The West Wing Episode Guide - http://www.westwingepguide.com/
Bookmark this Site


The Debate

Original Airdate 11-06-05


Previous Episode  ||  Season 7 Episode Index  |  Main Index  |  Season 7 Information Index  ||  Next Episode
Descriptions  |  Credits  |  Information Links  |  Awards  |  Media Quotes

Descriptions

From TVGuide.com:
Presidential candidates Matt Santos and Arnold Vinick square off in a campaign debate. Forrest Sawyer is the moderator.
From NBC:
In a first for NBC's "The West Wing," the Emmy Award-winning series will broadcast a live episode featuring a debate between presidential candidates Congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). Two live versions will be telecast, one for the East Coast and another for the West Coast.
TOP OF PAGE

Credits

Alan Alda as Arnold Vinick Republican Candidate for President
with
Jimmy Smits as
Matthew Vincente Santos Democratic Candidate for President
     
Special Guest Stars    
Janeane Garofalo as Louise "Lou" Thornton Media Consultant
Ron Silver as Bruno Gianelli Vinick / Sullivan Campaign Strategist
Teri Polo as Helen Santos Matt Santos' Wife
Patricia Richardson as Sheila Brooks Vinick Campaign Manager
Forrest Sawyer as Himself Moderator
TOP OF PAGE

Information Links

TOP OF PAGE

Awards

Emmy Awards

Outstanding Multi-Camera Sound Mixing for a Series or Special Win for
Ed Greene
Andy Strauber
TOP OF PAGE

Media Quotes

The West Wing is planning to do a live special during November sweeps that will revolve around a heated debate between presidential hopefuls Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). "We are in negotiations with NBC to do a live debate," confirms the show's executive producer, John Wells. "We would actually film the hour leading up to the debate, the on-stage [action], all the backstage [stuff] and the aftermath."

"Will & Grace, West Wing Go Live!"
by Matt Webb Mitovich
August 10, 2005
TV Guide Online

There's talk that "The West Wing" also will beam live once this season.

NBC and Warner Bros. Television this week still refused to confirm it, but Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda, the actors who would star in it, have been openly enthusiastic about the concept.

Smits, who plays Democratic presidential candidate Matt Santos, last spring disclosed plans for a live show during November sweeps, done as a televised debate between his character and Alda's Republican Sen. Arnold Vinick. Alda says he's in favor of it.

"I love that sense of danger," Alda says.

"So the opportunity to do a presidential debate, although it's scripted, it'll be live, and there'll be a certain amount of uncertainty -- my blood is up for that."

A live debate with the leads planted at podiums and at least a portion of the script on TelePrompTers could actually be an easy production compared with a regular "West Wing" episode. The production team for "The West Wing" would be able to draw on the institutional memory of the highly rated 1997 "ER" live episode, which also was produced by John Wells for Warner Bros. Television. The "ER" episode was performed twice for East and West Coast time periods, so it is likely "The West Wing" would do the same.

Alda is mindful that live performing is not only thrilling, it can be dangerous.

"I've almost died on the stage several times," he says. "Maybe I should be more sensible."

"Return to yesteryear: Series dabble in live broadcasts"
by Valerie Kuklenski
September 29, 2005
Los Angeles Daily News

Alda says, "I love that sense of danger. The only training I had as an actor was as an improviser. It kind of fits with my aspiration to be as spontaneous as I can be.

"In fact, when I was a young man on the stage, if another actor missed an entrance and I was alone on stage, I thought, 'Oh boy, is this great? I can make up my own play now!'

"West Wing Goes Live"
September 29, 2005
WENN

NBC Thursday outlined plans for its Nov. 6 live broadcast of The West Wing. The episode will focus on a presidential debate between Democratic Congressman Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) and Republican Sen.Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda).

... NBC will air two separate live versions, one each for the East and West coast. This also marks a return to live TV for executive producer John Wells, who produced a live episode of his other drama, ER, for its fourth season premiere in September 1997.

The live episode will be written by executive producer Lawrence O'Donnell and directed by executive producer Alex Graves.

"West Wing-ing It"
by Ben Grossman
October 10, 2005
Broadcasting & Cable

The live presidential debate on "The West Wing" between candidates Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda will have a real newsman as moderator.

Former ABC anchor Forrest Sawyer will play himself in the Nov. 6 episode, according to reports.

