1999: 'The West Wing' Starts its Seven-Year Run
On this day in 1999, NBC introduced one of television's most honored dramatic series, The West Wing. Set in the area of the White House where the Oval Office and presidential senior staff members are located, the critically-acclaimed drama revolved around the inner workings of a fictional Democratic administration.
Created by Aaron Sorkin, (whose latest show, The Newsroom, recently finished its first season on HBO) the series was a hit with viewers and critics alike. It was also praised by former White House staffers for capturing the overall feel of working in the presidential quarters.
Thanks to the show's elaborate White House set, directors were able to film characters talking as they walked from one area to another in one continuous take. These "walk and talks" became a West Wing trademark. The technique has been adopted by other shows to add interest to dialogue-heavy scenes.
The West Wing's main cast included Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet, Stockard Channing as First Lady Abigail Bartlet, and Richard Schiff, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, Janel Moloney, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Joshua Malina and Mary McCormack as various White House staffers.
Other actors who appeared on the show during the show's seven-year run include Jimmy Smits, Kristin Chenoweth, Lily Tomlin, Timothy Busfield, Alan Alda, Mary-Louise Parker, John Amos, Gary Cole, Tim Matheson, Ron Smith, Marlee Matlin, Janeane Garofalo, Mark Harmon, Adam Arkin, Ed O'Neill, Jason Isaacs, Evan Handler, Christian Slater, Matthew Perry, John Goodman, and Connie Britton.
In its first season, the show collected nine Emmys, including Outstanding Drama Series. It also won Outstanding Drama in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. With a total 27 Emmy awards, The West Wing is (to date) television's most-honored drama series.
Editor's Note: In what's being billed as a West Wing reunion, several key cast members are featured in a one-of-a-kind ad which was released Thursday and became an instant internet hit. The video — part PSA, part campaign video — calls attention to the fact that many voters inadvertently overlook the non-partisan portion of their ballot. It also features a healthy plug for Michigan State Supreme Court candidate Bridget Mary McCormack, big sister of one-time West Wing star Mary McCormack. Take a look: