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Mindhole Blowers: 20 Facts About "The West Wing" That Will Make You Stand There In Your Wrongness

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | February 18, 2013 | Comments ()


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1. Alan Alda — who would later play the Republican rival in the election to replace President Bartlet — was originally considered for the role of Bartlet, along with Sidney Poitier and Jason Robards. Poitier was actually the first choice, but his fee was too high.

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2. Bradley Whitford was originally offered the part of Sam Seaborn, who the show was originally conceived to revolve around (it was when Rob Lowe realized that Seaborn would forever be an ensemble player instead of the lead that he decided to ditch the show).

3. Eugene Levy was considered for the role of Toby Ziegler, which would’ve been super weird.

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4. The Oval Office used in “The West Wing” was the same Oval Office used in the movies Dave and The American President (also written by Aaron Sorkin).

5. This Scene from season one, in which C.J. Cregg lip syncs “The Jackal,” was written into the episode because Allison Janney was doing the same thing on set to entertain the crew and Sorkin liked it so much he added it to the show.

6. The episode, “Crackpots and These Women” was about a day each year in the Bartlet White House in which special interest groups who wouldn’t otherwise be heard were granted access. The tradition derived, according to Leo McGarry, derived from a two-ton block of cheese granted to President Andrew Jackson and left in the White House foyer. The cheese remained in the foyer for two years, before Jackson figured out what to do with it. He invited 10,000 people to the White House, and they ate it all in under two hours. The story is absolutely true (although, the cheese only weighed 1,400 pounds). Mental Floss has a fascinating write-up. It was also the episode that featured Nick Offerman.

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7. The character played by Bradley Whitford, Josh Lyman, got his name from a similarly situated character in the Doonesbury comic strip. Either that, or a character from 1776. Or both.

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8. The relationship between C.J. Cregg and Danny Concannon was actually based on the real-life relationship between Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers (who was a consultant on “The West Wing”) and her husband, New York Times reporter Todd Purdum.

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10. You may recall that Danny, mistaking C.J.’s love for Goldfish crackers, gave her an actual goldfish.

Throughout the series, the decorations in that goldfish bowl changed to fit the theme of a particular episode.

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10. Janel Moloney, who played Donna Moss, originally auditioned for the role of C.J. Cregg. Her Donna character was not intended to be a series regular. In fact, she was only credited under “guest appearance” for the entire first season of the show. Sorkin elevated her because of her chemistry with Bradley Whitford’s Josh Lyman.

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11. Josh Malina is a lifelong friend of Aaron Sorkin who has been in everything Sorkin has ever done (except, so far, “The Newsroom”), which is what made him such a natural fit to replace Sam Seaborn when Rob Lowe left. However, Dermot Mulroney, Judd Nelson, Macaulay Culkin, and Jon Cryer were also considered for the part.

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12. Danica McKellar had a recurring role on the show as Elsie Snuffin. Elsie Snuffin is the real name of Kayla Blake, who played Kim on Sorkin’s “Sports Night.”

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13. This is an iconic photo of JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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This is a screengrab of President Bartlet in the opening credits of “The West Wing.”

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14. Remember last year, when virtually the entire “West Wing” regular cast got together to make a political ad for Mary McCormick’s sister, Bridget Mary1 McCormack, who was running for Michigan Supreme Court?

She won.

15. I have absolutely no recollection of a 2003 TV series, “Mr. Sterling,” starring Josh Brolin has an independent California Senator. However, the show came from Lawrence O’Donnell, the exec producer on “The West Wing,” and it may or may not have existed in the same universe as “The West Wing,” but the President of “Mr. Sterling’s” universe was President Bartlet. The series only lasted 10 episodes before it was cancelled, so there was never a ripe opportunity for a cross-over episode.

16. See the “Bartlet for America” poster here:

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That’s funny because that’s the set for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

17. Aaron Sorkin is most often credited for the popularization of the “walk and talk,” which became a big deal during “The West Wing.” It was, in fact, director Thomas Schlamme who incorporated the walk-and-talk, first in “Sports Night,” and heavily in “The West Wing,” as a way to bring a little action to Sorkin’s dialogue-heavy scripts. Sorkin has since used it in “Studio 60” and “The Newsroom.”

18. The budget for each episode of “The West Wing” was $6 million. For comparison’s sake, the first season of “Game of Thrones” cost $60 million for 10 episodes, or $6 million per ep.

19 Hey! Remember the crushing death of President Bartlet’s Secretary, Mrs. Landingham? It was so upsetting that, in real life, a San Francisco assemblyman, Kevin Shelley, adjourned a session of the California Congress to grieve for her, calling Landingham a “great American” whose “contributions to the nation were too numerous to count.” Shelley resigned from his position in 2005 under a cloud of scandal.

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20. One pop psychologist claims that Aaron Sorkin is better than Shakespeare by virtue of having a higher order theory of mind. I won’t try to explain that, but the article is equally bonkers and interesting.




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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • esuth

    A question for West-Wing-o-philes - even though I'm not extremely familiar with the show, I heard somewhere once and have always repeated a story about it and wonder if it's really true. The best teacher I ever had was my sixth grade history teacher Werner Feig. I was not alone in calling him that, because one of his former students had eventually grown up to be a writer on The West Wing, and when he died some time during the run of the show, this writer inserted his name into the script to honor him. Does this ring any bells to anyone? Some character some time in the show mentioning that they had a brilliant and inspiring history teacher named Werner Feig? I've always wanted to find the clip. Thanks in advance!

