Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of “The West Wing” with Tidbits of…Trivia!

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the premiere of one of the greatest televised dramas of all-time, The West Wing (and, that all-time comment isn’t simply the way this writer feels, it was a public and critically hit during its seven years on-air, and lives on as one of the best-written shows in history).

Below, check out some Tidbits of The West Wing trivia and comment your favorite episodes! We’ll be binging on Netflix all day.

[Check out photos from the Warner Bros. Studios Tour in Burbank, CA, which features props from the series – photos all belong to Taylor Leddin; all trivia is courtesy of IMDB.]

  1. Martin Sheen was originally only scheduled to appear in four episodes per season. It was only after the pilot was filmed that it was decided to make him a regular cast member.
  2. Traditionally, during a Republican administration, a portrait of Theodore Roosevelt is hung in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House and, during a Democratic administration, a portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt is hung there (the former Roosevelt being a Republican and the latter a Democrat). In the Roosevelt Room of the Bartlet White House, portraits of both Roosevelts are hung.

  3. Once while the show was filming in Georgetown at about three o’clock in the morning, an irate lady reportedly came out in a bathrobe with a bunch of guys. She said, “What the hell’s going on? I have an early morning at the State Department, and, by the way, you people don’t even have a Secretary of State on your show, and I think you should have one, and it should be a woman.” The woman was Madeleine Albright.

  4. The set was supposedly so realistic that Warner Brothers studio tour groups are not permitted inside the sound stages where the show was filmed, due to White House security concerns. (Some exterior sets, including the South Portico, may be viewed on the tour.)

    IMG_6132
    The Warner Bros. prop house holds Bartlet’s Oval Office set.
  5. This was the first American drama series to react to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Aaron Sorkin wrote a special episode (“Isaac and Ishmael”) that was filmed and broadcast within only a couple of weeks. The episode, which featured the lead characters discussing a terrorist threat upon the U.S., and being locked down inside the White House, due to the name of a man on a Terrorist Watch List matching that of an innocent White House worker, was not considered part of this show’s continuity.

  6. After being advised by Josh that “she (C.J. Cregg) likes goldfish”, Danny Concannon mistakenly gives C.J. a live goldfish in a bowl, as opposed to the snack-food variety. The goldfish and goldfish bowl then become permanent parts of C.J.’s office decor, and whenever the bowl appears on camera, the centerpiece decoration is always changed to match a popular theme from that episode, or the relevant holiday season, for example, a turkey, a Christmas tree, a space shuttle, a podium, and so on.

    IMG_6135
    CJ’s fish bowl and the iconic “Bartlet For America” napkin, on display at Warner Bros. Studio.
  7. The set was the largest constructed for both a pilot and a television series to date. It was so large that during the first season, it had to be housed on two stages, each with an identical yellow corridor for continuity. During the hiatus between the first and second seasons, the set was moved to a larger stage, and put together, where it has remained ever since.

  8. In the opening credits, there is a still shot of Martin Sheen’s character, President Bartlet leaning on a desk with his head bowed. We see him from the back. This was a direct tribute to the famous photograph of President John F. Kennedy taken during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The only difference is that JFK was holding a cigar in his hand.

  9. On the set of the series one day, Allison Janney was entertaining the cast and crew by lip-syncing to an obscure spoken jazz piece called “The Jackal” by Ronny Jordan. Aaron Sorkin liked it so much that he wrote it into the next episode of the show (“Six Meetings Before Lunch”) as a ritual of C.J.’s.

  10. The West Wing is noted for developing the “walk-and-talk”-long Steadicam tracking shots showing characters walking down hallways while involved in long conversations. In a typical “walk-and-talk” shot, the camera leads two characters down a hallway as they speak to each other. One of these characters generally breaks off and the remaining character is then joined by another character, who initiates another conversation as they continue walking. These “walk-and-talks” create a dynamic feel for what would otherwise be long expository dialogue, and have become a staple for dialogue-intensive television show scenes.
IMG_6138
One of Leo’s greatest monologues. The above was a gift to The Tidbit from Haley Plans.
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