Last night, Nomi and I watched the second part of "Election Day," the latest episode of The West Wing. For others who watched it, you might be interested in an article in today's New York Times, 'West Wing' Writers' Novel Way of Picking the President. According to the article, the writing staff was planning to make Senator Vinick win the election, until John Spencer died. When that happened, and they decided to have his character, Leo McGarry, die on election night, they decided it would be too much of an emotional one-two punch for the viewers. So instead, they gave the election to Santos.
Over the past two seasons, there have been a lot of rumors going back and forth about who would win the election, and I have to say that I don't buy it. I suspect that they're leaving out a key point. Given what the media reported before, my guess is that they had been planing all along for Santos to win -- until they found out that the show would not be renewed. Then, perhaps, they considered giving the election to Vinick, but recanted when Spencer died.
I'm still amazed at the way the flashforward at the beginning of the season omitted an appearance by Leo McGarry. And the way that his death echoes the death of Josh Lyman's father on the night of the Illinois primary... It's macabre to think about it, but in a way John Spencer's death may have led the writers to create a storyline with far greater resonance than it would have had otherwise.
Two other things from the New York Times article that I found interesting. First, this quote from Bradley Whitford, the actor who plays Josh Lyman:
"This show is probably the first line in my obituary," Mr. Whitford said. "Everyone knows they got lucky with this one."
That line echoes a line spoken by C.J. Cregg a few episodes back, in which she tells Danny Concanan, "You think I'm not aware that I'm living the first line of my obituary right now?" And that particular episode was written by Whitford. Not hard to see what's on his mind these days.
The second thing from the article I found interesting was what Martin Sheen, who plays President Bartlet, plans to do next. Apparently, he's been urged by members of the Democratic party to run for office from his home state of Ohio. Sheen turned then down:
"I'm just not qualified," he said. "You're mistaking celebrity for credibility."
I have a lot of respect for what he said. He's smart enough to know that he's not the right guy for the job, that playing a role on a TV show is different from playing that role in real life.
So what's Sheen up to? He's decided to enroll for the first time, at age 65, in college. That's an inspiration.