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The West Wing

The West Wing is an American television drama created by Aaron Sorkin, running since 1999 and now in its fifth season. The show is set in the White House run by a fictional Democratic administration. The West Wing of the White House is the modern day location of the President's Oval Office and the offices of most of his staff. The original White House, to which the West Wing is connected at basement level, is used for head of state functions as the residence of the President, with governmental functions based in the West Wing and in other ancillary buildings in the White House compound.

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

Table of contents
1 Lead characters
2 The West Wing Universe
3 Staying topical
4 Sorkin's Exit
5 Awards
6 Main cast
7 Original Music
8 Broadcasters
9 DVD releases
10 External links

Lead characters

President Josiah Bartlet (a fictitious descendant of the real- life Josiah Bartlett, a New Hampshire Governor and signatory of the Declaration of Independence), played by Martin Sheen, was originally intended to be a minor character, appearing only a few times every season. The original plan was to follow the staff of the West Wing through the eyes of a young speechwriter, Sam Seaborn, played by Rob Lowe. The high quality of the ensemble acting by the main cast, and in particular Sheen's performance as the sometimes Clintonesque Bartlet has, however, seen him become the show's central character, sidelining Lowe's Sam Seaborn. The dwindling attention has been quoted as the reason for Rob Lowe's departure during the fourth season.

Bartlet represents, in many ways, a liberal Democrat's fantasy of the ideal president: a fierce intellect, with great (though not infallible) personal integrity, toughness, but tempered with essential compassion for the less fortunate and a sense of humour. His staff, collectively, are similar—talented, bright, and thoroughly committed.

The West Wing Universe

The The West Wing is set in a rather complex fictional universe that parallels our own in many ways, yet also has several key differences. It is specifically not specified in what year the The West Wing takes place, but the show is clearly supposed to be set sometime around the present day. The modern presidents, such as Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush did not exist in the West Wing world, although slightly older presidents such as John Kennedy apparently did. Prior to President Bartlet's election, the White House was occupied by a two-term conservative Republican president (based on Reagan), and before him, the presidency was held by a one-term liberal Democrat (losely based on Carter). Other world leaders, such as Yasser Arafat and Queen Elizabeth II exist in the show's universe, but most foreign countries are given fictional rulers.

There is also a fictional country named "Qumar" that exists in the West Wing universe. A terrorist-sponsoring middle eastern state, Qumar is based on a combination of Taliban Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, and is often a source of trouble for the Bartlet administration.

Staying topical

The West Wing often features extensive discussion on current or recent political issues, and with the real-world election of the Republican President George W. Bush in 2000, many wondered whether the show could retain its relevance and topicality.

Following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, the third season premiere was pushed back a week. A script for a special episode was quickly written and filming began on September 21. "Isaac and Ishmael" finished shooting in about a week—an incredibly quick turn around time for a TV drama. The episode aired on October 3 and addressed the sobering reality of terrorism in America, albeit with no specific reference to September 11. While Isaac and Ishmael didn't get universal critical acclaim, it nonetheless illustrated the show's flexibility in addressing current events.

Sorkin's Exit

When Aaron Sorkin left the show after the fourth season, many expected the show to take on a more bipartisan footing. Plot themes centering on foreign policy (perhaps mindful of overseas syndication), for example, have grown more common, arguably making the show more approachable. Though it is still occasionally derided as The Left Wing, the show's award-winning writing, high production values, acclaimed standard of ensemble acting, plus an unprecedented accuracy in showing how the presidency operates, have earned The West Wing respect, even among those who do not share its unambiguously expressed views.

Indeed, though rarely topping the ratings, and despite its focus on American politics, The West Wing has developed an international following.


The West Wing has won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, along with 19 individual Emmys awarded for the writers, actors and crew. It holds the record for most Emmys won by a series in a single season.

Main cast

Original Music



Reruns / Syndication

DVD releases

A programme of DVD releases is underway; by the end of 2003, the first two seasons of The West Wing were available.

External links