Though others may try to replicate, there's no replacing The West Wing. It was the first show about the White House that caught our attention, and although we got seven seasons of the series, it wasn't enough.
There are some things even the most hardcore West Wing fan may not know, however. See if your knowledge can stack up!
1. The Internet Made "West Wing" Possible
"The pilot did not test off the charts with focus groups," said creator Aaron Sorkin. "It tested fine, but it wasn't forcing NBC to put it on the air. Where it tested very high was in four categories that they invented for this show: Households making over $75,000 a year; households where someone has three years of college; people who subscribe to the New York Times; and the final category – and this was in 1999 – was people with home internet access. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was a big deal then. In 1999 it was the height of the dot com boom, so people with home internet access were a valuable demographic to reach. That first season more than half the ad buys were dot com. They needed some place to advertise. It was those four categories that got us on the air."
2. Josh Malina Saved Aaron Sorkin From Choking To Death
Talk about being teacher's pet! Malin and Sorkin were at a Broadway Bowling Alley when Sorkin started to choke, but Malina thought it was a joke.
"The guys from A Few Good Men would bowl against the guys from A Chorus Line and hilarity would ensue," Malina recalled. "At one of these bowling nights Aaron started choking on a piece of hamburger. He seemed to be doing schtick for a little bit and we kind of pointed and laughed until it became clear this was really happening. It was one of the rare crisis situations where I reacted with any kind of aplomb and I Heimlich'd him – although with no finesse whatsoever and I cracked three of his ribs in the process."
3. The Show That Almost Wasn't
Can you imagine this show by any other name? It almost wasn't an imagination! Sorkin just barely got the rights to the title.
"When Aaron sent me the script for the pilot, he didn't actually own the title," said Dee Dee Myers, the political adviser on the show, and former press secretary. "In fact, a guy who had worked for me at the White House named Josh King had registered the title 'The West Wing' for something he was working on. Sometime during that year before production began, though, whatever Josh King was working on didn't happen and the title became available. I don't know what Aaron would have called the show if it hadn't."
4. Attendance Mandatory
Director Thomas Schlamme wanted everyone to feel like the show was real, so he mandated that all cast members be present for shooting the pilot.
"One of the things that I had demanded on the pilot was whenever we're shooting a scene, everybody should show up," Schlamme recalled. "You wouldn't do a whole series like that, but because doors would be open and glass would be seen, I wanted people to go into their office and live their life, even if they weren't in the scene. So when Rob Lowe is in the Roosevelt Room giving the lecture to the young kids and then goes out with Leo's daughter, you can see Allison and Richard Schiff in the background – they're background artists! They weren't in the scene, they weren't even coming into a scene later; they're just there. Allison's going into Richard's office, Richard's coming out and getting something from his receptionist, they're just getting on with their jobs. It was a really important exercise for everybody to start to feel that this was their home. You felt the true sense of esprit de corps working on that show from day one.
5. Love For Allison Janney
Just like we all love her, the entire cast loved Allison Janney.
"You know, there was a survey done and all of us, all the players, were interviewed and we were asked, confidentially, who we thought the best actor on the series was," Martin Sheen revealed. "As long as we were assured it was confidential we all gave our opinions, which would not be made known until after the series ended. Without a dissenting opinion, the entire cast voted Allison the very best among us. She didn't know it and none of us knew that we'd all voted for her, but she was considered the very best."
6. Disappearing Act
Fans of the show may have noticed that Moira Kelly's character inexplicably disappears after the first season. But it wasn't for a like of love for Kelly herself.
"By mutual agreement we let Moira Kelly go after the first season," says Sorkin. "Moira is a tremendous actress and it was my failing alone that her character didn't work out. It had been my intention to explain her absence in the second season premiere but I couldn't find a way to do it that didn't seem like a naked bulletin to the audience."
7. Biggest Regret
Aaron Sorkin says letting Emily Proctor leave the show was the worst thing he ever did.
"I made a mistake with Emily Proctor," he confessed. "I loved her on the show and when I had a chance to lock her up as a series regular I didn't take it. Being conscious that I already had eight mouths to feed I didn't want to be obligated to have the character in every episode, which I know now wouldn't have been an obligation, it would have been a gift. And of course Emily was snatched up right away by another show – CSI: Miami – and of course it was a giant hit. I made plenty of mistakes on the show but none of them that big."
8. Gail The Goldfish
Depending on who you ask, there was a conflicting number of goldfish used.
"I told everyone when Gail showed up, I said, 'I know Gail's going to be with us for the run of the show, so I don't want to ever know if there is another Gail,'" Janney said "So as far as I was concerned there was one Gail for the whole show."
But here's the thing. She's wrong.
"There were like fifteen of those goldfish, which Allison thought was the same one," Schlamme laughed. "It's like the first time you got a goldfish for your child, you run to the fish store and go, "Here's a dead fish. Can you give me one that looks exactly like this?" Those things just don't live that long! But honest to God, Allison still believes it was one fish the whole time she was there."
Though there hasn't been an official reunion, a lot of the cast got together when Mary McCormack's sister ran for State Supreme Court in Michigan.
"We recorded a PSA-type video for her. It was so much fun to all be together again," Janney said. "It felt so easy, I mean I've spent more time with these people than with my own family. I'm not even kidding! We slipped straight back into it and did a whole walk and talk. I don't know if it was a result of the video but she won!"
10. You Win Some, You Lose Some
Bradley Whitford was approached by a fan, essentially telling him Whitford ruined his life.
"I was at the White House Correspondents' Dinner and this young kid comes up and he's obviously a staffer on the Hill," Whitford recalled. "And he goes, "Hey man, I just want to tell you, you're the reason I went into politics." And I said, "Oh wow, thank you, thank you. I really appreciate that." And he goes, "Actually, I'm exhausted, I'm broke and I'm never going to kiss Mary-Louise Parker." [Laughs] He was pissed off that I led him astray!"
11. A Reboot Is Possible
Aaron Sorkin has a standing offer from NBC to reboot The West Wing whenever he wants. Sorkin has admitted to thinking about this on occasion, and says he even knows who he wants as president: Sterling K. Brown. The This Is Us star already has two Emmy awards, and honestly, he'd probably get another one for this.
I awoke to a request from Aaron, who does not tweet, asking me to pass along the following response:— 🌎Joshua Malina🌎 (@JoshMalina) November 30, 2017
“Dead serious and I’m honored by your interest. Now…an idea. I’m gonna need one of those. 😊”
Note: I added the smiley face. I've always wanted to rewrite Sorkin with emojis. https://t.co/zxyNJmWaxH