The West Wing

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Posted by r2d2 04/27/2009 @ 06:09

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The West Wing

Third season cast members of The West Wing (from left to right): (top) Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Janel Moloney (bottom) Rob Lowe, Stockard Channing, Martin Sheen, John Spencer, and Bradley Whitford

The West Wing is an American television serial drama created by Aaron Sorkin that was originally broadcast from 1999 to 2006. The series is set in the West Wing of the White House, the location of the Oval Office and offices of presidential senior staff, during the fictional Democratic administration of Josiah Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen).

The West Wing was produced by Warner Bros. Television. For the first four seasons, the executive producer was Aaron Sorkin, who worked with Thomas Schlamme. After Sorkin left the program, he was replaced by John Wells.

It first aired on NBC in 1999, and has been broadcast by many networks in dozens of other countries. The series ended its seven-year run on May 14, 2006.

The show received positive reviews from critics, political science professors, and former White House staffers. In total, The West Wing won two Golden Globe Awards and 27 Emmy Awards, a tie with Hill Street Blues for the most Emmy Awards ever won by a television drama series. Included in this record-equalling haul were four straight awards for Outstanding Drama Series (2000–2003). The show's ratings waned in later years, following the departure of series creator Aaron Sorkin (who wrote or co-wrote 85 of the first 88 episodes) after the fourth season, yet it remained popular among high-income viewers, a key demographic for the show and its advertisers.

The series was created by Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin served as executive producer for the pilot episode alongside director Thomas Schlamme and John Wells. Kristin Harms and Llewellyn Wells were producers for the pilot. Michael Hissrich acted as a co-producer.

The first season proper saw the return of all of the pilot production team along with the addition of Ron Osborn and Jeff Reno as consulting producers and Rick Cleveland as a second co-producer with Robert W. Glass as an associate producer. Glass left the production team after only five episodes. Osborn and Reno departed after nine episodes. Paul Redford served as a story editor throughout the first season. Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr. worked as executive story editor for the second half of the season.

With the second season Kevin Falls became a co-executive producer. Cleveland left the production team and Redford and O'Donnell were promoted to co-producer. Peter Parnell, and Patrick Cadell became co-producers and Julie Herlocker and Mindy Kanaskie became associate producers. O'Donnell was promoted again to producer five episodes into the season and Hissrich joined him twelve episodes into the season.

The third season saw the departure of Parnell, Cadell, and Herlocker and the temporary absence of O'Donnell. Director Christopher Misiano became a supervising producer and Patrick Ward came aboard as an associate producer. Redford was promoted to producer. With the thirteenth episode of the third season director Alex Graves became an additional supervising producer and Eli Attie joined the writing staff as a story editor.

The fourth season marked the temporary departure of Hissrich. Misiano and Graves became co-executive producers alongside Falls. Attie was promoted to executive story editor and Debora Cahn became a staff writer. The fourteenth episode of the season saw Redford promoted to supervising producer and Kanaskie, Ward and Attie promoted to co-producers.

The fifth season saw the departure of both Sorkin and Schlamme as executive producers. Schlamme remained attached to the series as an executive consultant. John Wells remained the sole executive producer and showrunner. Co-executive producer Kevin Falls also left the show. O'Donnell rejoined the production team as a consulting producer. Wells also added Carol Flint, Alexa Junge, Peter Noah and John Sacret Young as consulting producers. Andrew Stearn came aboard as a producer and Attie was promoted to producer. Cahn became story editor and Josh Singer replaced her as staff writer. With the tenth episode Flint, Junge, Noah and Sacret Young became supervising producers.

With the sixth season Misiano and Graves were promoted to executive producers. Redford and Junge left the production team and Dylan K. Massin became a co-producer. Cahn was promoted to executive story editor and Singer replaced her as story editor. Lauren Schmidt filled the staff writer role. The fourth episode saw the departure of original crew member Llewellyn Wells. Debora Cahn was promoted to co-producer with the fourteenth episode.

The seventh season saw Noah and O'Donnell promoted again, this time becoming additional executive producers. Attie became a supervising producer. Hissrich returned to his role as producer for the final season.

The West Wing employed a broad ensemble cast to portray the many positions involved in the daily work of the federal government. The President, the First Lady, and the President's senior staff and advisors form the core cast. Numerous secondary characters, appearing intermittently, complement storylines that generally revolve around this core group.

