NBC’s long-running drama, The West Wing premiered 20 years ago in September. The show helped usher in a new brand of television: the political drama. The old adage of television was to never make a political based show. If someone did, the results were sure to be polarizing or the resulting show would crash and burn, but not The West Wing. Creator and writer Aaron Sorkin took a taboo topic and turned it into one of the most beloved TV series of all time, and in the process allowed for other political TV shows to fill the void once it was off the air.
For some time there have been discussions about reviving the show. Richard Schiff, who played Communications Director Toby Ziegler, has an idea for a revival, but he won’t say what it is other than it has something to do with grassroots politics.
For those who don’t know what that means, according to Wikipedia, it is “[a movement] which uses the people in a given district, region, or community as the basis for a political or economic movement. Grassroots movements and organizations use collective action from the local level to effect change at the local, regional, national, or international level.” All of which sounds compelling on its own, but what about everything and everyone else?
I’ve recently been spending a lot of time in The West Wing, watching the show and falling in love with the characters and I got to thinking: how could the series be revived? Especially in this political climate?
Don’t worry, I got you covered. Here’s how the show could be revived, starting with where the characters ended and where the characters could be fourteen years later.
FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD SPOILER ALERT. You can never be too careful.
As the seasons went on, Toby really ended up being the wildcard of the characters which was a great way to give Schiff some meat to chew on, but his story didn’t end the way anyone expected. Even Schiff was upset with the way Toby went out, and to be honest, so am I.
In the end, Toby leaked information about a military-grade space shuttle which was a matter of national security. He was fired from the White House and subject to criminal charges, but President Bartlet pardoned him at the last minute. At the end of the series, Toby was seen teaching at Columbia University.
Fourteen years later, it would be interesting to see how he is parlaying his teaching into gathering students for political movements that would mean something near and dear to his heart. Of course, because Schiff has the idea of getting into the grassroots movements that are making such a difference in the political sphere, it would make sense that Toby would also be interested in the grassroots mentality. He’s not the most approachable character in the entire show, but there’s no doubt that his prickly, no-nonsense demeanor would intrigue his students, not to mention his illustrious career as a member of President Bartlet’s staff would proceed him.
Toby would, in my opinion, work on the political movements that would focus on homelessness, Veteran affairs, and the arts. He is a speechwriter, after all, and he probably teaches journalistic writing or creative writing at Columbia.
Rob Lowe left The West Wing in season four after negotiations with his salary went south. Sam went off to run for Congress in a special election for his home district in California. He knew he was going to lose, but President Bartlet came out in support for him. The show never really said if he lost or not, but it was implied that he lost in a huge way.
Later, in the seventh season, Sam came back to the White House and was appointed deputy chief of staff under Josh Lyman. The two best friends mirrored Josh and Leo’s relationship from the start of the series and that’s totally fine, I didn’t need my heart in the slightest. It was a great end to the series and a fitting end to these besties who’ve been together for years.
After serving President Santos for eight years, a part of me wonders if Sam wouldn’t try his hand at running for congress again. I know he wouldn’t go back to corporate law. At the beginning of the second season, we learn that he wasn’t happy with how that job was going. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if he didn’t stay in politics. Sam was incredibly smart and a capable member of the Bartlet staff. It would be interesting if he got elected to the House or the Senate in California and constantly butts heads with whoever the new president is. (We’ll get to that later. I promise.) Plus, it would be interesting to see how his and Josh’s relationship has shifted and changed and grown in the fourteen years between the Santos administration and now.
Josh Lyman and Donna Moss
We left Josh fourteen years ago in a position of power. He ran Santos’ campaign and, as a result, became Santos’ Chief of Staff. Not only that, he and Donna finally, FINALLY got together after EIGHT YEARS of will they/won’t they run around and fans of the pair have never felt so vindicated. At the end of season 7, not only was Josh Chief of Staff, Donna became Chief of Staff to the First Lady. Talk about a power couple.
