In President Barlett, Creator Sorkin presents an authentic Catholic Christianity that sets him apart not only from his circle, but from most characters on television. Rarely is a character’s religion explored. This is a character who tests Chinese immigrants fleeing because of religious persecution using the shibboleth passage from the Book of Judges!

Teleview Review by MAURICE BROADDUS

(1999 to Present)

This page was created on November 24, 2003
This page was last updated on June 5, 2005

Posters, Photos
About this Series
Spiritual Connections


Day & time: Wednesdays on NBC (9-10 p.m. ET)
Premiere date: September 24, 1999
Season premiere date: September 24, 2003

Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, John Spencer, Richard Schiff, Allison Janney, Dulé Hill, Janel Moloney, Stockard Channing, Joshua Malina

Creator: Aaron Sorkin

Executive producers: John Wells
Co-executive producers: Christopher Misiano, Llewellyn Wells
Supervising producer: Paul Redford
Consulting producers: Carol Flint, Alexa Junge, Peter Noah, Lawrence O’Donnell, John Sacret Young
Co-producers: Mindy Kanaskie, Patrick Ward, Eli Attie

Directors: Alex Graves, Chris Misiano
Director of photography: Tom Del Ruth
Music composer: W.G. Snuffy Walden
Music supervisor: Ann Kline
Editors: Deborah Cahn, Mark Goffman
Casting directors: Mary V. Buck, Sarah Isaacson, Laura Schiff
Produced by: John Wells Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television
Origination: Los Angeles and on location in Washington, D.C.

Rated TV-PG

The West Wing - The Complete First Season (1999)
4 DVDs
More Info Here

From Creator Aaron Sorkin and Director Thomas Schlamme ("Sports Night") and Executive Producer John Wells ("ER," "Third Watch"), and featuring one of the most talented ensemble casts ever to star in a drama series, "The West Wing's" Fall 1999 debut on NBC immediately received an extraordinary reception from viewers and television critics alike. The high-profile drama series uniquely documents the daily activities of a fictitious U.S. President's (Martin Sheen as U.S. President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet) highly talented administration portrayed by Dulé Hill as President Bartlet's aide Charlie Young, Allison Janney as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, Moira Kelly as Media Consultant Mandy Hampton, Rob Lowe as White House Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, Richard Schiff as White House Director of Communications Toby Ziegler, John Spencer as White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry and Bradley Whitford as Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman. Also starring in the award-winning series is Stockard Channing as First Lady Abigail Bartlet and Janel Moloney as Assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff Donna Moss. Both went on to become regulars on the show. Guest stars during The West Wing's first season include Timothy Busfield ("Thirtysomething"), Tim Matheson ("Martha Inc.") and John Amos ("Coming to America").

Quickly establishing a strong mandate among audiences, The West Wing burst onto the American entertainment and political arenas as one of the finest portrayals in entertainment of The Oval Office's inner sanctum. In addition to generating impressive ratings, The West Wing's historic first season resulted in securing 18 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning in nine categories. Emmy's The West Wing received for its first season include Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Schiff), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Janney), Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Sorkin and Rick Cleveland for "In Excelsis Deo"), Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Schlamme for the "Pilot") and Outstanding Main Title Theme Music (W.G. Snuffy Walden), among others.

"THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON" contains all 22 episodes:
1. "Pilot"
2. "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc"
3. "A Proportional Response"
4. "Five Votes Down"
5. "The Crackpots and These Women"
6. "Mr. Willis of Ohio"
7. "The State Dinner"
8. "Enemies"
9. "The Short List"
10. "In Excelsis Deo"
11. "Lord John Marbury"
12. "He Shall, From Time to Time..."
13. "Take Out The Trash Day"
14. "Take This Sabbath Day"
15. "Celestial Navigation"
16. "20 Hours In L.A."
17. "The White House Pro-Am"
18. "Six Meetings Before Lunch"
19. "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet"
20. "Mandatory Minimums"
21. "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics"
22. "What Kind of Day Has It Been"
More Info Here

BOOK by Aaron Sorkin
The West Wing Seasons 3 & 4:
The Shooting Scripts: Eight Teleplays by Aaron Sorkin

(Newmarket Shooting Scripts)

Book Description
The exciting follow-up to Newmarket's first West Wing Script Book features 8 teleplays from Seasons 3 and 4 of the hit NBC show—winner of 13 Emmy® Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series three years in a row—chosen and introduced by award-winning creator Aaron Sorkin. Experience firsthand the care and structure put into the scripts, selected here by Aaron Sorkin, that make The West Wing "one of TV's most satisfying hours, a savvy blend of great acting, whip-smart dialogue and grand gestures" (USA Today).