Each of the principal actors made approximately $75,000 an episode, with Sheen's most recently confirmed salary being $300,000. Rob Lowe also had a six-figure salary, reported to be $100,000, because his character originally was supposed to have a more central role. Disparities in cast salaries led to very public contract disputes, particularly by Janney, Schiff, Spencer, and Whitford. During contract negotiations in 2001, the four were threatened with breach of contract suits by Warner Bros. However, by banding together, they were able to persuade the studio to more than double their salaries. Two years later, the four again demanded a doubling of their salaries, a few months after Warner Bros. had signed new licensing deals with NBC and Bravo.

John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry, died from a heart attack on December 16, 2005 — about a year after his character experienced a nearly fatal heart attack on the show. A brief memorial message from Martin Sheen ran before "Running Mates", the first new episode that aired after Spencer's death. The loss of Spencer's character was addressed by the series beginning with the episode "Election Day", which aired on April 2, 2006.

Different performers had been originally considered for many of the roles. Bradley Whitford states in an interview on the Season 1 DVD that he was originally cast as Sam, though the character of Josh was the role Whitford had wanted and for which he had auditioned. In addition, Josh's character had been written specifically for him by Aaron Sorkin. In the same interview, Janel Moloney states that she had originally auditioned for the role of C.J., and that the role she eventually received, Donna, was not meant to be a recurring character. Other actors who were seriously considered included Alan Alda and Sidney Poitier for the President, Judd Hirsch for Leo, Eugene Levy for Toby, and CCH Pounder for C.J.

The West Wing, like many serial dramas, stretches storylines over several episodes or entire seasons. In addition to these larger storylines, each episode also contains smaller arcs which usually begin and end within an episode.

Most episodes follow President Bartlet and his staff through particular legislative or political issues. Plots can range from behind-closed-doors negotiating with Congress ("Five Votes Down") to personal issues like sex ("Pilot", "Take out the Trash Day") and personal drug use (a major plotline throughout the first and second seasons). The typical episode loosely follows the president and his staff through their day, generally following several plots connected by some idea or theme. A large, fully connected set of the White House allows the producers to create shots with very few cuts and long, continuous master shots of staff members walking and talking through the hallways. These "walk and talks" became a trademark of the show. The final two seasons presented a narrative change, with the focus of the show divided between plots in the West Wing with President Bartlet and his remaining senior staffers and plots revolving around the rest of the main cast on the campaign trail for the 2006 election.

The series developed following the success of 1995 theatrical film The American President, for which Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay, and Martin Sheen played the White House Chief of Staff. Unused plot elements from the film and a suggestion from Akiva Goldsman inspired Sorkin to create The West Wing.

According to the DVD commentary, Sorkin intended to center the show on Sam Seaborn and the other senior staff with the president in an unseen or a secondary role. However, Bartlet's screen time gradually increased, and his role expanded as the series progressed. Positive critical and public reaction to Sheen's performance raised his character's profile, decreasing Lowe's perceived significance. In addition, according to Sorkin, the storylines began to focus less on Sam and more on Josh Lyman, the deputy chief of staff. This shift is one of the reasons for Lowe's eventual departure from the show in the fourth season. For the first four seasons, Sorkin wrote almost every episode of the series, occasionally reusing plot elements, episode titles, character names, and actors from his previous work, Sports Night, a sitcom in which he began to develop his signature dialogue style of rhythmic, snappy, and intellectual banter. Fellow executive producer and director Thomas Schlamme developed the "walk and talk," a continuous shot tracking in front of the characters as they walk from one place to another that became part of The West Wing's signature visual style. Sorkin's hectic writing schedule often led to cost overruns and schedule slips, and he opted to leave the show after the fourth season, following increasing personal problems, including an arrest for possession of illegal drugs. Thomas Schlamme also left the show after the fourth season. John Wells, the remaining executive producer, took the helm after their departure.

The show aired its series finale on Sunday, May 14, 2006. It had suffered a significant ratings fall after being placed in the same timeslot as ABC's Top 20 hit Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and CBS' Top 30 hit Cold Case.

The West Wing offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of America's most powerful address, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the show's legitimacy, political slant, and film merits have generated considerable discussion.

Former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers as well as expert pollster Patrick Caddell served as consultants for the show from the beginning, helping writers and actors depict the West Wing accurately. Other former White House staffers, such as Peggy Noonan and Gene Sperling, have served as consultants for brief periods.

