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Revisiting ‘The West Wing’

July 17, 2011
By KATHRYN SPIRA , For The Leader Herald

When "The West Wing" TV series was on NBC from 1999 to 2006, Herman was a devoted fan. I was never that interested in politics until the 2008 election of President Barack Obama. Since then, I've regularly watched political shows such as "Hardball," with Chris Matthews, which is on MSNBC, as well as "Morning Joe." I identify with the political viewpoint of this station, which leans to the left politically as I do.

I also watch the ABC World News, "60 Minutes" and even occasional episodes of "Meet the Press."

Due to my new interest in politics, I wanted to watch the DVDs of "The West Wing" because I had heard what an excellent series it was theatrically and script-wise. I also read the depiction on the show was close to the reality of the workings of the actual White House.

The cast includes Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet, who wasn't supposed to be a regular in Aaron Sorkin's plan for the series. However, his entrance at the end of the pilot episode was so powerful, it seemed to pull the whole ensemble cast together and they decided to make his character the central figure of the series.

According to Wikipedia, "The show received positive reviews from critics, political science professors, and former White House staffers. In total, The West Wing won three Golden Globe Awards and 27 Emmy Awards, including the award for Outstanding Drama Series, which it won four consecutive times from 2000 through 2003."

One of the things I personally identified with was the fact Sheen's character hides his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis from the public, which I also did. When I was first diagnosed with MS, I talked about having a "bad back" and attributed my use of a cane while walking to an injury I incurred while running. That's about as detailed as I explained it to anyone who asked, including John Goodman, who wound up helping me restock the bar for the "Flintstones" wrap party.

I remember when I told Goodman about my "back problem" he looked at me derisively and said, "You're an actress, right? This town is full of sharks and will eat you alive." He implied he knew it wasn't a back injury, but I think he was looking out for my own good.

Herman and I just watched two episodes called "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, parts 1 and 2," about an assassination attempt by a white-supremacist, right-wing fringe group due to the fact his black personal assistant was dating the president's daughter. The episodes interweave flashbacks about how the West Wing staff first came together when Bartlet was running for the Democratic primary for president as an underdog. The two shows really reflect what the close-knit staff and presidency were trying to do in becoming a real administration to do good for the country. Of course, reality gets in the way, as it does in real life and just as it has for Obama's administration.

In both cases, therein lies the drama.

If you haven't had the chance to view the series, I highly recommend it.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at



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