Producers were afraid to hire an actor for the role for fear he or she might get "too nervous" to do the part live.

"REAL ANCHOR FOR 'WING'"
October 10, 2005
New York Post

Executive Producer John Wells says that they'll have a "general sense of where they're going," are "definitely rehearsing a script" and are giving the two actors "substantial briefing materials" for the episode, noting that these days real presidential candidates are usually well rehearsed and almost never surprised by a question.

But there will be improvisation and spontaneity -- more than in the real thing, Wells said -- and they plan to solicit some questions over the Internet from viewers.

"To even call our current presidential debates 'debates' is stretching the term," he said, noting that virtually all elements, including the types of questions and the format, are "so pre-negotiated."

"In many ways what they've done is created a world for real presidential debates in which the candidates have an opportunity, to a larger audience, not to engage each other, but to give another version of their stump speech," Wells said.

"The whole idea about doing a [live 'West Wing'] debate was to try to do a debate in which the characters actually debated. . . . We will try to set up a world in which the candidates can have a real exchange," he said, adding that his goal is to get viewers to question why they don't get that in real life.

If yesterday's unscripted, spontaneous phone news conference is any indication, Alda will win the debate hands down -- though it's widely presumed that NBC has Smits in mind to play the next president of the United States if "West Wing" goes to another season

...

Alda is a very good public speaker. His early training, he notes, was in improv, whereas, Smits explained, "Jimmy is not a good talker," and his character is "much more verbal than Jimmy is or could ever be."

...

Consider their answers to a simple question: "Is it important to you guys . . . that your character wins the debate or . . . the election?"

"What's important to me," Smits replied, "is that we do good storytelling. I think we've been doing that and keep the audience on their toes, keep it topical. And, just to reinforce what Alan said before, is that both points of view are strong and I think since last season we've been doing that and will continue doing that."

Alda also began with the same evasive blah, blah, blah, but then recovered with a great save: "But specifically, to answer your question . . . I have to tell you that it's hard to play any character and not want that character to get what he wants. I wanted to destroy Howard Hughes when I was in 'The Aviator' and I saw every good reason to do it, so that I could be the guy convincingly.

"Of course I want to win the debate, some part of me does, anyway, but . . . you do have to go along with what the story is. If the story doesn't actually have Richard III winning the battle, no matter how much he wants to win, he doesn't win. But you still have to want it. In a debate like this, where . . . you're the one live on camera, if you don't win, it's like something's wrong with you. So it gets even more personal. Some part of me of course wants to win. Even in our imagination I would love to rule the world."

To which Smits added: "Alan wants to cream me out there."

...

Even Smits acknowledged he's no Alan Alda when one critic asked if he was worried about the live debate, given that "Alda is slick of tongue" and has been "talking for decades" -- which somehow sounded like it was meant to be an insult.

"Jimmy is not a good talker," Smits said, adding bravely that will force him to "prepare doubly hard."

"'West Wing' Candidates To Face Off in Live Debate"
by Lisa De Moraes
October 15, 2005
Washington Post

"We'll have a general sense of where we're going," but both Smits, who plays Democratic contender Matt Santos, and Alda, who plays Republican front-runner Arnold Vinick, are going to be briefed extensively enough on their characters' positions so they'll be able to react to each other naturally, Wells said.

"God, it sounds like... you're saying it'll be less scripted than a regular debate," Alda said, sounding mildly alarmed.

"We're just going to try to go out with a little bit of a net and riff a little bit, too," said Smits. "What's important to me is that we... keep the audience on their toes, keep it topical... and that both points of view are strong."

"This show has always tried to say what we wish our politics was," Wells said, and in the "West Wing's" debate, "we will try to set up a world where the candidates can have a real exchange."

"'West Wing' candidates to do live 'debate'"
by Ellen Gray
October 15, 2005
Philadelphia Daily News

"I'm just going to try not to smirk," said Smits, referring to President Bush's preferred facial expression in his first debate against challenger John Kerry. "I know from looking at debates that that gets people in trouble, so no smirking."

"I don't know what to do about not pointing," said Alda. "You're not supposed to point and that's my favorite gesture."