A documentary special in the third season compared the show's depiction of the West Wing to the real thing. Many former West Wing denizens applauded the show's depiction of the West Wing, including advisor David Gergen, Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.

Dr. Staci L. Beavers, associate professor of political science at California State University, San Marcos, wrote a short essay, The West Wing as a Pedagogical Tool, concerning the viability of The West Wing as a teaching tool. She concluded, "While the series’ purpose is for-profit entertainment, The West Wing presents great pedagogical potential." The West Wing, in her opinion, gave greater depth to the political process usually espoused only in stilted talking points on shows like Face the Nation and Meet the Press. However, the merits of a particular argument may be obscured by the viewer's opinion of the character. Beavers also noted that characters with opposing viewpoints were often set up to be "bad people" in the viewer's eyes. These characters were assigned undesirable characteristics having nothing to do with their political opinions, such as being romantically involved with a main character's love interest. In Beavers's opinion, a critical analysis of the show's political views can present a worthwhile learning experience to the viewer.

One of the stranger impacts of the show occurred on January 31, 2006, when The West Wing was said to have played a hand in defeating Tony Blair's government in the British House of Commons, during the so called "West Wing Plot". The plan was allegedly hatched after a Conservative Member of Parliament watched the episode, "A Good Day", in which Democrats block a bill aimed at limiting stem cell research, by hiding in an office until the Republican Speaker calls the vote.

In its first season, The West Wing attracted critical attention in the television community with a record nine Emmy wins. The show has been praised for its high production values and repeatedly recognized for its cinematic achievements. With a budget of $6 million per episode, many consider each week's show to be a small feature film. However, many in the television community believe that the true genius of the show was Sorkin's rapid-fire and witty scripts.

The West Wing is noted for developing the "walk-and-talk"—long Steadicam tracking shots showing characters walking down hallways while involved in long conversations. In a typical "walk-and-talk" shot, the camera leads two characters down a hallway as they speak to each other. One of these characters generally breaks off and the remaining character is then joined by another character, who initiates another conversation as they continue walking. These "walk-and-talks" create a dynamic feel for what would otherwise be long expository dialogue, and have become a staple for dialogue-intensive television show scenes.

In its first season, The West Wing garnered nine Emmys, a record for most won by a series in a single season. In addition the series received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, tying Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law for most won in this category. Each of its seven seasons earned a nomination for the award. The West Wing ranks 8th all-time in number of Emmy Awards won by a series.

The series shares the Emmy Award record for most acting nominations by regular cast members (excluding the guest performer category) for a single series in one year. (Both Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law also hold that record). For the 2001–2002 season nine cast members were nominated for Emmys. Allison Janney, John Spencer and Stockard Channing each won an Emmy (for Lead Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress respectively). The others nominated were Martin Sheen (for Lead Actor), Richard Schiff, Dule Hill and Bradley Whitford (for Supporting Actor), and Janel Moloney and Mary-Louise Parker (for Supporting Actress). In addition, that same year Mark Harmon, Tim Matheson and Ron Silver were each nominated in the Guest Actor category (although none won the award). This gave the series an Emmy Award record for most acting nominations overall (including guest performer category) in a single year, with 12 acting nominations.

Twenty individual Emmys were awarded to writers, actors, and crew members. Allison Janney is the record holder for most wins by a cast member, with a total of four Emmys.

In addition to its Emmys, the show won two Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, in 2000 and 2001, Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. Martin Sheen is the only cast member to have won a Golden Globe, and he and Allison Janney are the only cast members to win a SAG award (best actor and best actress respectively) In both 1999 and 2000, The West Wing was awarded the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.

W.G. "Snuffy" Walden received an Emmy Award for Main Title Theme Music in 2000 for "The West Wing Opening Theme".

Many cast members have been Emmy-nominated for their work on The West Wing but have not won, including Martin Sheen—who was nominated each year for all seven seasons of the series without receiving the award—as well as Janel Moloney, who was nominated twice, and Dulé Hill, Rob Lowe, and Mary-Louise Parker, who were all nominated once. Matthew Perry, Oliver Platt, Ron Silver, Tim Matheson, and Mark Harmon have also received Emmy nominations for guest starring on the show.

The West Wing often features extensive discussion of current or recent political issues. After the real-world election of Republican President George W. Bush in 2000, many wondered whether the liberal show could retain its relevance and topicality. However, by exploring many of the same issues facing the Bush administration from a Democratic point of view, the show continued to appeal to a broad audience of both Democrats and Republicans.

