So Long Sam Seaborn
As a fan of NBC’s “The West Wing” since it first premiered several years ago, I have watched Aaron Sorkin’s unnerving penchant for killing off interesting characters that made the show the best on TV. After killing off the Dolores Landingham character earlier in the show’s history, I watched with dismay Sorkin kill off the Mark Harmon Secret Service character last season. That, coupled with the expected gradual decline in the show’s overall brilliance has contributed to a feeling that “The West Wing” (TWW) is returning to the pack of other “A” list shows, rather than staying in a class of its own.
But with Sorkin’s destructive pissing contest with actor Rob Lowe before the start of this season over salary, and tonight’s resulting exit for Lowe’s Sam Seaborn character, it may be that Sorkin has finally gone too far. I for one feel that Lowe’s departure from TWW will critically and commercially harm the show beyond repair. The cast chemistry and energy that existed in the banter and relationships among the ensemble was based in an underestimated way on Lowe’s passionate and humorous portrayal of his character, and the loss of this piece of the puzzle will not be made up with the addition of the Will Bailey character, or any other inexpensive fixes that Sorkin comes up with. Sorkin seems to also have overestimated the importance of Martin Sheen’s character on the show by retooling TWW since the first season as his own wistful vision of how the country should be led. Yet people watched the show for the dialogue and work between the cast, and the presentation of issues in a way that wasn’t done on the nightly news, not primarily to see Martin Sheen play president.
It will be sad to see Lowe depart the show tonight, and head for his own NBC show next season. It will be sadder to see TWW lose something that they should have never lost.