The episode will air live Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. (WNBC/Ch. 4) and will feature a debate between Democratic Rep. Matt Santos (Smits) and Republican Sen. Arnold Vinick (Alda). It will likely air with little or no commercial interruptions, making it about 10 minutes longer than usual, according to executive producer John Wells. Former ABC News correspondent Forrest Sawyer will moderate the debate (playing himself). Producers will also solicit questions from viewers via the Internet, said Wells

...

"Even to call our current presidential debates 'debates' is stretching the term," said Wells. "In many ways, what we've done is create a world in which for our real presidential debates now ... the candidates have an opportunity to not engage each other but give versions of their stump speech."

...

There is no set script for the episode, although there is a well-constructed outline. The actors, in preparing to go head-to-head, are boning up on each of their character's core issues.

...

"Of course I want to win the debate," said Alda. "It's hard to play any character and not want that character to get what he wants. I wanted to destroy Howard Hughes when I was in 'The Aviator,'" he said, referring to his part as Hughes' arch enemy, Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster.

"You do have to go along with what the story is. But you still have to want it, and in a debate like that, where you're out there and you're live on camera, if you don't win it's like something's wrong with you," he said. "So it gets even more personal. ... Even in our imagination, I would love to rule the world."

"Alan wants to cream me out there," Smits said with a laugh. And without a story line to adhere to, he indicated, he probably would.

"I am not a good talker," admitted Smits. "He just forces me to prepare doubly hard."

But for all of the lessons recent presidential debates have provided in what to avoid, there is one thing Alda can get behind.

"One of the most interesting moments in a recent presidential debate was the rectangular wrinkle in President Bush's jacket," he joked. "I thought that was fascinating. And if I can, I'm going to get that wrinkle."

"Debaters Alda and Smits will 'West Wing' it"
by Marisa Guthrie
October 17, 2005
New York Daily News

Laurence O'Donnell, who balances work as a political analyst and a "West Wing" executive producer, said the hourlong episode (8 p.m. EDT on NBC) represents "my wish-fulfillment debate." "We are using the accepted liturgy of presidential debates. It will look the same, it will be moderated by Forrest Sawyer, a real news person, it will have all that real feel to it," O'Donnell said. "But I think it will be more satisfying in that the candidates end up really going into the issues in a way that they normally would not," he said. "They end up each forcing the other to get more honest as the debate wears on."

...

The fictional encounter starts with the usual rules, the kind that "are set up by the candidates and are there to protect the candidates and not promote an informed debate," said executive producer Alex Graves, who is directing O'Donnell's script. But one of the politicians -- Graves won't say who -- quickly proposes tossing the book aside. "And that's the starting point and everybody, including the moderator, underestimates what that's going to mean," Graves said. "It ends up ... with the candidates doing and saying things you would never expect to see in a debate, never." The actors may also do something rarely seen. Although they have a script, Alda and Smits also received a crash course in debate strategy and issues that will allow them to veer off the page. "It's loose enough that it will be exciting to the audience," Smits told The Associated Press. Asked if that approach puts unusual pressure on the actors, he replied: "Pressure? I'm totally sweating this."

...

"We're letting two great actors really go at each other and try to defeat each other for basically an hour, nonstop," O'Donnell said, with the chance to go "deeper and deeper and slug each other harder and harder."

...

He likes his character -- Vinick "seems unusual in that the positions he takes have some connection to the values he holds," Alda notes dryly -- and is rooting for him. "It makes it fun. When an actor plays a character, you want what that character wants. Otherwise it doesn't look authentic. So I really want to defeat Jimmy -- I mean Jimmy as the character," Alda said. "No, he wants to win," is the retort from Smits when told of Alda's remark.

...

Ever the strategist, O'Donnell suggests that missteps could prove as rewarding for viewers as a flawless hour. "We could get it completely wrong. You might be able to only hear Alan Alda and not hear Jimmy because the mikes don't work (or) the camera goes out; some crazy thing happens with the equipment. Certainly, the actors can lose their way." "There's just nothing more fun to watch than that kind of train wreck. If I wasn't involved with the show I'd be turning it on just to see: OK, how do they screw up," he said.

"Fireworks Promised on 'West Wing' Debate"
by Lynn Elber
November 1, 2005
Associated Press

"It's scripted, but it's live -- so are the presidential debates scripted. You just don't know when the other guy is going to say what you know he's going to say. There's an element of danger because it's live. It will be improvised in minor ways -- I think. But I don't know." - Alan Alda

"Can 'West Wing' Live Debate Recapture Viewers?"
by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel
November 1, 2005
Creators Syndicate

Why do a live debate?