  • Pentadactyl

    DONNA
    I had an English teacher in the 12th grade named Molly Morello, and she was one of those
    teachers, and she's retiring.

    JOSH
    For me, it was Mr. Feig for American History AP and Con Law.

    (From the episode Stirred)

  • PerpetualIntern

    Wolf highway!! My hubby and I are rewatching the series on Netflix. Two Cathedrals is our next episode, and we're already mentally preparing ourselves.

  • Jezzer

    I used to think on-demand autism diagnoses would be the death knell of modern psychology, but then I read that horseshit article from "Psychology Today."

  • TallulahBelle

    I will always remember the episode when Mrs Landingham died - as I was watching it (it aired quite late at night on Channel 9 here in Melbourne, Australia and I couldn't tell you how far behind the States we were in episodes, possibly a whole season?), the local news station reported in the last or second last ad break, that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers in NY and they'd give us the full story after that ep. The hours after that episode ended are burned into my mind.

  • e jerry powell

    Those of us lost in the TWoP universe still call it "pediconferencing."

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Sorkin is so damn bloated, but you got to give it to a man who perfectly timed in an episode, arc and season Bartlet's long tirade against god in Latin. It was insane, yet so fitting. And Sheen nailed it. I have respect.

  • Three_nineteen

    That header pic makes me wish I was the kind of person that trolled right-wing websites.

  • The big cheese wheel was actually something that was a repeated activity, as some farmers from Cheshire Massachusetts did it first in 1802 to celebrate Jefferson's victory. It was also a political statement, as the town didn't use the milk from subsidized cows and made sure that Jefferson knew that the cheese was made without slave labor.

  • A poll!

    Favorite episodes?

    Mine (aside from the obvious seasons 1 and 2 finales):

    "Celestial Navigation". It's the one where CJ has root canal (WOOT CANAW!) and Edward James Olmos rules the world as Roberto Mendoza.

  • meeeee

    Celestial Navigation for me as well! Josh's 'secret plan to fight inflation' gets me every single time.

  • Tinkerville

    "In This Whitehouse" is a personal favorite because of my love for Ainsley Hayes, but "Noel" has got to be one of the most powerful episodes of television I've ever seen.

    Also "Galileo" because hell yes to the importance of space programs.

  • sjfromsj

    I can't help but love "The Supremes". I know no one likes the 5th season, whatever whatever, but several of my favorite episodes are in that season. I think it's because it's so ragingly liberal and everything I wish could happen in real life. Appointing a female judge who had an abortion as the Chief Justice of the the Supreme Court? Be still my heart. Government shutdown to take the Republican House to task? Oh please please please!

    I wouldn't name this a favorite per se, but anytime I feel like I need to cry, I pop in the Season 4 finale. It's all out by the opening credits. That cold open gets me every time.

  • Milly

    YES! Series 5 gets so much criticism, but that is perhaps the best single episode in the entire run of The West Wing.

    It reflected positively on all political persuasions.

  • Arran

    Celestial Navigation is definitely a favourite. ("You told the press I have a secret plan to fight inflation?" "No, I did not. Let me be absolutely clear. I did not do that. Except yes, I did that.") And Two Cathedrals. King Corn is a personal favourite because it's such a good look at what living through a presidential campaign must be like.

  • The above mentioned The Crackpots and These Women and 20 Hours in America are perhaps my favorite two. And Surely Its to Their Credit gives us Ainsley Hayes in season two. Dead Irish Writers in season three where Mrs. Bartlet, C.J., and Amy Gardener get drunk during a party. I'm always astounded at how much story there is in each season. We don't get that as much anymore.

  • Milly

    "Brenda. McGann. Cannot. Come. To. The. White. House." Oh Lord John ...

  • Salieri2

    "In The Shadow of Two Gunmen," parts 1 and 2, no question.

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Those are the most perfect 2 hours of television ever.

  • Three_nineteen

    -- "In Excelsis Deo", the 1st season Christmas ep. This is when Toby became my TV boyfriend.

    -- "Election Night", 4th season ("Do you want to tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing?")

    -- "20 Hours in America" 4th season (Josh and Toby get left in Indiana, guest starring Amy Adams)

    -- The entire last half of the 2nd season, starting with "Noel". I don't think there's a weak episode there, and then of course the arc starting with the Toby and Leo scenes in "The Stackhouse Filibuster" to the end is just amazing.

  • The day Netflix got this show was the happiest day of my TV-watching life.

    I love playing "Spot the Guest Star!" with that show, specially when you see someone who was a big no one back then and is now hugely famous. I've spotted Jane Lynch (she had one line as a reporter), Clark Gregg (Sam's FBI friend), Nick Offerman (as an environmental activist!!) and countless others.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    Clark Gregg was also in two episodes of SPORTS NIGHT, as Calvin Trager, the man who buys CSC at the end of the second season.

    Related: I love Clark Gregg. COULSON LIVES.

  • Jezzer

    "Shelley resigned from his position in 2005 under a cloud of scandal."

    Hopefully one of those scandals involved adjourning the state Congress to mourn a goddamn fictional character and all her "contributions to the nation."

  • APOCooter

    The non-existent Mrs. Landingham has more contributions to the nation than half the members of Congress put together.

  • Jezzer

    "The non-existent Mrs. Landingham has more contributions to the nation than half the members of Congress put together."

    [citation needed]

  • Salieri2

    Whenever anyone says something like that, I always hear it in the voice of Lina Lamont. "I make more money than Calvin Coolidge. Put tigither!"

  • Three_nineteen

    I love Lena so much. She was a shimmering, glowing star in the Hollywood firmament.

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