The ATX Festival is currently happening in Austin which means TV fans are currently being treated to tons of reunion news and behind-the-scenes secrets from some of their favorite shows.
One pretty-hyped reunion taking place over the weekend was the festival’s panel discussion with the cast and creators of one of the greatest TV series of all time, The West Wing. Creator Aaron Sorkin was joined by cast members Dulé Hill, Janel Moloney, Joshua Malina, Richard Schiff, and Melissa Fitzgerald Saturday to talk about his early exit from the show and how the Emmy-winning vehicle almost didn’t get an order from NBC.
Sorkin, who left the series after its fourth season, revealed he’s never watched an episode from seasons five through seven thanks to some solid advice from one Larry David — the creator of Seinfeld who, you’ll recall, also left his show midway through its run.
He said, ‘Listen, this is very important. You can’t ever watch this show ever again because either the show is going to be great without you and you’re going to be miserable or less than great and you’re going to be miserable. Either way you are going to be miserable.’
The producer said he didn’t take the advice seriously at first, but after a copy of the show’s fifth season landed on his doorstep he realized watching his brainchild be reared by someone else felt a lot like watching “someone make out with [his] wife.”
So now we know that Sorkin may be the only person on the planet who doesn’t know how the series ended. Sad (for him) but not shocking considering plenty of actors and creators who exit popular TV shows probably don’t continue watching them.
The really interesting news came when Sorkin revealed that the political drama almost didn’t get picked up by NBC.
Apparently, the Monica Lewinsky scandal coupled with a pilot that didn’t “test through the roof” meant the network was on the fence about whether the series deserved a full-season order. Thankfully, Warner Bros. had a moment of brilliance and created some new demographics to test the show in.
One new key demographic – in 1999 – was households with internet access. “It was right in the middle of the dot com boom… and those businesses wanted a place to advertise,” Sorkin said. “That’s what got us on the air.”
The cast also took time to remember the late actor John Spencer who played White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on the show with EP Thomas Schlamme singing the star’s praises:
The man was a gentlemen among gentleman besides being an extraordinary professional.There was an internal, extraordinary loving quality that superseded the professionalism that he had. If you look up the definition of an actor, you’ll see his picture. His craft was so important to him and that craft did not ever take away from him being a loving human being.
Excuse us while we go binge-watch this show all over again.