In its second season episode "The Midterms", President Bartlet admonishes fictional radio host Dr. Jenna Jacobs for her views regarding homosexuality at a private gathering at the White House. Dr. Jacobs is a caricature of radio personality Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who strongly disapproves of homosexuality. Many of the president's biblical references in his comments to Dr. Jacobs appear to have come from an open letter to Dr. Schlessinger, circulated online in early May 2000.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the start of the third season was postponed for a week, as were most American television premieres that year. A script for a special episode was quickly written and began filming on September 21. The episode "Isaac and Ishmael" aired on October 3 and addresses the sobering reality of terrorism in America and the wider world, albeit with no specific reference to September 11. While "Isaac and Ishmael" received mixed critical reviews, it illustrated the show's flexibility in addressing current events. The cast of the show state during the opening of the episode that it is not part of The West Wing continuity.

In the middle of the fourth season, Bartlet's White House is confronted with the genocide in the fictional African country of Equatorial Kundu which was compared to the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. The result was new foreign policy doctrine for Bartlet Administration and military intervention to stop the violence, which came after much hesitation and reluctance to call the conflict a genocide. In reality, the Clinton Administration didn't intervene in Rwanda, making series events look like a moral imperative.

In the sixth and seventh seasons, The West Wing explores a leak of top-secret information by a senior staffer at the White House. This leak has been compared to the events surrounding the Valerie Plame affair. In the storyline, the International Space Station is damaged and can no longer produce oxygen for the astronauts to breathe. With no other methods of rescue available, the president is reminded of the existence of a top-secret military space shuttle. Following the president's inaction, the shuttle story is leaked to a White House reporter, Greg Brock (analogous to Judith Miller), who prints the story in The New York Times. Brock will not reveal his source and goes to jail for failing to do so, as did Miller. In order to stop the investigation, in which authorities suspect Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg, Toby Ziegler admits to leaking the information, and the President is forced to dismiss him. In comparison, the Plame affair resulted in the arrest and conviction of Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff. However, Libby was convicted of perjury in testimony to a grand jury. No one was convicted for "blowing the cover" of Plame. (Richard Armitage, an official in the Bush State Department, acknowledged leaking information about Plame to reporters but was never charged with a crime.) Libby's two and a half year prison sentence was later commuted by President Bush, though the other facet of his sentence ($250,000 fine) stands until Libby's appeals were to be considered.

All contemporary domestic government officials in The West Wing universe have been fictional. President Bartlet has made three appointments to the fictional Supreme Court and maintains a full cabinet, although the names and terms of all members have not been revealed. Some cabinet members, such as the Secretary of Defense, appear more often than others. Many other government officials, such as mayors, governors, judges, representatives, and senators, have been mentioned and seen as well.

San Andreo is a fictional California city. It is located near San Diego, has a population of 42,000 and is the location of the San Andreo Nuclear Generating Station.

A near meltdown at the nuclear plant becomes the focus of an October surprise for Republican nominee Senator Arnold Vinick during the 2006 presidential election, due to Vinick's strong pro-nuclear stance and revelations of his active lobbying for the construction of the plant. This was seen to be a key factor in Vinick's narrow defeat in the election by Democratic nominee Congressman Matt Santos.

Hartsfield's Landing is a fictional town in New Hampshire. It is stated to be a very small community of only 63 people, of whom 42 are registered voters, that votes at one minute past midnight on the day of the New Hampshire primary, hours before the rest of the state, and has accurately predicted the winner of every presidential election since William Howard Taft in 1908. It is based on the true New Hampshire communities of Hart's Location and Dixville Notch, which in real life do vote before the rest of the state during the primaries, and also loosely upon the concept of "bellwether states" in US presidential elections.

Kennison State is a fictional university in Iowa that was used as the setting of a bombing in the beginning of the fourth season.

Qumar, a fictional oil-rich, terrorist-sponsoring Middle Eastern state, is repeatedly a source of trouble for the Bartlet administration. According to maps on the show, Qumar lies in southern Iran, directly across the important Strait of Hormuz. After the September 11 attacks, it became the main venue for the show's terrorism subplots.

