It’s time for another Hall Of Fame entry here at Remote Patrolled, a strand we haven’t run for a while given all the new Fall TV Shows!

This time around we’re talking The West Wing, the groundbreaking NBC drama that ran for 7 seasons from 1999 to 2006, back in the days when the Peacock network was still capable of producing great shows!

The West Wing is one of those series that’s remembered fondly by a generation of TV viewers for a whole host of reasons. Foremost among them though was that it was smart. And honestly, smart TV doesn’t come along all that often.

Just like ER before it, The West Wing established its own style of dialogue and pacing. Who can forget all those one-shot walk and talks around the White House, as characters discussed complex policy matters and foreign affairs? The West Wing was one of those shows where you really had to work to keep up with what was going on. Often I wouldn’t fully understand a storyline until halfway through an episode. Put it this way – we’re not exactly talking Keeping Up With The Kardashians here!

Like all great TV, The West Wing was fresh and different. A series following the working lives of the people who work for the President wasn’t something viewers had seen before. As I’ve said many times before here on the site, viewers are attracted to shows that are original – whether it’s The West Wing or True Blood or Heroes or Glee. Sure you strike out from time to time (The Playboy Club) but for me that’s one of the most exciting aspects of the industry – you never know where the next big hit will come from.

The West Wing was anchored by Martin Sheen as Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlett, the President we all wish we had. Bartlett was virtuous and passionate and a good man who sometimes had to make unfortunate compromises for the greater good. But through it all you believed he was trying to do the right thing for his country.

 

But the West Wing wasn’t just a one-man show – Sheen was surrounded by a team of great cast members who collectively elevated the quality of the show. There was Rob Lowe as impassioned Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, doubtless intended as the original star of the show, who later became more of an ensemble character (which explains Lowe’s early departure from the series); Bradley Whitford as the cocky and sarcastic Josh Lyman, doted on by his quick fire assistant Donna Moss (Janel Maloney); Fearsome First Lady Abigail Bartlett (Stockard Channing); and my favorite of all – Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Alison Janney). Who didn’t love C.J. with her snappy one-liners, intelligence and drive. It was a dream role for Janney and one of those characters who become a joy to watch each and every week. The only weak link in the casting? Dule Hill as Personal Aide Charlie Young, a dull actor in a thankless role that didn’t add anything to the series.

Over its 7 seasons The West Wing ran the gamut of storylines from Presidential assassination attempts to budget battles to re-election campaigns and hirings and firings. At times the show could be tough going – and if you weren’t a fan of politics the West Wing wasn’t the show for you – but mostly this was superior appointment TV. Central to the success of the West Wing of course was show creator Aaron Sorkin, famous for his trademark rapid-fire dialogue and to me one of the most talented guys in Hollywood. Sorkin wrote virtually every episode of the first four seasons and his departure from the series marked the beginning of the end. Seriously Sorkin should have a green-light at every studio in town!

Over the course of its run The West Wing won 26 Emmy Awards, including 4 nods for Best Drama. At its peak the show averaged over 17 million viewers in its Wednesday at 9pm timeslot. Nowadays NBC pulls in 7 million for Harry’s Law in the same slot – and that’s their HIGHEST rated series currently on air!

If you never watched The West Wing – well let’s just say that’s what box sets were created for! And let’s just hope NBC don’t resort to their usual remaking antics and leave the show well enough alone. You really don’t want, or need, to meddle with a show as good as The West Wing…

But what about you? Were you a West Wing fan? Who was your favorite character? And do you badly miss the show now that it’s no longer on air…