Monday, April 17, 2006


This morning I leapt back to the future, to November 14th, 2008, for the funeral of Leo McGarry on 'The West Wing'.

Here's what I wrote over in the comments at

The one point where I found myself choking up was at the wake, when President Bartlet had to force himself to be "on", and he sought out Margaret to tell her that Leo loved her... and then he launched into a great Leo story.

I also liked and understood the little showcase that Ainsley got, from within the story and from a real-world point of view (take advantage of her visibility from 'CSI: Miami'.)

But why nothing more than a few shots of Mallory O'Brien, Leo's daughter? Shouldn't the President have said something to her? Why didn't we get to see him and Abby go to the home of Leo's ex-wife to pay their respects?

I understand the needs of keeping the show's other storylines moving, but something could have been lost in order to have this closure for Leo in connection to his daughter.

Oh well. Maybe we'll get to see her again once Sam comes back.....?

I've been thunking more upon it since writing that......

'The West Wing' doesn't portray a perfect world, and it's certainly not one here where it's created. But perhaps they could have expanded the season for one more episode just so that this one, "Requiem", could have been solely about all the various aspects of Leo's funeral and wake as seen by the many people whose lives he touched. Wait until next week to get back to the business about the transition.

In that, I'm in accord with TV critic Alan Sepinwall. ("What's Alan Watching?" - link to the left) I didn't agree with his opinion that Leo's actual death was mis-handled in the two-part "Election" episode, but I think his complaints regarding the memorial episode are justified.

Instead of the maneuvers surrounding Donna's temporary living arrangement, wouldn't it have been nice to have seen an awkward exchange of dialogue between Annabeth Schott and Jordan Kendall, the attorney who represented Leo at the Congressional hearing and who also dated him afterward?

(I heard that Joanna Gleason - who portayed Jordan in a handful of episodes back in 2001/2002 - was asked to come back for a cameo in this episode as had so many others; but I didn't see her on first viewing of the crowd in the Cathedral.)

Surely the sub-plot about the Speaker of the House wrangling could have waited for one more week. That way we could have had the scene I wanted between President Bartlet and Mallory O'Brien. (Her married name has nothing to do with my desire for these scenes! Well... maybe a little.....)

However, I think the Ainsley Hayes scene needed to be here - the wake was her only opportunity to corner CJ in hopes that she'll put in a good word for Ainsley to get the White House Counsel job.

Obviously, due to obigations in the Trueniverse (She now plays Calleigh over on CBS on 'CSI: Miami'.), they only had access to the actress for this one episode. And it's my suspicion they used her to float the idea about bipartisanship in the Santos administration.

Maybe I'm crazy - Okay, I AM crazy - but I think they were setting the stage to bring in the now unemployed Arnold Vinick for the job of Secretary of State. This would give the neophyte Santos some heft in international relations, as well as giving him a golden opportunity to reach across party lines to heal a divided nation.

But what do I know?

It looks as though they might be bringing in Governor Baker of Pennsylvania as the new Veep, but I still would like them bring back the character of former Governor Buckland as played by Kevin Tighe in a memorable performance. Hey, this is Wish-Craft, after all.

Still, it comes down to my desire to have seen more of Allison Smith as Mallory. We needed that more personal bond with the memory of her father, perhaps through the use of flashback clips. (And the same would apply to Jed's memory of his old friend as well. What I really would have liked there would be a flashback including not only Jed and Leo, but also Mrs. Landringham as well!)

For what we got, it was sweet and moving, without becoming cloying. But because we have seen what this show has been capable of in the past, it could have been so much more.


One final note......

Can anybody out there in TV Land tell me who the sixth pall-bearer was. We had Bartlet, Santos, Josh, Barry Goodwin, and Charlie. But the Sixth Man ("You are Number Six....") - who was he?

I kind of like the idea that he is someone we don't know from the show; somebody Leo knew from another aspect of his life. In that way, it's another example in which we see that life in Toobworld goes on even if we can't view it.

But I'm keen to find out his identity, nevertheless.


Anonymous said...

Actually, I think that would've made it too maudlin.  This way, it was incorporated into the fake real-life world of West Wing.

I liked both the McGarry pieces, but there's no way NBC would've commissioned a whole 'nother hour of West Wing just to make a stand-alone funeral episode.
Nobody's watching the show anymore! 

Chris M. said...

The 6th man was Mallory's husband. You can see him sitting next to her in the beginning. Also, this takes place in 2006, not 2008. West Wing elections are not on par with ours, Bartlet's first election was in 1998, his reelection was in 2002.

Toby said...

Chris is right and I'm kicking myself - no easy feat! - for not remembering that years ago in the Tubeworld Dynamic I took Sorkin & Co. to task for trying to pull a fast one over our eyes about the timeline.

He said in an interview that the show was supposed to be set a few years in the future, but by then the episode dealing with the upcoming millennium had already aired.

So the established timeline does leave the election in that dimension as being held in 1998, rather than in 1996 as it was for us in the real world.

The West Wing Continuity Guide has a timeline for 'The West Wing' which you can find by clicking on the link to the left for "Things That Never Were". And you can find a very good, detailed analysis of the discrepancies between the timelines of the Real World and that of Jed Bartlet's TV dimension at Wikipedia. (You can find a link to that online encyclopedia to the left as well.)

Thanks for writing and making me see the error of my ways, Chris.

Even so, we still have Leo alive in that dimension for the rest of this year, and still alive and hopefully to a ripe old age in the main Toobworld thanks to 'Touched By An Angel'!