Smits: We're doing a presidential election, so they have to do debates. Alda: And they're live. This makes more sense to do live than to say, let's do an episode where everybody's in a room figuring something out.

Will the debate be totally scripted or somewhat improvised?

Wells: We'll have a general sense of where we're going. One of the things that is very unusual in a debate with the candidates is for them to be really surprised by a question, they've been extremely well-rehearsed. We'll definitely be rehearsing a script but at the same time, we're giving the actors substantial briefing materials so they can actually be familiar with the issues.

Alda: John, it sounds like you're saying it'll be less scripted than a regular debate. Wells: That's the whole reason why we wanted to do the live debate. Even to call our current presidential debates "debates" is stretching the term. They are so pre-negotiated. What happens is the candidates have an opportunity, to a larger audience, not engage each other but give versions of their stump speech on a number of subjects. The show as a whole has always tried to say what we wish our politics was.

Has there been a defining moment in a presidential debate that stuck with you?

Alda: I think one of the most interesting moments in a recent presidential debate was the rectangular wrinkle in President Bush's jacket. I thought that was fascinating. If I can, I'm going to get that wrinkle! Smits: I think more than anything, in the past couple of debates, I was surprised and a little bit disappointed, actually having met some of the candidates, that a lot of their personality was not able to come through. Hopefully, we'll give a little lesson to the way the next one should be. The next real one Alda: Yeah, with real actors.

Do you hope to get a particular question?

Alda: I don't hope for a question. I hope that the arguments on both sides get a chance to be as good as they can be so that it's a genuine debate.

Is it important to you at all to win the debate?

Smits: What's important to me is we do good storytelling -- and I think we've been doing that -- and keep the audience on their toes, keep it topical, and to reinforce what Alan said before, that both points of view are strong. Alda: It's hard to play any character and not want that character to get what he wants. I wanted to destroy Howard Hughes when I was in 'The Aviator,' and I saw every good reason to do it, so that I can be the guy convincingly. Of course, I want to win the debate, some part of me does anyway. You do have to go along with whatever the story is. But you still have to want it. Even if in my imagination, I'd love to rule the world. Smits: Alan wants to cream me out there. [laughter]

What was your reaction when the writers approached you about doing a live show?

Alda: I was very excited about it. I loved the idea of being out with little or no net. I started out as an improviser in the theater. Smits: Both of us come from theater backgrounds. Alan had a great time this past year [on Broadway], it was wonderful watching him. I got to see him in 'Glengarry Glen Ross'. Of course, when you tell actors who have theater backgrounds that we're doing a live show, it's like total elation, there's joy.

Your characters, Arnold Vinick and Matt Santos, are easy to root for, yet aren't always perfect. What is that like to portray as an actor?

Smits: You always want your character to have a strong point of view. I know in an upcoming episode, there is a position that Jimmy doesn't agree with that Matt takes. But the point of view is strong, and that's fun to play for an actor. Alda: It's fun to play because the writers have set up really strong, conflicted situations in which very deeply felt positions are held by these characters. And when one has to parry the other's attack, you have really good scenes.

"Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits Dish on 'The West Wing' Live Debate"
by TV Tattler
November 1, 2005
AOL

Executive producer John Wells says there will be no detailed script, but the actors will "have a general sense of where they are going" and have been given "extensive briefing materials so they will be familiar with the issues." Wells plans to solicit question from viewers Sunday through the Internet. There will be only two breaks for commercials.

"We are going out there with a little bit of a net and we will riff a bit, too," Smits said. "What's important is that it's good storytelling - keeping the audience on their toes and keep it topical."

When hearing Wells describe his vision for the debate in a conference call with TV writers two weeks ago, Alda couldn't help but laugh: "John, it sounds like you are saying this will be less-scripted than the regular debates."

Wells said that is indeed the point: "The whole idea about doing the debate was to do a show about where there was actually a debate."

...

"It's an entertainment show, so I don't want to sound pretentious about it," Wells said, "but it's a very conscious effort on our part to appeal to what should be the better nature of our political life."

...

Smits said, "Alan wants to cream me out there," and he even seemed to taunt Alda with what sounded like a left-handed compliment: "Alan is slick of tongue" and has been "talking for decades."

