The West Wing is arguably one of the best TV series of all time. On the fifteenth anniversary of the show being green-lit, the Hypable staff looks back at this dynamic series.
When it is well-written, TV has the power to influence, to motivate, and to inspire. Aaron Sorkin achieved this with his groundbreaking series The West Wing. Using the background of the fictional White House of the Bartlet administration, Sorkin wrote characters who were not one-note, political stereotypes spouting party platforms. The show aspired to demonstrate what might be achieved if partisanship and demonizing of the opposition wasn’t the norm of the day, and what a real examination of issues with intelligent debate might be. At the same time, the program showed that tremendous power can corrupt even the most altruistic, can lead to over confidence, and at times can have very unpredictable consequences.
One of the things that made The West Wing special, was that in its simplest terms, it was a character study. How would a diverse group of people who were both motivated to serve, and at the same time deeply flawed react in any given situation? Their triumphs and pitfalls made us love them and watch what they would do each week. They were the heroes we wanted to actually be in public service.
Take a look back with the Hypable team at some of our favorite characters and moments from the series.
By Hypable Staff Writer: Laura Byrne-Cristiano
Deputy White House Communications Director: One of my very few disappointments in The West Wing is that the character of Sam Seaborn left after several seasons. It was a classic case of “creative differences” where Rob Lowe, who played Sam, left because he believed he’d have the starring role, and then the show morphed into more of an ensemble piece. Thankfully, he put aside his differences with the producers and returned the final season, this time as the future Chief of Staff.
Sam could sometimes be the pompous Princeton graduate, but his boy-next-door charm tempered it. At his best, he had a gift of language coupled, an appreciation of the ironic and sardonic humor that left many an opponent staring open-mouthed. At the very same time, Sam had an empathy for the underdog that was unmatched by the other characters. Sam was also one of the few people who could reign in Toby and Josh, who both outranked him, when they would have burned bridges to make a point. Eventually, they’d begrudgingly thank him for it. He could match wits and banter with President Bartlett and C.J. in exchanges that left them all smiling. To his credit, Sam could concede a point when he realized that he had been out-argued, and respect his opponent based on the merits of the argument. In the end, Sam’s best quality was his willingness to put aside personal differences and work to achieve goals.
Favorite Quote: “It’s not just about abortion, it’s about the next 20 years. In the ’20s and ’30s it was the role of government. ’50s and ’60s it was civil rights. The next two decades are going to be privacy. I’m talking about the Internet. I’m talking about cell phones. I’m talking about health records and who’s gay and who’s not. And moreover, in a country born on the will to be free, what could be more fundamental than this?” Sam Seaborn – stating in 1999 what the coming issues of the next 2 decades will be.
Favorite Scene/Episode: In season 2, episode 5, the character of Ainsley Hayes is introduced. After she is harassed by members of Sam’s staff for being a Republican who was just doing her job, he fires them based upon their actions. He doesn’t defend them simply because they are from the same political party and Ainsley isn’t.
Favorite Guest Star: Oliver Platt as White House Counsel Oliver Babbish brought a sense of humor and decisive action to the Oval Office. Oliver would vigorously defend the President, but at the same time let him know when he had crossed a line. He also wasn’t afraid to bend the rules a bit, like the time he smashed a recording device to smithereens when President Bartlett announced that he might have broken the law when he failed to disclose his medical issues.