Jabal Nafusah (also the name of a real-life Libyan city) seems to be the largest city and the capital, according to maps shown of the country. Qumar is an absolute monarchy, ruled by a sultan and his family. The country is a former British protectorate. The nation was first introduced in the third season where it was mentioned as a close ally of the United States. Qumar continues on the show to be a U.S. ally, though the Sultan and other officials were extremely troubled by the assassination, bombing campaign and invasion. As a result of the air strikes, gas pipelines were damaged, leading to economic troubles for the country and its European allies.

During the final season episode "The Cold", a situation room map shows the Persian Gulf clearly, but omits Qumar.

Equatorial Kundu is a fictional African nation blighted by AIDS and a civil war resembling the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

When Kundu was first mentioned in season 2, it is led by President Nimbala who is executed by the end of the episode. In January 2003 of the series' timeline ("Inauguration, Part I"), the Arkutu-run government of President Nzele (described as a "sadistic madman") begins an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Induye in Bitanga, killing 200 people. The violence soon spreads outside Bitanga and into the countryside. In President Josiah Bartlet's second inaugural address ("Inauguration Over There"), he announces the new Bartlet Doctrine for the use of force: America shall intervene whenever there are humanitarian interests at stake. With that new doctrine, Bartlet sends a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and a Marine Expeditionary Unit, a force of 11,000 troops in total, to Kundu ("The California 47th"). As of the episode "Twenty Five," US forces are still operating in Kundu.

In its original appearance, Kundu's location is somewhat ambiguous. President Nimbala and his aide appear to speak Setswana, a Bantu language spoken in South Africa and Botswana, which would imply a Southern African setting. The Season 4 appearance seems to more firmly place the country in West Africa, near to the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Its capital city is Bitanga, which contains a major airport, TV station and a radio station.

In general, The West Wing attempts to create an alternative reality, in which there is a subtly different set of historical truths in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. In particular, the show tries to suggest that the last "real" president in its timeline is Richard Nixon, and to chart the careers of its principal players in the light of that decision. Nevertheless, there are occasions in which more contemporary presidents are implied.

Presidents who served between Nixon and Bartlet include one-term Democrat D. Wire Newman (James Cromwell) and two-term Republican Owen Lassiter.

Leo McGarry is mentioned as being Labor Secretary in the administration that was in office in 1993 and 1995. In the first season, an outgoing Supreme Court Justice tells President Bartlet that he had been wanting to retire for 5 years, but waited "for a Democrat." In the season four episode "Debate Camp", we see in flashback to the days just before Bartlet's inauguration, as Donna Moss meets with her Republican predecessor, Jeff Johnson who makes it clear that the outgoing Republican administration has been in office for eight years and in the sixth season Leo says the Republicans have been "out of power for eight years" and Republicans at their convention say "eight (years) is enough", emphasizing that the President before Bartlet was a Republican.

The passage of time on the show relative to that of the real world is somewhat ambiguous when marked by events of smaller duration (e.g., votes, campaigns). Sorkin has noted in a DVD commentary track for the second season episode "18th and Potomac" that he has tried to avoid tying The West Wing to a specific period of time. Despite this, real years are occasionally mentioned, usually in the context of elections and President Bartlet's two-term administration.

The show's presidential elections are held in 2002 and 2006, which are the years of the midterm elections in reality. The election timeline in The West Wing matches up with that of the real world until early in the sixth season, when it appears that a year is lost. For example, the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary, which would normally fall in January 2006, appears in an episode airing in January 2005.

In an interview, John Wells stated that the series began one and a half years into Bartlet's first term and that the election to replace Bartlet was being held at the correct time.

In the season 5 episode "Access", it is mentioned that the Casey Creek crisis occurred during Bartlet's first term, and network footage of the crisis carries the date of November 2001.

Bartlet's first campaign for president is never significantly explored in the series. Bartlet won the election with 48% of the popular vote, 48 million votes, and a 303–235 margin in the Electoral College. Bartlet faced three debates with his Republican opponent. It is mentioned that Bartlet won the third and final debate, which was held eight days before election day in St. Louis, Missouri, and that this helped swing a close election in his favor. Josh Lyman said in the days prior to the election "Bartlet was punching brick walls" as the result seemed too close to call, before the result broke his way. Leo McGarry said the same thing in "Bartlet for America" when he said "It was eight days to go, and we were too close to call".

The campaign for the Democratic nomination is extensively addressed. In the episodes "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen" and "Bartlet for America", flashbacks are used to tell how Bartlet defeated Texas Senator John Hoynes (Tim Matheson) and Washington Senator William Wiley for the Democratic nomination. The flashbacks also reveal how Leo McGarry persuaded Bartlet, who was then governor of New Hampshire, to run for president and how Bartlet ultimately selected John Hoynes as his choice as running mate.

