One of the fun things about living in the future is that it’s full of surprises. So like maybe one day you’re sitting around bemoaning the lack of things on the 300-some-odd channels that you pay through the nose for, so you open up the streaming service that you also pay a monthly fee for, and you start watching an episode of The West Wing from 1999. And you’re just watching as people walk and talk and walk and talk, spouting semi-fictionalized versions of whatever exactly was firing up Aaron Sorkin that week, and then suddenly you hear a familiar voice, and… wait a second. Did Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation just pitch a billion-dollar taxpayer-funded highway for wolves?
He did. Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation just pitched a billion-dollar taxpayer-funded highway for wolves. Or rather, a then-little-known actor named Nick Offerman, who was still 10 years away from becoming Ron Swanson, just pitched a billion-dollar taxpayer-funded highway for wolves during the fifth episode of Season 1 of The West Wing, “The Crackpots and These Women.” Technically the highway would have cost $900 million. But let’s go ahead and round up. I feel like Ron would be OK with that. And after we do that, let’s also go ahead and count down the ways this turn of events is really, really fun.
First of all, and most importantly, he is playing a hippie wildlife conservationist who is asking the federal government to fund a wildly expensive program that would create a paved pathway specifically for wolves to travel on, to protect them from humans, which is just about the least Ron Swanson thing one could imagine. And he did it during a day when the government invited a bunch of yahoos in to make outlandish pleas for money and/or services, which was also basically the plot of the Parks & Rec episode “94 Meetings,” except then he was shooting down the yahoos he was barely tolerating, and here he was the barely tolerated yahoo. I guess that’s Hollywood for ya.
Second, in this scene he is making the pitch to White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, who was one of two government employees tasked with listening to these lunatics’ suggestions. The other employee, who had just heard a warning about UFOs from the guy who played Ted on Scrubs, was Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, played on the show by Offerman’s future Parks and Recreation co-star Rob Lowe. In other words, we were LITERALLY (sorry) one tiny Sorkin decision away from having a scene where Ron Swanson pitched Chris Traeger a billion-dollar wolf highway.
(And as if Chris Traeger missing a meeting with Ron Swanson because Ted from Scrubs was blabbing about UFOs wasn’t enough for you to wrap your head around, this episode also marked the first appearance of Elisabeth Moss — Peggy Olsen from Mad Men — as the president’s college-age daughter. All that’s missing is Aaron Paul popping up as a nameless intern, or Walton Goggins as a member of the Secret Service.)
And third, and this is truly just 10 pounds of perfect in an 8-pound bag labeled “I miss Parks & Rec,” according to IMDb, the character Offerman played, who was pushing a plan that ran the risk of crippling the government, was named “Jerry.”
Sometimes things just work out, you know?