West Wing to end run after seven years

The West Wing, the hit United States television drama about life in a fictional White House, will end its seven-year run in May, losing its battle against declining audiences, producers said.

The show, which depicts a fictional White House run by President Josiah Bartlet, played by actor Martin Sheen, developed an almost cult following after its debut in 1999 and gripped audiences around the world.

But after seven years, numerous high-profile cast changes and the death in December of one of its stars, John Spencer, the NBC television network has decided to call it quits at the end of the current season on May 14.

“We went back and forth with NBC about it,” said executive producer John Wells. “The audience was getting smaller.
This show is going to be missed. It’s going to be a long time before there will be a show like this.”

The series’ term will run out along with that of Bartlet, ending with the inauguration of a new commander-in-chief in a double-length one-hour episode, NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said.

The finale episode will also include a retrospective of the high points of the iconic show created by Aaron Sorkin, who has since left it.

The West Wing averaged 7,97-million viewers this season, facing off against rival CBS’s hit crime investigation show Cold Case, which reels in an average of 15,58-million viewers per episode, and Fox’s long-running animated show The Simpsons.

“It’s no secret that the ratings have been tough for the last couple of seasons,” Reilly told reporters. “I think the most frustrating thing is that the work has just been so outstanding. I just wish more people got to see it.

“There’s a point where you want to send a show off with dignity and some semblance of success and it’s just very hard to generate the ratings again for the show. There is a point where you look at the ratings and say, ‘It feels like it’s time.’”

The show was dealt another blow in December when Spencer, whose character Leo McGarry, chief of staff turned vice-presidential candidate, who was central to the show, died of a heart attack aged 59.

McGarry will meet the same fate in the episode of the show to be broadcast on April 2, according to The Los Angeles Times.

But negotiations are under way to resurrect original cast member Rob Lowe, who left the show in 2003, to make a guest appearance before the show closes, Wells said.

“It’s very much a possibility,” Wells said. “It’s in his court now. He’ll have to decide whether his schedule work and be able to come back for it.”

The West Wing was one of the most decorated television series of the past 10 years, winning 25 Emmys and setting the record for Emmys won by a series in a single year when it received nine for its first season.

It also won the first of four consecutive Emmys as television’s best drama and was highly acclaimed by critics, although its liberal regime was often criticised by conservative Americans.

For seven years, fans of the show got a weekly dose of political intrigue, sparring egos and ambitions in the fictional residence of the US president.

Other stars include Stockard Channing, who plays First Lady Abbey Bartlet and Allison Janney, who is the no-nonsense press spokesperson CJ Cregg.—AFP