The West Wing

Season 7 Episode 7

The Debate (East Coast)

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Nov 06, 2005 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (11)

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out of 10
127 votes
  • hope that the real president candidate follow the exmaple

    the idea of a real and live debate ever for the real presidential candidates that point and talk about the real issues and no an answer for a single question has made me think thast is not a bad idea to apply in real lafe. The episode was very well written and the profesionalism of the actor show no problems on handeling a live episode of this serias that has become one of the greats
  • I found this episode extremely silly and a little boring. I mean, I respected what they were trying to do, but they shouldn't have.

    Okay, so... The Debate. It upped the ratings a little, people've been making a big deal about it and all this other stuff but... I don't know. I didn't like it. For one thing, it shouldn't have been live. It's not like everything wasn't scripted, from what I heard the West Coast feed was exactly the same as the East Coast one I saw. And Jimmy Smits clearly isn't very good at the live acting and so it bothered me because while his points were a lot better, Alan Alda, being the better actor (and in particular live actor) got to win, just because of that.

    I'm a politics nuts, so I got some kicks out of it, but... honestly, I'd rather hear all of this coming from... real people. I want... dialogue coming out of Santos and Vinick's mouth, not pitches about why I should vote for them, I'm not GOING to vote for them. Plus, there's the fact that not one of the main cast (and by that I mean Jed, Leo, Josh, Toby, C.J., Donna, etc.) were in this episode. None of them. I mean, okay, I didn't expect many of them. But couldn't Leo, as Santos' VP have been there? Couldn't it have been Josh and Donna walking Santos to the stage and not Louise "Mandy II" Thornton? I mean, the only Sorkin-created character there at all was... Bruno Gianelli, who I mean, is okay and all, but still.

    Overall, it joins The Long Goodbye, Access and Ninety Miles Away as the only episode of this series I actively dislike.

    Good work by Alan Alda though, and Jimmy Smits in the "liberal" speech.
  • Well written, and informative debate depicting both candidates and their respective views on the issues.

    I enjoyed this episode thouroughly. Both candidates had very good points on certain issues, so if I were to pick one of the candidates to vote on at this time, it would be a bit hard to do so. My vote before the debate, would have been on Santos, but Vinick made some very interesting points and suggestions during the debate. And so did Santos... What i\'m mostly curious about now, is Who won the debate?

    Well written episode for sure, and the candidates being noticeably nervous and at times, forgetful of what to say added a lot to the realism. I\'ve only seen the East Coast episode, so I don\'t know how it was for the West Coast people. I hope the West Wing \"powers that be\" makes more of these kind of episodes.
  • Live from Los Angeles, it\'s The West Wing with Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits.

    I have to admit that I was more than a little skeptical when this idea was announced a few months back. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I got into this fake Presidential debate. Frankly, it was more intriguing and entertaining than all three of Bush and Kerry’s debates combined. I wish they had done their debate this way, as it might have made more people care about voting.

    With that being said, the only drawback I had for this entire episode were the fake reactions from the audience. You can tell that it was scripted and I didn’t really need it. Forrest Sawyer was a great choice as the moderator for this debate. He has the kind of forcefulness that was needed to control these two debaters as they fought it out against one another. Did anyone else notice on the live East feed that Alan Alda was laughing during the introductions at Jimmy Smits. It didn’t look like it was supposed to have happened as Jimmy had this really weird look on his face when the camera cut from Alda doing that to him.

    Lawrence O’Donnell’s writing and Alex Graves directing was some of the best of the series since Sorkin left. O’Donnell’s script was wonderfully done and didn’t even seem like it was a script at all, which is what a good script is supposed to be. Graves directed this show perfectly with all the camera moves and the shots to the audience as they were watching the debate. They should both be remembered come Emmy time as it is greatly deserved.

    I personally enjoyed Alda’s performance more than Smits’ because he seemed more Presidential and it seemed like he was actually debating a real debate; it was almost as if he wasn’t acting at all. I do have to admit that Smits was probably the most Presidential he has ever been during the entire time he has been running for President.