The West Wing's 2002 presidential election pits Bartlet and Vice President John Hoynes against Florida Governor Robert Ritchie (James Brolin) and his running mate, Jeff Heston. Bartlet faces no known opposition for renomination, though Democratic Senator Stackhouse does launch a brief independent campaign for the presidency. Ritchie, not originally expected to contend for the nomination, emerges from a field of seven other Republican candidates by appealing to the party's conservative base with simple, "homey" sound bites.

Throughout the season it is anticipated that the race will be close, but a stellar performance by Bartlet in the sole debate between the candidates helps give Bartlet a landslide victory in both the popular and electoral vote.

A speed-up in The West Wing's timeline, in part due to the expiration of many cast members' contracts and a desire to continue the program with lower production costs, resulted in the omission of the 2004 midterm elections and an election during the seventh season. The sixth season extensively details the Democratic and Republican primaries. The seventh season covers the lead-up to the general election, the election, and the transition to a new administration. The timeline slows down to concentrate on the general election race. The election, normally held in November, takes place across two episodes originally broadcast on April 2 and April 9, 2006.

Congressman Matt Santos (D-TX) (Jimmy Smits) is nominated on the fourth ballot at the Democratic National Convention, during the sixth season finale. Santos was planning to leave Congress before being recruited to run for the presidency by Josh Lyman. Santos polled in the low single digits in the Iowa caucus and was virtually out of the running in the New Hampshire primary before a last-ditch direct television appeal vaults him to a third-place finish with 19% of the vote. Josh Lyman, Santos's campaign manager, convinces Leo McGarry to become Santos's running mate. However, John Spencer, the actor portraying Leo McGarry, died on December 16, 2005.

Senator Arnold Vinick (R-CA) (Alan Alda) secures the Republican nomination, defeating Glen Allen Walken (John Goodman) and the Reverend Don Butler (Don S. Davis), among others. Initially, Vinick wants Butler to become his running mate. However, Butler does not want to be considered because of Vinick's stance on abortion. Instead, West Virginia Governor Ray Sullivan (Brett Cullen) is chosen as Vinick's running mate. Vinick is portrayed throughout the sixth season as virtually unbeatable because of his popularity in California, a typically Democratic state, his moderate views, and his wide crossover appeal. Vinick, however, faces difficulty with the pro-life members of his party as a pro-choice candidate, and criticism for his support of nuclear power following a serious accident at a Californian nuclear power station.

On the evening of the election, Leo McGarry suffers a massive heart attack and is pronounced dead at the hospital, with the polls still open on the West Coast. The Santos campaign releases the information immediately, while Arnold Vinick refuses to use Leo's death as a "stepstool" to the presidency. Santos emerges as the winner in his home state of Texas, while Vinick wins his home state of California. The election comes down to Nevada, where both candidates need a victory to secure the presidency. Vinick tells his staff repeatedly that he will not allow his campaign to demand a recount of the votes if Santos is declared the winner. Josh Lyman is seen giving Santos the same advice, although the Santos campaign does send a team of lawyers down to Nevada. Santos is pronounced the winner of the election, having won Nevada by 30,000 votes, with an electoral margin of 272–266.

Santos organizes his administration, choosing Josh Lyman as Chief of Staff, who in turn calls on former colleague Sam Seaborn to be Deputy Chief of Staff. In need of experienced cabinet members, Santos taps Arnold Vinick as Secretary of State, believing the senior statesman to be one of the best strategists available and respected by foreign leaders.

Similarities between the fictional 2006 election and the real-life 2008 U.S. presidential election have been noted in the media: young minority Democratic candidate (Matthew Santos on the show, Barack Obama in real life) has a grueling but successful primary campaign against a more experienced candidate (Bob Russell on the show, Hillary Clinton in real life) and chooses an experienced Washington insider as his running mate (Leo McGarry on the show, Joe Biden in real life), whereas the Republican contest is determined early in the primary season with an aging maverick senator of a Western state being the nominee (Arnold Vinick on the show, John McCain in real life), defeating an ordained minister as the closest competitor (Reverend Butler on the show, Mike Huckabee in real life), and then selecting a socially conservative running mate from a small Republican state (West Virginia Governor Ray Sullivan on the show, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in real life)..

