Do yourself a favor and watch The West Wing tomorrow night. The West Wing is, of course, NBC’s television series with a fictitious White House and its staff. West Wing is put together by the same production/writing team as the movie The American President, so if you liked that movie (sans the romantic subplot) then you’ll like this show. The reason this week’s episode is significant is because it’s in response to the terrorist activities of 09/11/01. West Wing does have an ongoing plot whose cliffhanger season finale is still unresolved, but they’re putting the season premiere on hold in order to air this episode and its self contained plot, a move they will explain the workings of at the beginning of the show.

The episode, “Isaac and Ishmael”, will deal with a terrorist action and the White House and country’s reaction to it, but it will not deal with the WTC incident specifically. Furthermore, the response to the terrorist action will not be in the rest of the season, both due to the intent of the show and the fact that the rest of the season is already finished. Aaron Sorkin, the producer/creator of the show, started writing this episode shortly after the incident, and filming on this episode began Thursday before last and didn’t finish until yesterday. Two editing staffs have been pulling 16 hour days for over a week now, and the episode won’t be finished until tomorrow, hours before it airs (the executives won’t even see it before it airs). By comparison, most episodes of this or any other show are filmed and finished months in advance, so the production schedule for this show is quick, to say the least. There will likely be a commercial interruption of some sort – probably comments from the cast and crew for reasons of shorening the episode slightly but not to advertise – but the episode is being produced at the expense of the producers – NBC is not paying for it.

Just so you’ll have a better idea what is going on, here’s a listing of the actors, their characters and an analogy for each:

Actor Name Character Name Position Analogy
Martin Sheen Josiah "Jed" Bartlet President of the United States George W. Bush
John Spencer Leo McGarry Chief of Staff Andrew Card
Rob Lowe Sam Seaborn Deputy Communications Director (speechwriter)  
Dule Hill (black) Charlie Young Presidential Aide Henry Burton in Primary Colors
Allison Janney C.J. Cregg Press Secretary Ari Fleischer (or better yet, Dee Dee Meyers)
Bradley Whitford Josh Lyman Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Bolten & Joe Hagin
Richard Schiff Toby Ziegler Communications Director Karen Hughes
Anna Deavere Smith Nancy McNally, PhD National Security Advisor  
Stockard Channing Abigail “Abbey”

Bartlet, M.D
First Lady Laura Bush
Janel Moloney Donna Moss Aide to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Josh’s Aide)  
Tim Matheson John Hoynes Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney (don’t worry, you won’t see him either)

Sources: IMDB, Cincinnati Enquirer, FAQ