MTA (More Trouble Ahead) nicknames

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Apr 1 23:16:02 UTC 2005

Divers Hands wrote:

>(I  nominate "moderate Republican" as a new classic oxymoron.)

Well,  there's been a sighting of one, but it's Sen. Arnold Vinick
(R-Cal.), the  Republican nominee played by Alan Alda on The West
Wing, and I guess he  doesn't count.  sigh.

This millenium has seen a paucity of moderate Democrats.  I still say  that
Kerry would have won had he remembered that he was running against G   W. Bush
and not Ralph Nader.  But I'd rather discuss Senator Vinick.

On "West WIng" (odd how it seems to lack a definite article, although the
part of the White House where the offices are does carry one) President Jed
Bartlett is first and foremost a likeable man, someone the TV audience feels
comfortable with.  Secondly he is an intelligent and honest politician, and  only
thirdly is he a liberal Democrat.

The current writers of "West Wing" inherited from Aaron Sorkin five
plausible candidates to succeed President Bartlett.  On the Democratic side  there is
former VP Hoynes, current VP "Bingo Bob" Russell, and former Chief of  Staff
Leo McGarry.  On the Republican side there is Robert Ritchie, who was
Bartlett's opponent in the previous Presidential election, and Glenallen Walken,  who
was acting President for a few days.

Hoynes, while competent, is widely disliked (a point made in the pilot
episode, I believe).

Russell is a lightweight, the pick of a mediocre litter (i.e. the  best
selection from among those that Congress would have voted for for  VP) and has
never been presented sympathetically.

McGarry is a curmudgeon, perhaps a very lovable curmudgeon, but  definitely
not warm and fuzzy.

Nothing good has ever been said about Ritchie, who has rarely  appeared in

Walken, in his brief tenure, came across as aggressive in manner and
bellicose in action.   Had he had a longer run on the show he  might well have
developed into a sympathetic character (after all we saw him  ONLY during a crisis
period), but he did not have that longer run.

So, of the five candidates supplied by Sorkin, not one is capable of
becoming another Bartlett, a man welcomed into every viewer's living room.

Therefore the current writers had to develop sympathetic candidates on  their
own.  (Caveat: I have no idea whether Santos and Vinick were thought  up by
Sorkin before he left, but this is possible.)   In order to  supply suspense,
they had to have a warm and fuzzy Democrat and a warm and fuzzy  Republican,
leaving the viewers wondering over the summer which will win but  happy with
either one.

So we get Santos, a Hispanic Democrat whom even Republicans will like, and
Vinnick, a California Republican whom even Democrats will like.  Casting  Alan
Alda (as a Republican!) was a stroke of genius, as he reminds all old MASH
fans of what they liked about Hawkeye Pierce.  (Aside:  I have seen  Alan Alda
on stage, in "Art", and yes he can play roles far removed from  Hawkeye).

In other words, the writers did not dream up the character of Vinnick and
arbitrarily make him a Republican.  Rather a Vinnic-type Republican is an
urgent plot necessity.

    - James A. Landau

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