Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Leaks From "The West Wing" - The Spoiler Issue

From the Los Angeles' Times Calendar Live: "Among fans of NBC's 'The West Wing,' the question of who might get a pardon from outgoing President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) in the series finale May 14 is a subject of intense speculation.

But the network and studio aren't preparing any pardons for some show enthusiasts, who've been crowding blogs and discussion groups with plot 'spoilers' and commentary about how executive producer John Wells and his team will wind down the final three episodes of the White House drama.

The website Television Without Pity has separate threads devoted to spoilers in its 'West Wing' forum: one for tips and raw information, another for discussion and a third for pure, uninformed speculation. The site westwing.bewarne.com has a blog entirely devoted to spoilers and contains a disclaimer that such information often comes from 'first drafts of scripts' and that the plot is often changed during production or editing.

The sites can also contain some useful non-plot-related intelligence, such as (and here a spoiler warning really isn't necessary) gossip that former regular cast member Rob Lowe and series creator Aaron Sorkin, among others, may appear in cameos for the finale.

Of course, the Internet has made it virtually impossible to police this kind of data flow, and that creates a thorny issue for networks and studios. Although it's obviously better to be spoiled than ignored, spoilers probably do little to expand viewership for a series such as 'West Wing,' which has had a dwindling fan base for the last several seasons. That may explain why the studio takes a dim view of such websites.

'We'd prefer not to have that out there, but it happens on all our shows,' says Sharan Magnuson, a spokeswoman for Warner Bros. Television, which produces 'West Wing,' adding: 'We never confirm any of it.'"

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