The West Wing, holding the record for most Emmys® won in a single season, stars Stockard Channing, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, Joshua Malina, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, Martin Sheen, John Spencer, and Bradley Whitford.

In the acclaimed Newmarket Shooting Script® Series, The West Wing Seasons 3 &4: The Shooting Scripts contains 8 full-length teleplays personally selected by Aaron Sorkin, a behind-the-scenes section about the making of the show, 20 black-and-white stills, and an introduction written exclusively for this edition by Sorkin.

Search For Posters!
These photos are from “Issac and Ishmael” episode written by creator and producer Aaron Sorkin for the 2001 season

Pictured: (l-r) Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, Richard Schiff as Toby Zeigler, Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman, Allison Janney as C. J. Cregg -- A special episode of the Emmy Award-winning series, dealing with some of the questions and issues currently facing the world in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on the United States. “The West Wing” creator and executive producer Aaron Sorkin wrote the script. -- Warner Bros. photo

“Issac and Ishmael” -- Pictured: (l-r) Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, Richard Schiff as Toby Zeigler, Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman, Allison Janney as C. J. Cregg “The West Wing” creator and executive producer Aaron Sorkin wrote the script. -- Warner Bros. photo

As the winner of four consecutive Emmy Awards as Outstanding Drama Series, “The West Wing” – under the direction of executive producer John Wells (“ER”) -- continues to offer viewers a realistic, behind-the-scenes peek into the Oval Office as seen through the eyes of its eclectic group of frenzied staffers and the devoted First Family.

Now starting its fifth season, the sophisticated, one-hour drama series continues in a new direction with stars Emmy winner Martin Sheen (“Apocalypse Now”), Emmy winner John Spencer (“L.A. Law”), Emmy winner Bradley Whitford (“My Fellow Americans”), Emmy winner Richard Schiff (“Deep Impact”), Emmy winner Allison Janney (“American Beauty”), Emmy nominee Dule Hill (“Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk!”), Emmy nominee Janel Moloney (“Sports Night”), and Emmy winner Stockard Channing (“Six Degrees of Separation”) and Joshua Malina (“Sports Night”).

Likewise, Annabeth Gish (“The X-Files”) joins the cast in a recurring role as President Josiah Bartlet’s oldest daughter while Steven Eckholdt (“It’s like, you know…”) appears as her husband. Gary Cole (“Midnight Caller”) will also begin a recurring role in episode three as the new Vice President.

For its debut season (1999-2000), “The West Wing” was honored with 13 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series, an honor the series also received in 2001 and 2002. Along with its several awards, the show also received 20 additional nominations this year. It holds the record for most Emmys won by a series in a single season (its first). Other awards include a Peabody Award for excellence in television, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Drama Series and three Television Critics Association Awards.

The series recently took a dramatic turn when Democratic President Bartlet startled everyone when he invoked the 25th Ammendment to step down from office while dealing with his daughter Zoey’s (Elisabeth Moss) abduction. Bartlet, who had just started his second term, exudes a country-lawyer charisma that belies his brilliance, his deep conviction and devotion to what he believes is right for the country. The First Lady Abby Bartlet (Channing) is a dedicated doctor and mother who is opinionated but staunchly supports her husband.

Among Bartlet’s loyal staffers are Leo McGarry (Spencer), the President’s Chief of Staff and his closest ally and confidant. He possesses the sort of street smarts that enable him to keep in touch with the sentiments of the nation. Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Whitford) is a skilled strategist, who helped get Bartlet elected and his sarcastic assistant, Donna Moss (Moloney), is often there to take the wind out of his sails. Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Janney) jousts with the press questions with grace and skill, working alongside Toby Ziegler (Schiff), the rumpled, cynical Communications Director. Rounding out the team is the President’s plainspoken, astute personal aide, Charlie Young (Hill) and Will Bailey (Malina), the diplomatic speechwriter and Special Assistant to the President.

Website: Email:
Holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Biology (with an undeclared major in English) from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. He works as an environmental toxicologist by day and is a horror writer by night. Obviously his areas of interests includes religious studies, folklore, and myths. He is a notorious egotist who, in anticipation of a successful writing career, is practicing speaking of himself in the third person. Oh yeah, he's married to the lovely Sally Jo and has two boys: Maurice Gerald Broaddus II (thus, retroactively declaring himself "Maurice the Great") and Malcolm Xavier Broaddus.

