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West Wing Changes

In my opinion, West Wing has tanked just a bit since Sorkin left. The writers ended the "Zoe Kidnapped" thing poorly, bluntly saying "oh, we found her" and leaving Goodman completely out of the mix. The best moment last year was Josh's reinstatement as a key guy with the suggestion that the President first walk to Capitol Hill, then leave after waiting for ten minutes. Then the series took a nosedive once again with the whole "Fizwallace and Donna get blowed up" thing.

Sorkin has a knack for understanding the chemistry of a cast: the word play, the reactions. Almost nothing could happen week to week and Sorkin, due to the play between his characters, could win an Emmy every year. The new writers have had to resort to blowing things up to add drama.

Spoilers below…

Now we enter the sixth season of West Wing, the last year it has a contract (though I too expect it will be renewed). Barltet is entering the second half of his eight years in the office, and Alan Alda (R) and Jimmy Smits (D), along with Gary Cole (D) will battle for the presidency. Goodman has is own show, leaving him out of the mix.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any end in sight to the poor writing we've seen since Sorkin's departure.

For example, White House chief of staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) suffers a heart attack in the season's second episode, forcing him to give up his job. Bartlet makes an unexpected choice to replace him, ruffling feathers among other staffers.

That's what Zap2It has to say. John Spencer is not a standout cast member, but he has played the role perfectly. I can't think of a better actor to play the role, so it will be interesting to see who replaces him. Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) is the deputy and thus, you'd think, next in line. It won't be Josh.

TV Gal agrees, saying:

Sure creator/writer Aaron Sorkin could get a little too schmaltzy, but he gave us a President we could all vote for. No recount necessary. But gone are the days of witty dialogue, fascinating plot lines and intriguing characters. … The once great show became trite, confusing (can anyone understand what happened to C.J. last season?), and predictable. And it decided to try to solve every societal and political issue in 44 minutes.

West Wing was once great. In my opinion, it's still better than every other TV show out there, but the margin by which it leads has shrunk over the past year. Let's hope the new writers realize the chemistry they have can be used for good instead of cheap, theatrical tricks.

18 Responses to "West Wing Changes"

  1. You like Aaron Sorkin's think of his Jed Bartlet as someone you could vote're a Mac user...and you're going to vote for Bush.

    It's like you've placed blinders (or sprayed dulling spray) on a discreet part of your brain.

  2. Uh, whatever you say. Maybe next time you could make some sense when you try to be insulting?

  3. I agree the show isn't heading in the right direction... it seems to have run a muck of itself. I don't know if this is the case or not but the writers seem to be trying to hit that Bartlet is a "labial" and thus he needs have his hand in every pot... needs to solve all the problems... and the used Josh and Toby for this... It really hurt the characters they no longer have this idealistic resolve, as I see it, but a hatetrade of the right.

    As for Leo I kind of thought they left Leo on the out at the end of last season. Just as they basically written Will out, he was the witty center of the cast IMHO. Basically West Wing, I my mind turned into the grown up version of the WBs Jack & Bobby.

  4. Aaron Sorkin was the heart and soul of The West Wing, only fitting that the show doesn't have a soul anymore. What's worse, is that should Martin Sheen not renew his contract, they are going to have an election season. Producers have hinted that they could have a Republican president for next season. I think that's dead wrong.

    Not because the President's a Republican, but because they would have to change the entire cast. A show lives and breathes with a cast that works well together, and one that the viewers recognize. Stability is very good for a show like The West Wing, and as mentioned before, it already lost a big chunk of that show when Sorkin left.

  5. WHY would one mess with perfection? Is the new motto of the writers, "If it ain't broke, take it apart and break the hell out of it?"

    It seems to me that is what they are doing. Did John Spencer choose to leave The West Wing or is he being written out? And why Jimmy Smits? He's a has-been of a by-gone era, and we don't want him back!

  6. Is it just me, or does John Spencer look decidedly unwell? I can't help thinking that real-life health issues led to his on-screen heart attack.