"Of course, I want to win the debate," Alda said. "But you do have to go along with the story. If the story doesn't actually have Richard III winning the battle, no matter how much you want him to win, he doesn't win. In a debate like this - where you are live on camera - if you don't win, it's like something's wrong with you.... So it gets even more personal."

"I hope we arrive at something that is not a version of business as usual, but something that is more stimulating - that says it would be fun if a debate could be like this where there is a real exchange of ideas."

"Alda vs. Smits in live debate"
by Rick Bird
November 3, 2005
Cincinnati Enquirer

"It's very unusual in a [real] debate that a candidate is surprised by a question," notes West Wing executive producer John Wells. "They're usually very rehearsed. So we're planning to solicit questions via the Internet from people who are interested.

"We had a wonderful tradition in this country in which we had debates where [politicians] actually spoke," Wells adds. "[We hope that] people will watch it and [wonder] why we don't have that [candidness] in our government today."

Alan Alda, seldom shy about his own strong political views, says, "I hope the arguments get a chance to be as good as they can be, so that it's a genuine debate that cuts through some of the 'fog' of keeping your bases covered that you see [in real life]. One of the things I don't like about debates is that people act as if they know exactly what the answer is. Sometimes you don't."

Adds Jimmy Smits, "We're going to go out there with a little bit of a net, but riff a little bit, too."

But will the two actors actually believe in what they're saying? As Vinick, Alda " long a champion of liberal causes " is playing a Republican senator for the second time in his career (after The Aviator's Ralph Owen Brewster). "If I were playing the Democratic candidate, there would be things I would not totally agree with; playing the Republican, the same is true," he notes. "I do feel strongly that I want to be convinced by the arguments I'm making." Smits concurs, saying, "You always want your character to have a strong point of view. If it's a position [you don't personally] agree with, but it's a strong one, that's fun to play as an actor."

"West Wing Livens Up Dead Debates"
by Matt Webb Mitovich
November 4, 2005
TV Guide Online

"We'll be rehearsing right up until Sunday. And before the show, we'll gather together and throw up!" Sawyer said yesterday on the phone from California, admitting to being nervous about playing the role of moderator in this Sunday's prime-time face-off between presidential candidates Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) and Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) on "The West Wing" on NBC.

...

"[The producers] really mean for it to be the kind of debate that I think we all wish we could get, which is one that is not focus-grouped to death," said Sawyer, who has worked in the news divisions of CBS, ABC and NBC. "[The candidates] are actually talking to people about the things that they believe about the issues that matter."

In the interest of secrecy, Sawyer would reveal just one of the issues to be debated by the two candidates.

"They get into energy a lot, which is a big deal," Sawyer disclosed.

"'BEFORE THE SHOW, WE'LL THROW UP!'"
by Adam Buckman
November 4, 2005
New York Post

Zap2it: Is the episode shaping up the way you've hoped?

Jimmy Smits: When I first talked to John [Wells, the show's executive producer] about it, I said, "Oh, so we'll go back and forth between the control room and backstage and show people watching the debate." He went, "No. We're going to have a debate for real, just like it would be."

Alan Alda: It'll be scripted, but it'll be live. I think we're going to be in the same position real presidential candidates are in, having to have a grasp of a wide range of material that affects national and international policies.

Zap2it: How are you preparing?

Alda: Those people [in real debates] know what they're going to say about every issue. It's written in advance, and all they have to do is turn the question into the answer they want to give. We have a little advantage in knowing what the question is, although we may not recognize it. The moderator may phrase it differently.

Smits: We've gotten a lot of DVDs on the last two cycles of [actual presidential] debates, and we had somebody come in to talk about how media-savvy the candidates have become ... where you look in terms of the camera, how you use your hands, etc. Even when you're not talking, you have to be "on" all the time. A picture's worth a thousand words.

Zap2it: Does the prospect of doing the episode live make you nervous?

Alda: There's a tremendous difference between just learning your lines at home and doing them in front of the camera a few times, and getting to rehearse for two weeks and letting it all sink into deeper parts of your brain. It requires a different use of your acting skills, and of your mind.

Smits: I just have to do it like a play. That's where I come from, and that's where I live and breathe. Just get the script to me in advance, let's rehearse, and I'll be fine.