Pictured: (l-r) Thomas Schlamme, Aaron Sorkin
© Warner Bros, All Rights Reserved

I have been watching the reruns of The West Wing on Bravo, as a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue. With his dismissal at the end of the 2002 season, I was particularly interested in how the tenor of the show might change without his singular voice (every script passed through his hands during his tenure. The slow down in production and delays because of late scripts were some of the reasons for his dismissal). I had gotten used to well-acted smart characters spouting witty dialogue often reminiscent of the banter from 1930s screwball comedies.

The show taps into the Democratic ideal of a president: folksy, idealistic, honest, progressive, strong economic sense, a little hawkish though violence is a last resort, all while being charming. And, like any good politician, the show is aware of its audience and plays to the middle. And, in President Barlett, Sorkin presents an authentic Catholic Christianity that sets him apart not only from his circle, but from most characters on television. Rarely is a character’s religion explored (The Simpsons being one of the few TV families to regularly attend church and explore religion). This is a character who tests Chinese immigrants fleeing because of religious persecution using the shibboleth passage from the Book of Judges.

The show stumbled out the gate, wrapping up Aaron Sorkin’s last story, though leaving the main characters sitting on the sidelines with nothing to say and pretty much watching everything unfold, out of their hands, over a two episode arc. After that, the show has started to pick up again as the new stable of writers find their voice and direction.

Spiritual Connections:

I have always been curious about how people respond when bad things happen. When people try to disprove the idea of God, they often begin with the argument 1) if God is good, 2) if God is all-powerful, 3) why does evil exist. The “solution” to this problem seems to be the stumbling block for many a person’s faith. Katey Sagal’s character on the show 8 Simple Rules, in dealing with the sudden death of John Ritter’s character, explains that she is no longer on speaking terms with God because of it all the while wondering “why did this happen?”

Back to The West Wing. In the last episode of the second season, titled “Two Cathedrals”, President Bartlet is still reeling from the sudden and pointless death of his longtime friend and confident, Mrs. Landingham. Alone in a cathedral, he rails at God. He opens his monologue with “Have I displeased you, you feckless thug?” Here is a man understandably (and believably) angry with God, recalling the imprecatory Psalms. The show, as do most of the characters, often delights in being the smartest person in the room, so the president continues his tirade in Latin. I pulled this translation from the “West Wing UnOfficial Continuity Guide website (

“The first line is just a sarcastic, "Thanks a lot, buddy!"

gratias tibi ago, domine.
Thank you, Lord.

haec credam a deo pio, a deo justo, a deo scito?
Am I to believe these things from a righteous God, a just God, a wise God?

cruciatus in crucem
To hell with your punishments! (literally "(put/send) punishments onto a cross")

tuus in terra servus, nuntius fui; officium perfeci.
I was your servant, your messenger on the earth; I did my duty.

cruciatus in crucem -- (with a dismissive wave of the hand) eas in crucem
To hell with your punishments!
And to hell with you! (literally, "may you go to a cross")”

Is his stance heretical? This does seem to come straight out of the “curse God and die” philosophy of dealing with things. But I think this points to something deeper: our feelings are real and they are ours. They cannot be glossed over with platitudes, even biblical platitudes such as “God has a plan.” President Bartlet, as presented, is a man who can dress down a conservative radio talk show psychologist on her haphazard takes on Old Testament laws. He can wax eloquently about the true context and application of a homily from Ephesians (“be subject to one another”). He can take the church to task for not decrying the acts of those who bomb abortion clinics in the name of life and the Lord.

One of the most recent (post-Sorkin) episodes, titled “Disaster Relief”, deals with the president visiting a small Oklahoma town devastated by a tornado. The episode, a stand out for the season, features this line from a Red Cross volunteer to President Bartlet: “I’m sorry. I lost four kids on my route yesterday. At first, you’re just glad it’s not your kids. But you gotta wonder, what kind of God would do such a terrible thing? We go to church every Sunday. We try to do the right thing. What kind of plan could this possibly be?”

This question has been asked over and over again and will continue to be asked, by us, by the church, and by the culture. People look to the church to have an answer or at least defend God from the charges of neglect. Does the question deserve an answer? Or is this a case of who are we to ask the question? Or are we afraid of the mystery that God’s silence on the question presents?


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