Writer Eli Attie called David Axelrod to talk about Obama after Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention speech and says that he "drew inspiration from in drawing character," while actor Jimmy Smits says that Obama "was one of the people that I looked to draw upon." Writer and producer Lawrence O'Donnell says that he partly modeled Vinick after McCain. Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is said to be the basis of the Josh Lyman character, who became Santos' Chief of Staff.

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List of The West Wing episodes

The following is an episode list for the NBC serial drama television series The West Wing. The series ran from September 22, 1999 to May 14, 2006 airing 155 regular season episodes and one special episode.

Cast: Rob Lowe, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford and Martin Sheen The second season detailed the period between the end of President Bartlet's second year in office and the middle of his third. It covered a wider legislative array than the first season did, and presented issues including the rights of hate groups and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The second season also made consistent use of flashbacks, demonstrating the campaign for the presidency, and the period prior to events covered in the first season. The first two episodes, In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part I and In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II, showed how many of the central characters were introduced to Josiah Bartlet at the time that he was seeking The Presidential nomination and election. Aaron Sorkin originally planned to have such flashbacks as a major part of the entire season, but budget and logistical demands prevented this.

The multiple sclerosis arc (also introduced in the first season) became central late in the second season as staff members were introduced one-by-one to the president's ailment and the public is made aware. This theme would remain central to the series.

Mrs. Landingham, the long time secretary of President Bartlet, died in the penultimate episode, "18th and Potomac." In the final episode, "Two Cathedrals," Mrs. Landingham's funeral was central as was the question of whether or not the President would run for re-election.

The third season, which covers the administration's third and fourth years in office, starts off with Bartlet announcing his intention to run for reelection and is heavily devoted to the upcoming presidential election. Other prominent plotlines include Congressional investigations into whether Bartlet committed electoral fraud by concealing his MS, a death threat against C.J. and the ensuing relationship she develops with a Secret Service agent assigned to her, the Qumari defense minister Abdul Shareef plotting terrorist attacks against the US, and a troubling meeting between Toby and the President that leaves Bartlet with a bout of insomnia in "Night Five." The season finale, "Posse Comitatus" closes several of these storylines as Bartlet meets his opponent in the elections and reaffirms his commitment to beat him. The episode ends with the president finally deciding to order Shareef's assassination (a legally questionable act) and C.J.'s agent's murder, just after the man threatening C.J. was caught.

From a critical perspective, series creator Aaron Sorkin acknowledged in October 2002 that the terrorism-related plots designed to keep the series relevant after the real-life 9/11 attacks were awkward at times, saying "from week to week, you felt like you were writing the show handcuffed, a little bit. I didn't know how to write it anymore. It was a constant search for what I wasn't doing that used to make the show work. Maybe there was a way to make it work; there probably was. I wasn't able to find it in twenty-two episodes." Nonetheless, the show went on to win its third "Outstanding Drama" Emmy in a row.

Special Episode.The main cast introduce the episode out of character by paying tribute to those affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks and informing viewers about what to expect from the delayed premiere of the third season. The cast also makes it clear that this episode doesn't fall in the West Wing continuity.

Cast: Rob Lowe, Stockard Channing, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford and Martin Sheen The fourth season covers the end of Bartlet's fourth year and first term in office through the beginning of the first year of his second term. The season begins with the continuation of the election storyline with the president touring the nation and his staff trying to firm up presidential debates. Surprisingly, the election is not used as a cliffhanger, but seen as a clear victory for Bartlet, the storyline ending less than halfway through the season in "Election Night". Other plots include Sam leaving the White House to run in a special election in California, the news of the Abdul Shareef assassination resonating both inside and outside the U.S., Will Bailey taking Sam's position after coming over from the California campaign's staff, the President and his staff facing the reality of an overseas genocide, and Vice President Hoynes being forced to resign after a sex scandal is uncovered. The fourth season ends with Bartlet's youngest daughter being taken hostage. Bartlet ends up invoking the 25th Amendment in the final episode, "Twenty Five." Since no one had been nominated to replace Hoynes yet, the presidency passes to the Republican Speaker of the House, Glen Allen Walken.