Zap2it: Any worries about handling all that political terminology live?

Smits: We're gonna do it, but it's a lot of words! Not that I'm not politically savvy, but when it comes to doing ad-libs ... this is one of those instances where the character is a lot smarter than the real-life person is. I don't know how much I can vamp.

Alda: They may actually surprise us at the last minute. There may be a question or two that we don't expect. I hope there will be.

Smits(upon hearing Alda's response): Ohhhhh ... ooooh. If that's the case, I'll just have to have little cards that say, "Stay on message."

"'West Wing' Tackles Live Debate"
by Jay Bobbin
November 5, 2005
zap2it.com

"We will try and set up the world where candidates can have a real exchange in hopes that a few people say, 'Gee, I wonder why we don't get that in our real presidential campaigns.'"

The special episode will be, Wells says, "a very conscious effort on our part to appeal to what should be the better nature of our political lives."

...

"I don't know how much will be improvised," Alda says. But as an actor who began his career improvising in a troupe in the early '60s, playing John Kennedy in Hyannisport, he says he's excited to use that skill again. "I love the idea of being out there with little or no net."

"Both of us come from theater backgrounds," Smits says. "So when you tell actors you're doing a live show, there's great joy."

Once he realized how much preparation it would take, he says, "the air started coming out of that bubble."

...

"For me, it seemed like such a natural fit for us to do this live," Smits says.

But Alda says the biggest reason to go live is for the publicity it generates amid the clutter of November sweeps.

"It piques people's curiosity," he says. "There may not be as much an artistic advantage in it as there is a promotional advantage."

Both actors have already picked up some tips on how they'll act from real debates.

"I'm just going to try not to smirk," Smits says. "I know from looking at past debates that it gets people in trouble."

"I don't know what I'm going to do about not pointing because that's my favorite gesture," Alda says.

"'Wing' Debate As Role Model"
by Roger Catlin
November 5, 2005
Hartford Courant

"Even to call our current presidential debates debates is stretching the term," said executive producer Wells. "They are so pre-negotiated - the questions, the language [in which they'll be asked], the way in which people answer, the lack of spontaneity - that I think in many ways [we've created] a world for our real presidential debates now where the candidates have an opportunity to not engage each other, but to give versions of their stump speech on a number of subjects, which they're fairly certain they're going to get."

Alda chimed in. "You're just looking for that one moment when somebody says, 'You're no John Kennedy.' ... You're looking for things that are so minor, it's like reading tea leaves, instead of what the word 'debate' used to mean."

By contrast, Smits said, "What we're going to try to do with the debate, besides the boiler plate messages, is to try to get an insight into these characters, into the men themselves."

...

"I think our preparation is going to be strong enough that the shows will be substantially the same," Alda guessed.

His Republican Sen. Arnold Vinick and opponent, Democratic Rep. Matt Santos, played by Smits, are, by "very conscious effort," both centrists who refuse to appeal only to a certain base, Wells said.

...

"We will try to set up a world in which they have a real exchange, in the hope a few people watching will say, 'Gee, I wonder why we don't get that in our real presidential candidates?'" Wells said, alluding to, but declining to elaborate about, a device that will facilitate this exchange.

While many details were still being worked out at the time of the call, Wells said the actors will "have a general sense of where we're going" and will have discussed the topics, which are sure to include education, which Santos has made a big issue in his campaign, and smaller government, which Vinick believes is a solution to many of America's problems. "West Wing" has been soliciting questions from viewers (who posted them at nbc.com).

"We'll be definitely rehearsing a script, but at the same time, we're giving the actors substantial briefing materials so they can actually be familiar with the issues," Wells said.

"We're just going to go out there with a little bit of a net and riff a little bit, too," Smits said.

...

"Jimmy is not a good talker," Smits said, breaking into the third person. "[Alda] just forces me to prepare doubly hard." Santos, he added, is "much more verbal than Jimmy is, than Jimmy can ever be."

"Tonight, Smits and Alda will 'Wing' it"
by Virginia Rohan
November 6, 2005
Bergen Record

The live debate staged on NBC's "West Wing" last night between fictional candidates Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) had some realistic touches to it maybe too real for some. One touch was casting real-life journalist Forrest Sawyer as the moderator, another was the use of the real NBC News logo throughout the entire show.