Of course, that would need to continue into a proposed revival. There’s no doubt in my mind that Donna has made the jump from Chief of Staff to the First Lady to actual Chief of Staff. While Donna had her quirks and often drove Josh crazy with the bits of nonsensical information she would spout off, usually when Josh was the most annoyed, there’s no doubt that Donna is a brilliant woman and would make an equally brilliant Chief of Staff. She’s level headed and no one could make the argument that she wasn’t qualified. After spending eight years as a senior assistant and then eight more years working with the First Lady, Donna would be a shoo-in for that position.
As for Josh, he would be incredibly supportive of Donna. They’d be married and probably have two furbabies by now, and probably two (or more) kids too, but that doesn’t mean they would slow down. Speaking of kids, we could make the assumptions they would be called Noah and Joannie after Josh’s father and sister. If they had more than two kids? You can bet Leo would be there too. If not, I think Noah Leopold Lyman-Moss has a nice ring to it. (Yes, that’s how it works in the Moss-Lyman household, thank you.)
It would be interesting to see Josh as a public sector consultant. After spending sixteen years working in the White House, he’d retire but he wouldn’t be out of the loop for too long. I could see him raising his kids for a little while, but while he does that, he’d definitely be working on the side and working to build his own consulting firm which would go public at the beginning of the midterm elections. Going public at the midterm elections would cause a bit of a ripple effect, but Josh is our dramatic fave and would we expect anything else? No. Not at all.
C.J. Cregg and Danny Concannon
Besides Donna and Josh, these two lovebirds were my faves by far. They were a bit rocky at the start, but they ended up being cute and the epitome of couple’s goals. Danny disappeared from the show for a while but ended up coming back and in the flash-forward in season 7, it’s revealed that they live together in California, are engaged, and have a baby. Super duper cute. C.J. also serves as the president and CEO of the Frank Hollis Foundation.
Now, all this living in California stuff happens during the Santos administration. So who’s to say that they don’t move back to D.C. for something important? Granted, C.J. is a California girl. Toby plucked her from a PR firm in Los Angeles to be President Bartlet’s press secretary. My idea brings Danny and C.J. back to D.C. where C.J. returns to public relations. After serving as president and CEO of Hollis’s foundation, there’s no doubt in my mind that she would be prepared to open her own PR firm with Danny. Of course, Danny would still report the news and be a boon to the new administration’s press secretary. Once a reporter, always a reporter, and let’s be honest, C.J. would be right there beside him, writing op-ed pieces that are scathing and critical or praiseworthy of the newest administration as well as the overall government entity.
Since it’s been fourteen years since the end of season 7, it’s safe to say that the little 12-year-old Concannon kiddo would be as precocious as their parents and would probably be interested in politics. After all, you can’t tell me the little tyke wouldn’t immediately look up to Aunt Donna and Uncles Josh and Sam and be regaled with stories of their triumphs up on the Hill and beyond. Seriously. It would be the greatest and the cutest thing ever.
Charlie Young and Zoey Barlet
Charlie and Zoey were the other cute couple of the White House and that didn’t change for the entire seven-year run of the show. Though Dule Hill, who played Charlie, left to star in Psych, Charlie was still an integral part of the White House, even after he graduated Georgetown and left his position as President Bartlet’s personal aide. Later, it’s revealed that CJ keeps him on as a special aide to the Chief of Staff. Zoey, meanwhile, also graduates Georgetown and while she and Charlie have their ups and downs, it’s safe to assume that they are also a lasting couple who would still be together fifteen or so years later.
Not much is known about these two, so it’s safe to say that the sky is the limit.
Charlie is probably still involved with politics in some way, probably using his inside knowledge of the White House to further gun control policy. I wouldn’t call him a lobbyist, but maybe he uses the help of a lobbyist to get his bills to Congress. Meanwhile, Zoe owns her own law firm in D.C. where Charlie is also a partner. They’re the very definition of a power couple. I don’t know if they’d have kids or not. If not, they definitely have dogs that are probably named their former Secret Service codes because they’re dorky and adorable like that. As if they wouldn’t be.
