The West Wing is considered one of the most influential TV series of all times. With its portrayal of US politics and its in-depth inquisition into proceedings at the White House, it provides invigorating and interesting viewing.
President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) runs the show at the White House, and his team stands together to accomplish all kinds of feats, from nuclear treaties to bomb diffusions. Still, there are some things which don't quite make sense on the series, or which viewers might have wondered about. Here are just 10 of them.
10 The strange jacket gesture
Viewers might have wondered about the strange way that President Bartlet puts on his jacket in Season 5. Jed's nonsensical movement while putting on his jacket might have left fans wondering whether this was some kind of presidential gesture which they had not been let in on.
The reasoning behind this display only makes sense when considering that Martin Sheen was born under difficult circumstances and as such, has limited use of his left hand.
9 Toby's unexpected betrayal
In a creative decision which hurt and angered staff and fans, at one point, Toby betrays the president. Viewers didn't expect this kind of betrayal, as Toby seemed the kind of guy who valued loyalty. Still, the most shocked person by this turn of events was Richard Schiff, the actor behind the character.
Schiff wasn't told about this twist ahead of time and could not understand Toby's thought process. He eventually dealt with it by telling himself that Toby was innocent and had actually been covering for somebody else.
8 The longevity of Gail the Goldfish
Fans more than likely wondered about the beloved Gail the Goldfish, which seemed to swim on and on and on. Actress Allison Janney told directors she didn't want them to tell her when they 'replaced' Gail but rather to let her believe they had one Gail for the entire duration of the show.
This is exactly what the directors did. Much as a parent will go to the pet store to replace a dead fish with one that looks exactly the same so the child will be none the wiser, The West Wing replaced Gail a couple of times over the series' seven seasons. So while the fish appeared to live on and on, that wasn't the case.
Whoever was in charge of the series' chess set got more than just one thing wrong. Curiously, the pieces on the chessboard in Oliver Babish's office were set up incorrectly for much of the series, with the kings and queens being in reverse positions.
What's more, the pieces are not correctly placed on the underlying squares, in terms of dark and light. In another sequence in the episode "Chess In The West Wing," scriptwriters get things a little wrong when a man playing chess with President Bartlet makes a move and the president exclaims "Ah, The Evans Gambit!" Such a move would not be recognizable so quickly.
6 Oversimplified politics
Politics is often oversimplified in the series’ narrative. To give an example, in the sixth season, President Bartlet sits down with the Chinese president and personally secures a summit for nuclear talks with North Korea.
This, despite an attack of multiple sclerosis and the dramatically different outlooks the two governments have on issues like nuclear acquisition, human rights, and governance. It would appear these great gulfs in belief systems are bridged over a cup of coffee, thanks to the US president’s force of personality.
5 Oversimplified roles
In the real West Wing of the US White House, many hands are required to, for example, write the State of the Union Address or vet Supreme Court nominees. In TV’s The West Wing, things are slightly different and political aficionados will more than likely cringe at the nonsensical ‘superpowers’ some of the characters appear to have.
The White House’s complex bureaucracy of multi-tiered workers is simplified into a handful of key characters. To give an example, Toby Ziegler (communications director) and Sam Seaborn (Ziegler’s deputy) single-handedly write the whole State of the Union address.
4 Losing Ainsley Hayes
Remember Ainsley Hayes? She was the Associate White House Counsel in The West Wing, who featured in the series from 2000 to 2002, and again in 2006. The role was played by talented Emily Procter of CSI: Miami fame. Fans may have felt that Ainsley left the show prematurely.
Director Aaron Sorkin said he regretted not signing her up as a regular in the series because he was already paying eight regular cast members. He hadn't wanted to commit to having her character in every episode of the series. She was soon snatched up by the CSI: Miami team, to both fans and Sorkin's disappointment.
3 English literature confusion
In one scene, President Bartlet interacts with Mrs. Morello, a teacher, sounding ever the English expert. He asks whether when she taught Beowulf, she made the children read it in the original Middle English or whether they used a translation.
Barlet got this all wrong! Beowulf, incidentally, was actually written in Old English during the 8th Century It would be 300 years until the language evolves into what is now known as Middle English.
2 More than just cheese
1 Reactions to Bartlet's MS
President Bartlet is living with the incurable condition of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This he reveals to his staff and most trusted colleagues over the course of Season 1. However, it isn't until the last few episodes of Season 2 that he makes a decision to let the public in on his health condition. There is a build-up of tension before the president announces his MS to the public.
However, Season 3's quick switch to the president's re-election campaign and the abrupt move away from Season 2's build-up towards the MS announcement (as well as the public's lack of reaction) more than likely made no sense to viewers.