    It was clear to anyone that watched this show that before it even came on, the advantage would go to Santos as that’s the way John Wells wants it to be. I actually think Santos won barely, but it this was real I wouldn’t vote for him. They basically portrayed Vinick to the point that you know not many people would vote for him because of his actions.

    One of the best episodes of TWW in a really long time.

    Possible Emmy Nominations: Alan Alda (Actor), Jimmy Smits (Actor in a Drama Series), Lawrence O’Donnell (Writing in a Drama Series), Alex Graves (Directing in a Drama Series). Also this episode should be on of the ones sent out for Drama Series

  • Less an episode of television than a two-act play, this is still strong drama, with two characters (in character, damn it!) that are perfect for the material

    Live episodes are always a gamble, because they can be seen as little more than a ratings stunt. And there’s the strong possibility of a disaster should the planning be incomplete; consider what happened with the West Coast version of that “ER” episode several years back. The key, it seems, is in the execution and preparation. You need to get the right people into the right plot structure within a logical context.

    For me, the debate worked on two levels. First, I liked the fact that the writers didn’t try to overdo it. They could have tossed all kinds of back-stage scenes into the mix in some attempt to break up the format, but that wouldn’t have been as satisfying or risky. Far better to let it play out like the “dream debate”, where the candidates actually say something meaningful and clearly present their philosophical differences.

    A lot of people are already saying that this was supposed to mark a Santos turnaround, a victory for the Democratic candidate when he really needed one to close the gap. I’m impressed that it wasn’t so clear cut. I actually came out of the debate with a newfound respect for Vinick. I appreciate Santos’ idealism, which is different yet obviously related to Bartlet’s progressive roots, but there’s something to Vinick’s experience.

    Did Vinick come across as less polished and more petulant than one might have otherwise expected? Sure. This was a classic example of being careful what to wish for, because the open format came back to bite Vinick on more than one occasion. That said, Santos often looked tentative and unsure of how to answer. Both were entirely in character, which was aided by the format and the fact that both men had plenty of time to get comfortable in their characters’ shoes prior to this event.

    The second level of quality, for me, was the debate itself. I love a good debate, and I always get frustrated when the candidates in the “real debates” never stray from their rehashed stump speeches. The current governor’s race in New Jersey is a perfect example; the debates did little to inform the public beyond their cemented first impressions. Did we learn anything new about Santos and Vinick? Not much, perhaps, but enough to raise some interesting questions.

    Of course, the constant political battling may have been a little dry for some. I only wish it could have gone on for another hour, though that might have killed Smits and Alda! Talk about a tough script, though…all those figures and recitations had to be hard to memorize. But I really liked the fact that neither candidate was perfect, and neither candidate came across as a caricature. That was one of the weaknesses of the fourth season under Sorkin; that was less about presenting a credible contest and more about bashing a Bush-esque GOP candidate.

    Was it a ratings stunt? Perhaps, but it worked within the context of the season, and if this does mark the beginning of a turnaround for Santos, then it fits perfectly within a traditional season arc structure. Logically, the next 6-7 episodes will escalate and complicate the issues already raised in the first third of the season, leading into (presumably) an election during February sweeps. I, for one, like what they are doing this season and this risky experiment was a great example.

    Who else hopes they put both versions on the DVD?
  • A few things I predicted a month ago. A few surprises. A few things surprised me by not happening.

    Random thoughts:

    1. As soon as I heard "live debate episode" a month ago,I knew one of two things would happen. Either Santos and Vinick would agree on a format that eliminated the "joint press conference" format of contemporary Presidential debates, or one of the candidates--probably Vinick--would say, Hey, let's dispense with the rules, shall we? The one thing I feared was a debate without a moderator, something that was tried by Clinton and Brown in 92 on the Donahue show, with disastrous results.

