‘The West Wing’: NBC Gave Show Creators Strange Edits That They Thankfully Rejected

by Jeremy Spirogis
Martin Sheen in

The hilarity that ensued when C.J. goes to the dentist and is unable to ship an vital press briefing afterward. The tears shed by followers after we stated goodbye to Mrs. Landingham. The braveness Josh displayed when he boldly confronted his PTSD. Before any of those memorable moments ever made it to tv, The West Wing was simply an concept in screenwriter Aaron Sorkin‘s creativeness.

And if Sorkin’s bosses at NBC had gotten their approach, the hit TV present that went on to win 26 Emmy Awards would have regarded very, very totally different. In an interview, Sorkin and the solid revealed a few of the unusual and weird edits they acquired from NBC that they ended up rejecting. 

‘The West Wing’ developed from discarded story concepts 

Martin Sheen in 'The West Wing.'
Martin Sheen as President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet on ‘The West Wing.’ | Scott Garfield/NBCU Photo Bank

RELATED: ‘The West Wing’ Creator Reveals His ‘Favorite Moments’ From the Show

Sorkin wrote the screenplay for a 1995 romantic comedy film referred to as The American President. Scenes and tales from the movie that have been by no means used impressed him to go on and create the overall plot for The West Wing.

In an interview with Empire, Sorkin factors out that as he wrote the pilot and pitched the concept to NBC, he instantly hit some roadblocks.

The first downside was the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which was engulfing the true White House on the time. The second downside was that political TV exhibits had by no means been profitable earlier than, and the tv executives at NBC have been feeling very cautious and cautious of his concepts. 

Out of this nervous warning, Sorkin’s bosses at NBC despatched him and the solid quite a few revisions and edits to his unique pilot and the overall storyline. If Sorkin had adopted these strategies, The West Wing would have turned out loads totally different. 

NBC didn’t like the unique pilot for ‘The West Wing’ and prompt making it extra action-packed

[embedded content material]

RELATED: ‘The West Wing’: 3 Election-Themed Episodes To Watch

The West Wing is famend for its tempo, its dialogue, and its iconic “walk-and-talk” scenes. But that trademark pacing was instantly flagged by NBC, which wished Sorkin so as to add extra depth and motion to the political present.

In the identical interview with Empire, actor Bradley Whitford (who performs Josh Lyman) says that NBC “read the pilot and, if you remember, the Cuban refugees were on boats and Sam [Seaborn] and I are trying to figure out whether we let them land in Florida or send them back.”

Whitford explains that the solid acquired a notice from NBC saying that the TV community wished the pilot revised in order that he and Sam (performed by Rob Lowe) jumped into the water making an attempt to assist the migrants. 

“Like [Chicago mayor] Rahm Emanuel in a [expletive] Speedo!” laughs Whitford. “Saving the Cubans!” 

But Sorkin caught to his weapons, and Whitford and Lowe didn’t have to leap into the water. “If Aaron had allowed his show to have the conventional network interference, it would’ve been a disaster,” reminisces Whitford. 

NBC wished President Bartlet to be a conservative populist, not a liberal Democrat

RELATED: How Martin Sheen Got Himself Cast on ‘The West Wing’ as a Regular

President Josiah Edward “Jed” Bartlet, performed by Martin Sheen, hails from the Democratic celebration. Much of The West Wing‘s plot revolves around themes central to the real-life Democratic party, such as reforming Social Security and appointing more women and people of color. And the fictional character event went on to endorse Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run for presidency, studies the Washington Post.

However, the political local weather was very totally different again within the 1990s and early 2000s when The West Wing was on tv. And NBC didn’t like the concept of a fictional liberal president.

John Wells, one of many govt producers for the present, instructed Empire that NBC thought a president who was extra conservative would make the present higher.

“There was a governor at the time who had just been elected in Minnesota called Jesse Ventura,” says Wells. “He’d been a professional all-star wrestler: a big, bald dude.” This impressed NBC to inform Sorkin and the producers to alter President Bartlet’s background. 

“The network kept saying, ‘We don’t want to do something about a liberal Democrat,’” explains Wells. “‘We need a populist, somebody who’s a wrestler or a race car driver or a football player coming in from the outside and shaking things up.’”

Wells, Sorkin and the remainder of the staff clearly ignored that suggestion. And within the 2020 election particular that reunited the solid of The West Wing, President Bartlet was as liberal and progressive as all the time. 

Leave a Comment