Monday, April 10, 2006

Santos by a Nose
The West Wing settled its election storyline last night, crowning a clear-cut successor to Jed Bartlet when Matt Santos defeated Arnold Vinick by an electoral college count of 272-266. It came down to Oregon and Nevada, and sometime after 4:00AM on Election Night, Santos got them both. The resolution was mildly surprising because last week's episode showed the stars aligning for a protracted Florida-style debacle that didn't happen. Vinick refused his staff's advice to pursue legal challenges, deciding instead to concede.

The producers revealed today that a Santos win wasn't their original plan. They say they intended for Vinick to win all along, but that plans changed after the death of John Spencer, who played Santos' running mate, former White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry. According to an article in the New York Times, the producers thought it would be too much if Santos lost the election and his running mate, too.

I have my doubts about whether that's true, but it really doesn't matter now. Somebody noted on the Television Without Pity West Wing message board today that if the show were going on for another season, it would be more interesting to watch Vinick in office than it would be to watch Santos. But the show's last episode will be on May 14, and by electing Santos, the show will offer its dedicated viewers plenty of opportunities for closure. Opportunity number one is next week, when several characters unseen for years will return for Leo's funeral. The most buzzworthy one is Sam Seaborn, played by Rob Lowe. Seaborn was the White House deputy communications director and won a seat in Congress a few seasons back as a way of writing him out when Lowe left the show. He'll reportedly be one of the pallbearers at Leo's funeral, but I'm also guessing he'll be Santos' choice to replace Leo as vice president. It would offer another nice bit of closure, given that in an early episode of the series, Bartlet told Sam that he would be president one day.

I have to give a bit of love to the producers--I was ready, about the time of the live debate episode last fall, to quit watching The West Wing entirely. But since the show returned to the air after taking the month of February off, it's been mostly pretty good. It hasn't reached the level of the first four seasons or anything, but after the depths of the godawful fifth and sixth seasons, what we've seen in the last few weeks is a definite comeback.

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