    2. There are two things undercutting this season, and in particular this episode. The first is the assumption, what I've had for a year now, that there is no way on earth Santos doesn't win. The show's DNA will allow for nothing else. You might as well wait in suspense for who The Nation magazine (or National Review, for that matter) will endorse for President. The second is the participation of Larry O'Donnell, who was mentioned twice in the show's credits. Other people on this site are more keyed in to the West Wing politics of the post-Sorkin era. I won't pretend to any special knowledge. But O'Donnell has been such a fierce critic of the Bush administration (on HuffPost and McGlaughlin, among other places) that it is hard to separate the opinions he spouts as himself from the fictional world he now has such a hand in creating. A perfect example is Santos's "voted for it before I voted against it" explanation vis a vis CAFTA. This is O'Donnell sticking up for John Kerry vis a vis the 87 Billion for the Iraq war, and yes, Kerry got a bad rap over that (I'm speaking as a Republican) and yes, the GOP unfairly turned Kerry's explanation into a laugh line, but now this is twice already this season that Smits has walked us through Santos's (and hence Kerry's) explanation. Okay, we get it. Now move along, Larry.

    After he became world famous, Johnny Carson received numerous movie offers, including one from Martin Scorsese to essentially play himself in The King of Comedy. And Carson turned them all down, because he knew he was so familiar to people in real life no one would accept him playing anyone else, including a fictional version of himself. Jon Stewart has probably reached that point. In a writerly way, so has O'Donnell.

    3. What we see from time to time is what I'm sure the show's creators think of as a fair account of Republican views. This notion sometimes strikes me as comical--much like, when I was growing up, whites would try to curry favor with blacks by talking about how much they admired "Roots." GOPers may think less ill of drug companies and oil companies than Dems, but they're not so stupid as to stick up for Pfizer and Exxon in Presidential debates, not with gas near three bucks a gallon and a trip to Walgreen's running into the hundreds. Politics is the art of persuasion, and there is no way a Republican could have been elected to his local school board, let alone a California Senate seat, by espousing the pro-drug and pro-oil views that Vinick did.

    4. That said, much of tonight was just splendid. It starts with the two performers. Alan Alda was flawless, just magnificent, and I'm hoping he won't have to tear up his Emmy acceptance speech next year. The script, for his above-mentioned flaws, served him best in two spots: Africa and Alaska drilling. His notion of the burdensome African taxation was thought-provoking (though in real life Vinick would never have mentioned Nike in such a positive light), and his riff on national treasures (the Grand Canyon) was nearly as good. He revealed Vinick as a gracious, intelligent man--Vinick's gesture to Santos when he mentioned the University of Texas in a positive light told you everything you needed to know about him. Smits played Santos nearly as well, and almost accidentally--twice Smits stumbled over his lines, but that fit, because that is something Santos, the less polished of the two candidates, would have done in real life. Forrest Sawyer, really the only other actor in the piece, was fine.

    4. Okay, guess I was wrong about Tobhy joining Santos's campaign. Oh well.

    5. I keep thinking--if this is the final season, maybe Vinick does win. But no, he doesn't, right?
  • We should have a great debate, Rob. We owe it to everyone.

    Well I have to say this episode was a ride of excitement. There was alot of energy flowing throught the whole debate, and props to the shows creative team who thought of such an original premise for the debate.
    But as even the characters on the show predicted, Vinick was the clear winner. Alda is an extraordinary debater and portrayed the candidate very well in this episode. His explanations of tax solutions for Africa were especially compelling.
    But Santos was not without his own successful moments during the episode. I felt the writing on the history of liberals were particularly well-founded and reminiscent of Bruno Gianelli's speech in Season Three(3-6), "hopelessly liberal."
    I truly did not want the debates to end and I wish they would have touched a bit more on social issues. But I guess we had plenty a taste of that last week with abortion. The new form was appropriate for what this show has stood for through the last six seasons,(We should have a great debate, Rob.3-21)
    Overall, I still missed that Sorkin-esque touch that we experienced three years, but I'm glad we had an episode that really explored the various sides of the issue. This leads me to where my hypothetical vote goes. I have bounced back and forth throught the past few months, being alreading between parties. After last weeks disclosure on abortion I found myself back with Santos. But I am afraid now I am more confused than ever. My first reaction tonight was to Vinick, but I truly don't know where in the next few weeks the pendulum will land.
  • Out of the box episode that really showcased the difference in basic thought on governing that seperates these two candidates.

