The West Wing: Running Mates
First up tonight is a nice opening with Martin Sheen, a short tribute to John Spencer explaining what type of person he was like and that tonight is the first in five remaining episodes that will feature Spencer.
Tonight's ep mostly centers around Leo and how he is screwing up the prep for the vice presidential debate. That stuff is really interesting, but it's surrounded by these really lame domestic scenes with Matt Santos and his family. Eh. They aren't bad for some other show (I guess), but it's just not the whip-smart show The West Wing used to be. Still, Spencer's performance, the stuff about the inner workings of the debate prep, and that one scene with Josh and Toby on the phone (Josh: "I forget, in D.C., can felons vote?......Too soon?" Toby: "Little bit.") make it all worthwhile.
There is one cringe-worthy moment, when Leo is asked during the debate whether or not his health should be a campaign issue, and Leo talks about the first sign that you've had a heart attack is death.
Yikes. And Spencer doesn't look that great in these episodes. I'm not saying that's any indication of the general health he was in at the time he filmed them, but the combination of his appearance, the plotline involving Leo's health, and the fact that Spencer just died recently and now he's back on TV...it all adds up to an uneasiness viewers might have about the whole thing. But the fact that Spencer was a great actor - and Leo was the heart, soul, and mind of this show, even this season - that means a lot, and adds a special poignancy to this episode and surely what is to come in the next four.
I'm not sure how they are going to handle Spencer's death. With Leo's health a question this season, they certainly have that solution if they need it. It's just good to hear that Aaron Sorkin is coming back to be involved in the final episodes of the series. If anyone can end the series (and I do think it's ending this year) and create a graceful, respectful, emotional exit for Spencer, it's him.