows as fast as her stylish yet sensible shoes can carry her.
In other words, Geena Davis has momentum now. So with Jed out of the race and Nathan looking like he needs a pit stop, maybe it's time to set her sights on the last, biggest obstacle.
And who's to say Mac Allen couldn't beat Hillary Clinton?"
Rush Limbaugh: "“Did you see where The West Wing has bitten the dust? Martin Sheen will not be reelected. He’s going to have to go out and get a real job now.” "
From Venezuela's Electronic News:
"VHeadline.com commentarist Mary MacElveen writes: There is a wonderful (American) TV show that will end its run after many years of entertaining us and giving those who often do not know the inner workings of the White House a lesson on how the executive branch works.
The show I speak of is "The West Wing." Many people through these past five years have craved a president like President Jeb Bartlet. After all, he is intelligent and speaks in coherent sentences and does not seem to take that many vacations.
In the 2004 presidential primaries, actor Martin Sheen (who plays President Bartlet) endorsed Governor Howard Dean's bid to become the Democratic candidate ... I think Howard Dean would have resembled a President Bartlet.
The reason I want to familiarize those of you who are reading this around the globe who may not know of this wonderful show, is for one reason and that will be come apparent shortly ... in the West Wing episode "Shut Down" the fictional president, Jeb Bartlet decides to shut down the government when he and the GOP led congress cannot see eye to eye on budget cuts.
Towards the end of this episode the GOP speaker of The House, Haffley cites that the government doles out billions of dollars "like candy to children ... welfare paternalism, regulation, taxes, and quotas are why people can't find jobs."
President Bartlet states that his administration has created more jobs and Speaker Haffley says it is "due to the American spirit and not Washington bureaucrats."
Within this heated exchange a line cited by President Bartlet is the most important and relevant line that crosses into reality when he states: "Not everyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, Mr. Speaker."
That very line is the reason I write this column today.
Whereever you live, there are citizens in your own countries who are not able to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" ... and it is the responsibility of every government to be the safety net to help those less fortunate and not to turn their backs on them as George W. Bush just did one day after giving his State of the Union address."
Commentary from the Huffington Post on why "West Wing" was really cancelled:
"The real reason "The West Wing" had to be cancelled was that to realistically portray a White House headed by either of these men would either be that given political reality, a venture into total implausibility or distatesful television with despicable characters.
If elected, a real-life Vinick could either have been shown standing up for his own political principles against the fundamentalists, economic greedsters and fear-mongers that dominate the real-life Republican party - or becoming one of them.
Vinick portrayed as a stand-up, raging moderate would not have been a credible depiction for a show that has always tried for at least some relevance to the real world.
Vinick portrayed as a new President who veered to the right to appease his base would have engendered story lines that featured a parade of unlikeable and somewhat shady characters. A Vinick White House would have turned "The West Wing's" premise of a White House as a place with a moral center completely inside out, and would have made for disagreeable characters and bad television as a result.
In these real-life conservative times, with conservatives in charge of the executive and congressional branches, a Santos Administration would be seen as completely implausible. And starting from scratch on the screen, a "West Wing" centered around a Santos regime would not have earned the "suspension of disbelief" that a Bartlet administration- which had been established in parallel with the Clinton years- had enough time as a televised counterpart to earn.
So, then, the choice for "The West Wing" brain trust would be to show a new Administration that was either implausible or detestable. Given the show's distinguished pedigree and well-established persona, doing either would have been too sharp a break.
The only valid choice was to cancel the series."
From the Entertainment Online:
""The West Wing"'s cancellation surprised many NBC faces, including "ER"'s JOHN LEGUIZAMO. "Another really bright, smart show on the air, it's so weird to think it's over, that's bizarre," he says.
"I think it's a great show and it was very, I think, groundbreaking and I'm sorry to see it go, it's a wonderful show and a wonderful ensemble," Golden Globe winner and "The Office" star STEVE CARELL said."
CaseyO posted at Television Without Pity:
"Brief mention of the West Wing on the Colbert report tonight. Colbert was interviewing an NBC White House Correspondent....but anyway they were discussing the White House Press room, and said reporter said that it seems bigger on TV than it actually is and the West Wing has done it a disservice by making it appear nice. Colbert immediately jumped onto the news that it had been canceled saying something along the lines of 'about time don't ya think' and 'It's basically just John Kerry fan fiction right?'... I thought it was slightly amusing."
The West Wing News Blog does not endorse any of the above opinions and is only printing them for informational purposes.