  7. I haven't seen enough recent photos of him to know whether he's well or not, but it seems to me he could have simply been written out. The writers this year (and last) seem to operate in "change for change's sake" mode.

  8. I too think that John Spencer looks unwell. Regardless I thought the way he got there was really lame. The writing over the last few seasons just sees to be such a departure from previous seasons. The characters are murky and confused. The plots have this big buildup and then fizzle...what's going on?

  9. If you look at the old episodes, John Spencer has lost a signifcant amount of weight. His walk now is like someone who is very weak compared to his former way of walking. He's a former drinker and smoker. Let's all wish him well.

  10. I am very dissapointed that John Spencer is being wirtten out of the show. As far as him not looking well I am hoping that they weight loss and the walk was done on purpose to fit with the filming of his departure from the show. they did try and "tee" it up a few epsiodes before the season finale. It was the episode where they staged a lock down of the White House being threatened by the plague or something. Leo and Abbey were locked in the residence while this was all going on. She told him that he didn't look good and that she wanted him to get a physical. She spoke of the stress of the job blah blah blah.

    This is my first time at this site, I was actually looking for any articles or information as to why John Spencer left the show. If anyone has any information I would appreciate it if you posted it.

    Thanks for letting me add my two cents

  11. West Wing has been my favorite show all time, but it concerns me when they change without good reason and when the writing becomes "unwestwing" like. To me what has distinguished the show has been the rapid continuous repartee between the characters creaing almost a "sound".

    The characters are so wonderful that its hard to pick a favorite. Martin Sheen is perfect as the president, Rob Lowe was great in his role and I think he will stumble trying to find another role that works for him as well.

    But of all the characters, the one I have liked the most has been the one played by John Spencer = Leo McGarry.

    I think he has been so good, a mixture of hard, practical and yet warm, humanly flawed, supportive and caring.

    I will feel a great vacuum in the show if he is no longer there. I think it would be hard to replace Martin Sheen as well. But John Spencer is my #1 of all.

    I hope the show works hard to keep its identity and the magic that has made it so good after he is gone.

  12. Why was john Spencer fired? Maybe it was his choice to leave, but there doesn't seem to be any reason. Hope the actor is not ill, but we could sure use him in the theater in NYC. If he's available we'd love to have him.

  13. I too am very disappointed in the writers for ther series. This has been a major highlight of bleak TV. Having John Spencer leave the show is just another blow to what has been a great series. So typical of broadcast TV -- take something really good and mess it up. I hope this is not being done because of John Spencer's health -- the only rational reason -- but if it is I wish him well. What is worth watching now?

  14. I have really enjoyed the West Wing series mainle because of Sheen and Spencer. I do not think it will work as well without that interaction. I wish Spencer well-he's a great actor

  15. I, too, was looking for info on John spencer's apparent exit from the show when I found this group discussion. I am a hard core conservative but The West Wing is my favorite show and has been since it started. It is the best thing on television since my last favorite, Homicide. I only pulled my hair out on a couple of occasions when I thought Sorkin went way to far. But, the cast, the intelligent, fast paced dialog, the incredibly innovative sceen transitions and story lines mark Sorkin as a genius. I did not know he had left the show. That explains a lot. I almost don't care if I miss a show here and there. I keep watching hoping it will get better. When Lowe left it hurt the cast chemistry greatly. The charactor, Will, is about as interesting as Jello. I will keep watching but I wish these new writers would find out where Sorkin got his mushrooms from and order them by the truckload.

  16. CJ, contrary to my guess that they'd surprise everyone and go with Tim Matheson (John Hoynes), will be the next chief of staff on West Wing. As a result, Toby will once again tender his resignation (what a schmuck sometimes)...

  17. I too was wondering about John Spencer.

    He looks quite drawn.

    I do believe he and John Maloney should do a brother series.

    I'm glad that ww is now on so often that I can try to make out most of the dialogue I missed in the old episodes..

    At 75 I can't keep up with the movement, whispering, etc.

    But I still consider myself a fan...

  18. I missed the part of season 4 where Rob Lowe left. How did he leave on the show?