"NBC News And "West Wing" -- Was A Journalistic Line Crossed In Live Debate?"
November 7, 2005
CBS Public Eye

Throughout the "debate," however, the logo of NBC News sat prominently superimposed in the lower right hand corner of the screen. This is a small sign of how standards at the news division have deteriorated over the years, and an indication that maintaining the line between news and entertainment is no longer much of a priority -- at NBC or, for that matter, at CBS or ABC.

"A Debatable Ploy by NBC"
by Tom Shales
November 7, 2005
Washington Post

But even with the series threatened by dismal ratings, The West Wing's producers deny the live episode was about driving audiences back to the show. "We chose to do this live episode back in June, before we even knew we were going to have a new timeslot and before we knew what the ratings for this season would be," O'Donnell says, adding that the success of Commander in Chief was not a factor in the decision.

...

"I've worked on The West Wing since the first show of the first season . . .," he adds. "It didn't do anything to specifically become a top-10 show; it didn't do anything to try to stay high in the ratings. It has never done a single script that was done to pump up the ratings."

"Dying shows come back to live"
by Scott Deveau
November 8, 2005
Globe and Mail

Yet Jack Myers, a media business analyst, questioned whether NBC News diminished itself by allowing its name to be used in this way.

"Is this an appropriate use of the NBC News and MSNBC News brand equity, or does it do more damage to these news brands than the positive branding it brings to NBC's entertainment series?" Myers asked on his Mediavillage.com Web site.

"Lines blurring between entertainment and news"
by David Bauder
November 8, 2005
Associated Press

Last week, in the days leading up to the debate, Santos (Jimmy Smits) led Vinick (Alan Alda) by a margin of 59 percent to 29 percent. After the debate, in which Vinick apparently impressed many viewers, Zogby found that the gap had narrowed, although Vinick still trails Santos significantly 54 percent for Santos, 38 percent for Vinick.

"DEBATE TIGHTENS 'WEST WING' RACE"
by Adam Buckman
November 8, 2005
New York Post

Sunday's "West Wing" was made to look like a real debate, with Smits and Alda standing behind podiums and Forest Sawyer as the moderator.

The producers also used the NBC News logo on the screen, making it look like a real telecast, much to the chagrin of news purists who left angry messages on TV Web sites. To that end, the NBC News logo created an odd situation early on when WNBC/Ch. 4 ran a thunderstorm warning crawl, which left some viewers wondering if it was real or not.

"Live 'Wing' ratings rise but don't soar"
by Richard Huff
November 8, 2005
New York Daily News

Debating Alan Alda's Senator Arnold Vinick, Democratic Congressman Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits, borrowed liberally -- no pun intended -- from Senator Ted Kennedy's "Medicare for All" proposal. "The geniuses behind this award-winning show clearly understand that Kennedy's vision is the winning platform for America," said Kennedy staffer Melissa Wagoner in an e-mail afterward.

"Debate was fictional, issues were real"
by Carol Beggy & Mark Shanahan
November 10, 2005
Boston Globe

season 7 [DVD] will include both versions of the live episode and a documentary about it.

If you noticed Jimmy Smits lookin from side to side a lot during the debate this is why:

"Jimmy looks from side to side because he's try not kill himself...sometimes when we're filming he'll go beat his head against the wall because he thinks [his performance] is so bad." *said in a light-hearted joking manner, so I don't think we all need to be uber-concerned for Jimmy's welfare over here* Apparently he's one of those people who is his own worst critic.

Posted by cyren_2132 @ http://community.livejournal.com/west_wing_fans/
November 11, 2005
Notes from Alex Graves talk at the University of Kansas

O'Donnell, who was charged with writing Vinick, called it "my greatest pleasure on 'The West Wing,' especially since I once said that it would never be a Republican political show."

He said his mind was changed after attending the 2004 GOP convention in New York and seeing the party's future in people like former New Jersey governor Christie Whitman, mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: politicians who are liberal on some issues, conservative on others.

"Sun sets on 'West Wing'"
by Aaron Barnhart
May 14, 2006
Kansas City Star

TOP OF PAGE
For more information about this episode:
Continuity Guide to "The West Wing"
Previous Episode  |  U.S. Flag Main Index 7 Cast Season 7 Episode Index U.S. Flag Season 7 Information Index  |  Next Episode