After the difficulties Sorkin encountered in writing Season 3 (see above), he saw Season 4 as a return to the form he and the show had previously enjoyed, saying " came back to work, after the hiatus, and didn't feel any of that, just felt the week-to-week pressure of trying to write well." In 2003, at the end of the fourth season, Sorkin and fellow executive producer Thomas Schlamme left the show due to internal conflicts at Warner Bros. TV not involving the NBC network, thrusting producer John Wells into an expanded role as showrunner.

Cast: Stockard Channing, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford and Martin Sheen The fifth season opens with US forces successfully rescuing Zoey Bartlet from her abductors. Bartlet takes the presidency back from Walken, but is forced back into a Season One level of powerlessness. He comes to terms with his actions at the end of Season Four leading to his daughter's kidnapping, a powerful new Republican Speaker of the House (Walken has had to resign in order to assume the presidency) who forces Bartlet into several decisions he doesn't want, including the nomination of an unimpressive Democrat, "Bingo Bob" Russell, for Vice President. This conflict with the new Speaker comes to a head in "Shutdown," when the Speaker tries to force Bartlet into cutting federal spending more than had been agreed to and Bartlet refuses to sign the budget (forcing the federal government into a shutdown). Bartlet regains some of his Seasons 2-4 power, cutting a deal to get a liberal Chief Justice of the United States, and season five ends with a bombing in Gaza leading Bartlet to push for Israeli peace talks and Josh to come closer to Donna. The fifth season begins toward the end of Bartlet's first year of his second term (fifth year overall) in office. By the end of the season, however, over a year has elapsed. This season was the first without creator Aaron Sorkin and producer Thomas Schlamme, who had left the show in a dispute with the production company (see above).

Cast: Alan Alda, Stockard Channing, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, Mary McCormack, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, with Jimmy Smits and Martin Sheen The sixth season starts with the president negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, Leo having a heart attack and leaving the staff, and the president trying to fund peacekeepers for the accord. Josh is pondering whether he will stay with Bartlet or support a presidential candidate. Three events shape his decision: Santos not running again for Congress, Vinick running for president and Donna leaving the White House to work for the Russell campaign (further fraying Josh and Donna's relationship). The later parts of the season center heavily around the primaries for the 2006 presidential election (in which Bartlet cannot run). Josh leaves with Santos, a Congressman from Texas whom Josh convinced to run for President, on the campaign trail. Leo returns near the end of the season to refocus the Bartlet administration (in a similar style to Season One's "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet") in "365 Days." Russell is the consistent leader for the Democratic nomination with former Vice President Hoynes a close second and Santos a distant third. After another sex scandal, Hoynes is forced into the third position, and Santos ends up winning a closely contested Convention (and announces Leo as his running mate). The final episode also features a leak from the White House about a classified military space shuttle to the press (similar to the real-life Plame affair), which is heavily investigated in Season Seven.

Cast: Alan Alda, Stockard Channing, Kristin Chenoweth, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, Mary McCormack, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, with Jimmy Smits and Martin Sheen The seventh and final season mainly follows Santos and Vinick on the campaign trail, whilst also addressing the aftermath of the shuttle leak investigation. The Bartlet administration's last year in office is featured, but not prominently. Toby admits to leaking the story about a military spacecraft and President Bartlet is forced to fire him. Later, he refuses to name his recently deceased brother as the source of the classified information, despite being urged to by both his lawyer and a federal prosecutor, as he feels it would be wrong to dishonor his memory. Also, C.J.'s tenure as Chief of Staff becomes more stressful as she deals with the war between Russia and China over Kazakhstan. The presidential race tightens up when Vinick makes a number of mistakes on the campaign trail. Leo suffers a heart attack, and dies on the night of the election, which Santos eventually wins. The last few episodes show the last days of the Bartlet administration and the Santos' transition; in the series finale, Santos is sworn in as President.

At the beginning of the episode, Martin Sheen directly addresses the viewers out of character to pay tribute to co-star John Spencer, who played Leo and had recently died when this episode was originally broadcast.

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List of characters in The West Wing

The television series The West Wing is a political drama series which was originally broadcast on NBC.

In addition to the main (regular) cast, there are numerous secondary characters who only appear periodically, and some characters who are mentioned but never appeared. Some have "disappeared" without explanation, and others who haven't been seen for a year or more who have reappeared without explanation.

Many actors noted for work in sitcoms, such as John Goodman, John Larroquette, Christopher Lloyd, Ed O'Neill, Matthew Perry, and Patricia Richardson have appeared in dramatic roles on The West Wing.

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Source : Wikipedia