The real- life soap opera behind ''The West Wing'' |


The real- life soap opera behind ''The West Wing''

Sex! Drugs! Contract disputes!

Martin Sheen, The West Wing

(West Wing Illustration by Eric Palma)

Unfortunately, the White House scandals didn’t end when Clinton left office. Although the Bush administration has been relatively imbroglio-free thus far, the Bartlet administration – as in ”The West Wing”’s President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) – has provided no shortage of tabloid-ready fodder. Herewith, the (dirty) laundry list:

April 15 Creator Aaron Sorkin is arrested at Burbank Airport after psychedelic mushrooms, marijuana, rock cocaine, and a $4 pipe are discovered in his carry-on bag.

MAY Despite the fact that exec producer John Wells is president of the West Coast Writers Guild, staff writers are informed they won’t get contractually promised raises due to budget cuts. Some scribes quit rather than appeal to the Writers Guild.

JUNE Sorkin moves into L.A.’s Four Seasons Hotel after separating from his wife, Julia Bingham, with whom he had his first child, Roxanne, less than a year earlier. He later tells EW his show’s long-celibate characters won’t get any action ”until I do.”

JUNE 19 Sorkin pleads guilty to three drug-possession charges and avoids jail time by entering an 18-month diversion program for first-time offenders.

July 9 Costars Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, and Bradley Whitford miss the season’s first script reading. The quartet want their salaries (about $30,000 an episode) tripled. They get a raise to $70,000 an episode and return to work.

August 11 Sorkin denies rumors Sheen threatened to quit unless he went into rehab: ”He told me in the most loving possible way that I was more important to him than the show and that he would quit the show to help me.” Ah, that clears it up…sort of.

October 3 ”Wing” delays its season premiere so Sorkin can rush onto the air an episode he’s written in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Critics rip the didactic script, but the hour attracts more than 25 million viewers, the show’s biggest audience ever.

November 4 ”The West Wing” wins eight Emmys, including its second straight trophy for best drama – and that’s just for what was on screen.