    This was a great episode. I could feel the energy coming from the two candidates as they debated their points. While I do not feel that a no rules debate like that would happen in real life, it did make things very interesting. They were talking over each other to make their points, and stabbing at each other wherever they could. While Vinick is the better debator, Santos did a great job of getting his message across. When he defended the word liberal as not being a bad word, I wanted to stand up and cheer. Santos' closing statement was very moving, you could tell he felt and meant everything he said. This episode just goes to show where The West Wing's current strenght lies, not in the White House, but in the campaign, and I for one, can't wait to see who wins.
  • A bold experiment? Perhaps. A successful one? Hardly. Still, they keep us in the dark about who's the favorite to win the election.

    I'm less than impressed with the "Live" format, and even less thrilled at the "no holds barred" debate. This show is good when the writing is crisp, the dialog and editing lead to a unique and clever rhythm, and the issues are clearly and succinctly explained. This episode offered none of this.

    Instead of letting the writing define the characters, this episode had the actors define them. Live, Arnie Vinnick seemed grumpier and Santos seemed stiffer than in scripted episodes. Both candidates toed the party line on everything, with the possible exception of BOTH candidates espousing some variety of anti-gun-control position (Huh?!!), which was one of the least compelling moments of the entire episode.

    We've seen both candidates show the ability to develop nuanced and thoughtful positions on issues, but Vinnick was reduced to the anti-tax guy. We've seen both candidates speak candidly and break through political rhetoric, but Santos' closing speech was about as boring and hackneyed as any politicians most bland campaign speech.

    NBC wants you to vote who won. It's a toss-up for me, with Santos articulating more pro-active policy ideas and Vinnick appearing more candid and less slick.

    But it's clear who lost: the viewers. There's a reason "Live" episodes have their own special place on they rarely work. This one is no exception.
  • Matthew Santos won, it was close but Santos beat Arnold Vinick!!!

    This is exactly why I watch this show. With a live show of course anything could and did happen. Santos did very well and made less mistakes than Vinick.

    Alan Alda made more mistakes than Jimmy Smits did but not by much. The debate was good but it was alittle to Hollywood for me.

    My main problems was that West Wing while it was not the first time that they kinda bent reality for the night, it was a big one. The fact is that no canadate running for that office would ever agree to a no rule debate. And further more no canadate's staff would allow him to do that either.

    If you get passed that one little flaw, the debate was really a good showing. The Issues that were discussed in this episode were very well portrayed and discussed. Also there were some serious diggs on our current President, Mr. Bush, such as the one about war for Oil.

    But once again I digress. The Liberals one.

    "Quote Nevermore"
  • This was the series first "live" episode. It featured Jimmy Smits as Rep. Matt Santos of Texas (D) and Alan Alda as Sen. Arnie Vinick of California (R) debating political issues.

    This episode was done live in order to attract more viewers to the series because the ratings are down. It started off like any other episode with a recap and it went to the candidates preparing. It looked live but it seemed like all the other episodes with the camera following the characters until they got to their podiums and it looked like a real debate. Alda started off by taking a long pause in the beginning and then giving a speech about a "real" debate. From that moment on, I knew that this episode was scripted. It was live but everything was scripted from the rebuttle's to the arguments to the audiences' comments as well as the moderator's. It let me down at first but then I started to respect it for what it was. The actor's had to memorize their lines and the whole debate and perform it like a play with out any chance to do a second take or do it over like one could on a regular television program. It would have been more interesting if the actor's could improvise but I understand that because they are debating politics, the actor's better know what they are talking about. They debated real issues about immigration and oil. They started talking about the real high gas prices of today along with "going to war over oil" which is real gutsy considering it is an attack on the Bush administration today. So overall, an above average episode but a change of form for the series. Can't wait for the next episode. It also showed that either candidate could win at this point.