The Future of The West Wing: Discussions on H-PCAACA Listserv
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 1, 2003
- pp. 55-63
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Peter Rollins | Special In-Depth Section The Future of The West Wing: Discussions on H-PCAACA Listserv Introduction: These are exchanges on the H-PCAACA listserv, beginning in May of 2003. They were prodded by the recent publication of THE WEST WING by the Syracuse UP, just in time for the season finale in which President Bartlet stepped down. Peter Rollins RollinsPC @ aol.com INITIAL POSTING BY ROLLINS: Dear Media Scholars and West Wing fans, Rob Lowe was the first to leave THE WEST WING and now is beingjoined by creatorAaron Sorkin and Producer/DirectorThomas Schlamme. This massive shift stems from a number ofinfluences to include internal and moral problems (President Bartlet approved of an assassination), political problems (reaction vs. Martin Sheen for his political activism), and—as some will agree, but not all—the disappearance ofBill Clinton, the "shadow government " of the Sorkin version of the West Wing. In any case, this development makes the appearance of our book THE WEST WING: THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCYAS TELEVISION DRAMA very timely indeed. The book is a collection which explores the appeal of the series, the historical and aesthetic elements of the series, and traces some of the journalistic responses to the series—both pro and can. (The work is co-edited by John E. O'Connor, Founder of Film & History Magazine.) The book is scholarly, but is readable and eschewsjargon. It could be used in a college or university classroom with real interest on the part of students. A description of the book is on AMAZON.COM. Be there with insight as the Owl of Minerva takes flight! Peter Rollins Here is the recent news story: http://www. ew.com/ew/report/0,61 15,448911-10-0aaronsorkinleaveswest ,OO.html RESPONSES: 1. Van Riper response. . . Peter Rollins asks for speculations on the future course of event on The West Wing. Well, if *I* was writing it . . . In the first episode or two ofnext season, Zoe is rescued from (or released by) her kidnappers, who turn out to be either clueless American thugs or Kumari expatriates acting alone (apparently not as part of a larger terrorist campaign, though such *may* exist ). The problem then becomes whether, and under what conditions , President Bartlett can step back into office. That's a fight, it seems to me, with a lot ofdramatic potential. The 25th amendment isn't really geared to deal with temporary incapacity , and Bartlett has no historical precedent to fall back on. The (ex-) Speaker steps into political oblivion if he hands the office back to Bartlett, and he may (genuinely) feel that there *is* an ongoing Kumari threat to the US that needs firm hand and not Bartlett 's (allegedly) gentle and indecisive one. Bartlettmightbe able to establish his tough-on-terrorism credentials (and thus cut the Speaker off at the knees) by publicly admitting to the assassination , but the political costs would be horrendous . . . and, again, good drama. Peter's suggestion of a new election and James Brolin's character in the White House is, I think, unlikely for two reasons. 1) A Republican administration would, presumably, pink-slip all «f Bartlet's people, abruptly depriving us of virtually every established character. 2) Brolin's character has already (in the re-election campaign arc) been established as an intellectual lightweight with a limited, parochial grasp of the world. Not a promising character on which to hang a series known (at least in the Sorkin era) for intensely literate scripts. Vol. 33.1 (2003) | 55 Rollins I The Future of The West Wing: Discussions on the H-PCAACA Listserv As for why the series "tanked" this year . . . I'm not sure I grant the premise, but having come in during the early 3rd season the decline may not be as noticeable to me as to other viewers who've been there from the beginning. *Granting* the premise for the sake ofargument, I think the problem is in that the story arcs that have dominated this season have often lacked dramatic potential (or been handled less well than they should have). Individual scenes are still sharp, but the big picture seems unfocused. The Kumari assassination plot, for example , seems to have been...