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September 5, 2015

The West Wing: Running Mates

by Bob Sassone, posted Jan 8th 2006 9:12PM

John SpencerFirst 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. 

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Grrr. I missed Sunday's episode. It's really the John Spencer tribute that I wanted to see. You'd think NBC would have it posted on its Web site, but nooooooo.

Anyone know where I can see the tribute? Thanks.

January 10 2006 at 9:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Virginia Elliott

Leo's comment about "the first symptom of a heart attack is death" sent shivers down my spine. What a terrible loss!!!

January 10 2006 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I stand corrected about the ratings... I usually don't follow them, but I thought I had read somewhere that with the critial resurgance in the show this year, that it had seen some improvement in the ratings department.
Wow, I really liked this episode, but everyone else seems to be putting it in the servicable catagory. Personally, I thought there was some of that witty dialogue that we used to see (obviously not at the Sorkin level, but still) with that first Josh/Donna scene, the Leo/Annabeth scene, and then all of the bits with Josh and the Santos staffer whose name I STILL can't remember. I thought there back and forth was very J/D. Also, the Toby/Josh scene was a call back to all things Toby/Josh.
Blame Paul McCrane for the camera work. I don't remember ole' Rocket Romano having shot many TWW episodes in the past.
Well, I liked it... Maybe it was a bit of the afterglow of seeing John Spencer on screen again, and maybe that glow with dim a bit after watching it again.

January 09 2006 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No, this wasn't a great show, but it was a reminder of just what a great actor Spencer was. One bright spot of this episode was the lovable banter between Leo and Annabeth. Spencer and Chenoweth had a great chemistry from the get-go. Very Hepburn/Tracy, but with a Southern accent.
Speaking of great actors, why does this show not use Alan Alda more often? I like Jimmy Smits, but Alda's portrayal of Arnold Vinick has been a real bright spot in an otherwise mediocre season. Wouldn't mind seeing more of Patricia Richardson, as well.
On a more petty note, what's up with Janeane Garofalo's eyebrows? They're just too butch and too distracting. I like Garofalo, she can be quite funny, but come on!

January 09 2006 at 9:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Regardless of what Dorv says, the ratings this season are not better than the past couple of years; they are, by far, at an all time low.

January 09 2006 at 9:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, I was thinking the same thing about the eyebrows. She's not bad looking, but sheesh, a little much.

Overall, not a bad episode, but nothing spectacular. It's kind of just become another show now, instead of the West Wing, if anyone catches my drift. No snappy dialogue, fewer intersecting plots, and no camera movement! That was THE signature of the show, for chrissakes. And it's gone.

January 09 2006 at 3:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh how I feel cheated by this great actor's too early passing. Its hard not to feel so selfish when I watched the early scene with Annabeth and Leo, where they argue the finer differences between a smirk and a scowl.
The B storyline is a necessary evil. If (and I'm now beginning to wonder, as good as this season has been, that we might actually have a chance for it to come back) this show goes on next year, it will do so with a new FLOTUS that not only do the fictional voters not know, but the audience doesn't... And as big of shoes that Matt Santos/Jimmy Smits has to fill, I daresay that Helen Santos/Teri Polo might very well have bigger ones (It made me wonder how a younger Abigal Bartlet would handle the photos... Then, I wondered how Rizzo would handle it :)).
As wonderful as John Spencer was in this episode, the Josh/Toby scene was beautiful. (It almost looked like it was an add-in, though. The camera work just looked different for Toby's bit)
I do actually think theres a shot for TWW coming back next year. While they scaled back a lot of the payroll this year, next year they could basically restock. No matter who wins, next year you drop the following actors from the payroll: Sheen, Channing, Janney, Schiff, Hill, Spencer :(. If Vinick wins, you basically get rid of everyone from the original cast, and if Santos wins, all you keep from that group is Whitford and Maloney (I'm all about Malina, but it would be a reach for Josh to bring Will into the fold (more likely, in that world, bringing in Sam to run Communications, and bringing characters back is a Wells tradition over at ER)). But you could run next year much cheaper than even this year. And the ratings are better than they have been in the past couple, IIRC.

January 09 2006 at 1:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Janeane Garofalo's eyebrows bothered me. Give me more Stephen Root!

Spencer did look bad, but maybe that is good acting.

January 08 2006 at 9:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen Disney

Josh: "I forget, in D.C., can felons vote?......Too soon?" Toby: "Little bit." Even though I watched to see the Leo parts of the episode; you hit the nail on the head with the reason why I originally fell for The West Wing. I miss Leo(John) already.

January 08 2006 at 9:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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