Josh Malina just finished up his long-running podcast “The West Wing Weekly” on Jan. 17 and the world and the fandom is better for his contributions with Hrishikesh Hirway. Truly. As Will Bailey, Malina replaced Lowe when he left in season 4. At the end of the series, Will was elected to Congress in Oregon.
Fourteen years later, let’s just say that Will is still in Congress for Oregon. He and Josh constantly get into shouting matches because of policy and other things that annoy Josh, but they’re good friends who get together to play poker on occasion. It’s also safe to say that despite being pegged as becoming chairman of Ways and Means “in 32 years,” Will rises to the top fairly quickly and becomes chairman after fourteen years which is part of the contention between Josh and other political giants he works with, despite being in the Democratic party.
Matt and Helen Santos
Matt Santos was elected President in 2007 after the devastating loss of his running mate former Secretary of Labor and White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry. (John Spencer tragically died of a massive heart attack in the middle of filming season 7.) The writers almost made him lose the election to Alan Alda’s Arnold Vinick, but they thought that the double loss wouldn’t sit well with audiences or with various characters such as Josh Lyman. So, the audience got a glimpse at the first Hispanic president and what a presidency it would have been had the show been renewed for an eighth season.
Not much is known about Helen but through the sixth and seventh seasons, it’s revealed that she takes a firm liberal stance regarding education funding, healthcare, the death penalty, and felon voting. She is also opposed to ethanol subsidies, believing them to be a waste of money.
Knowing this, I think it’s safe to say that Matt would probably have moved back to Houston and worked on establishing his presidential library as well as working on his memoir and continuing to raise his children, who would be nineteen and fourteen years old at the end of his second term. When his youngest finally left the nest, she’d be twenty-eight at the time of the revival, Matt and Helen probably moved back to D.C. to work closely with Josh as an analyst. Of course, he would probably also work on policy and charities that are near to his heart such as housing and urban development.
Jed and Abbey Bartlet
Following the series finale, I’m sure it’s safe to say that Jed and Abbey retired to a relatively quiet life in New Hampshire. Following a severe attack of his MS in 2005, Jed was relegated to walking with a cane after losing feeling in his legs. His career in politics finished, it’s safe to say that Jed probably did the same as Matt as did and focused on writing a memoir and opening his library, which did open in 2010 in New Hampshire. Many of his old staffers came to attend the opening which we see in the series.
Despite his health, I have no doubt that Jed would be an adjunct professor of economics at Dartmouth University (which doesn’t exist in the real world), probably teaching via online classes so he can stay close to the farm. He would keep in touch with his former staffers and probably invite them to Thanksgiving on occasion where he entertains everyone with calling the Butterball hotline and attempting to make turkey, but not entirely succeeding. I also think that he would donate most of his presidential salary to MS research.
Abbey would return to teaching medicine at Harvard and they’d both be entertained by grandkids from their two oldest daughters. Of course, Josh and Donna’s children would be like extended grandkids who love their Papa Jed and Nana Abbey.
As for the rest of the series, I would love to see a female president and a female vice president. If The West Wing could give us the first Hispanic president, they could give us the first female president and VP. Of course, they’re both democratic. Long live the Democrats in The West Wing, but it would be interesting if we dropped in en media res in the middle of a midterm election that threatens Democratic control of Congress.
I also think it would be interesting if we got a non-traditional 13 or 16 episode long season instead of a 22 episode season. Call me crazy, but network television really needs to adopt that model in order to keep up with cable television. Shorter seasons result in tighter storytelling.
Lastly, Sorkin needs to return to write. It’s just as simple as that. He is the master and he’s the reason The West Wing was so popular then and continues to be popular today. Who knows? Now that The West Wing will be heading to HBO’s streaming service HBO Max sometime this year, maybe we’ll get the news that he’s getting the gang back together. It might be wishful thinking, but you never know. Stranger things have been known to happen.
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