Hall of Faces: Who’s the Greatest Character on “The West Wing”?

The West Wing The cast of NBC's "The West Wing."

Deep in the bowels of The Spool Studios, there lies a chamber only the greatest TV characters can enter – the funniest, the grumpiest, the maddest masks the television medium has to offer. There, we honor the breakout comic relief, the magnetically flawed protagonist, the one-time guest character that defines an entire series. This is where we hoard TV’s most valuable visages. This… is the Hall of Faces.

Welcome to the Hall of Faces, The Spool’s monthly TV podcast! Hall of Faces sees hosts and TV critics Allison Shoemaker and Clint Worthington build up a pantheon of television’s greatest characters, one show at a time.

Politics has never been perfect, politicians even less so. But for seven long years, NBC’s seminal political drama The West Wing gave TV watchers an idealized version of the White House, an administration that trudged through the murky waters of political compromise with admirable conviction and the fast-talking wit that could only come from the pen of Aaron Sorkin. The West Wing was revolutionary in a number of ways, from presenting feature-quality production values and performances on network TV in the ’90s to inspiring a generation of young people to get into politics. (And the show’s patented walk-and-talks forever changed the visual vocabulary of TV dialogue.)

Amid all of The West Wing‘s flaws — Sorkin’s recurring limitations/pet concerns as a screenwriter, the unevenness of the John Wells years — the show remains firmly ensconced in the public consciousness. Sure, some of that is a lingering desire to return to the kind of principled, service-centric political leadership we imagine we once had but never really got. But so much of it is down to the show’s incredible ensemble of characters, played to a tee by a rotating cast of industry-best performers: Martin Sheen‘s folksy-yet-godlike President Bartlet, Allison Janney‘s acerbic press secretary C.J. Cregg, Bradley Whitford‘s prickly Josh Lyman, and a host of others.

On this episode of the podcast, Allison and Clint (alongside returning guest panelists Kate Kulzick of The Televerse and Caroline Siede of The AV Club) sift through the dossiers of the Bartlet administration’s brightest stars and see which one deserves to be elected into our Hall of Faces. Is it Bartlet? CJ? Toby? Leo McGarry? Mrs. Landingham? If you don’t listen to the pod and find out who we pick, then God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you!

(Hall of Faces is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)

THE HALL OF FACES:

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