The West Wing characters: Amy Gardner “The First Lady just asked me to get boozy with her. You don’t think I want to write a book one day?”
Possibly the most contentious character on my list, Amy is certainly one to divide opinion. While some might say that her soul is as black as her feet, I actually think that Amy commands respect for her unparalleled focus in achieving whatever her latest political goal is. Obviously sometimes I get frustrated with her, as she cuts phone lines and throws cell phones in stews, displaying an utter inability to do anything close to compromise, but she is a great character. I also don’t think she’s quite the devil woman that fan fiction would have you believe. I always have far more pleasant associations with Amy - like, balloon animals and Van Morrison. I would argue that she might just be the strongest, most resilient character on the show - surviving numerous setbacks and firings to still be standing strong and bossing the new President about at the very end of the series. She’s witty, sexy and a formidable opponent in any political debate - it’s easy to see how Josh got to be so bewitched and ensorcelled.
There is never a moment when I have felt that Amy doesn’t at least deserve the right to be heard. She speaks for women’s issues and is largely a personification of the feminist force that the White House will have encountered with any democratic party in charge. That’s why I think it would be idiotic to dislike her for Donna-related reasons. She was never malicious to Donna, I don’t believe. But Donna was always an unwilling third member of the Josh/Amy relationship, and neither woman could be expected to be happy about that. Josh is only person who ever messed Donna around romantically, in my opinion. I love Donna, she’s my favourite. But, most of the time, what Amy’s fighting for is beneficial to Donna. To all women, for that matter. Marriage incentives? What kind of mad government could think that the best way to improve the American family is to incentivise marriage?! I’m with you there, girlfriend. So, I guess my love for Amy is the opposite to my love for Ainsley in that - I agree with her politics most of the time, but usually not her method.
That being said, I will personally pay for a pedicure out of my own money. And the way her mouth doesn’t move when she talks is disconcerting. Perhaps if things don’t work out in politics for her, she could have a ventriloquist act.
The West Wing characters: Abbey Bartlet “When did I stop being ‘Dr.’ Bartlet? When in the campaign did I decide that women were going to like me more if I called myself 'Mrs’?“
There’s a phrase, that behind every great man is a great woman. I really don’t think Jed Bartlet is in any position to argue. Furthermore, I’ll coin my own phrase that behind every great West Wing character is a great actor. Stockard Channing’s Abbey Bartlet is no exception. Within an already finely honed ensemble, Abbey fits perfectly. She’s got all the chops to go toe-to-toe with Jed, which I think is really important when there are so many characters that are decidedly subordinate to the President. Abbey is just as witty, charismatic, commanding and vocal as her husband. They are equals, in every sense I think.
The storylines that explore the Bartlet marriage are really well-constructed. I’m talking with regard to both the conflict and the playful banters they share. Season four is home to a few notable moments, including “Who’s your commander-in-chief?” (Process Stories) and the cutting of the tie (Game On). Most of all though, the way that Martin and Stockard play their matured, unbreakable bond when it comes to the President’s MS is really beautiful and emotional television. One of my favourite moments comes at the end of Abu El Banat when the First Lady asks if the President’s position on euthanasia has changed. It’s the uniquely enduring relationship of The West Wing, providing the romantic backdrop to the political issues that are the show’s focus throughout. I just adore every scene of the two of them.
Besides her relationship with the President, other really great Abbey dynamics are those with Josh, Leo, Amy, Oliver Babbish and CJ. Despite how little screentime those might actually equate to, they are full and layered relationships that provide just another compelling aspect to this show. You got to have a certain something to be a great First Lady, and I just think Abbey Bartlet wrote the book on that.
The West Wing characters: Joey Lucas (and Kenny!) “You say that these numbers mean dial it down. I say they mean dial it up. You haven’t gotten through. There are people you haven’t persuaded yet. These numbers mean dial it up. Otherwise you’re like the French radical, watching the crowd run by and saying, ‘There go my people. I must find out where they’re going so I can lead them.’“
From Take This Sabbath Day, Joey was feisty and funny and brilliant - most of which was recognised immediately by Josh (despite his sensitive system) and the President. When we were reunited with the character in 20 Hours in LA, I found myself willing Josh and Joey together despite Donna, which says a lot for the chemistry and talents of Marlee and Brad, to be honest. I think I could have quite happily settled in to the JL/JL pairing (that would have meant neither needed their towels re-sewn). I admire Joey a lot as a character; she’s fearless. I wish she had been a regular, because every time she came back, those were great episodes.
My favourite performance and scene featuring Joey is in The Fall’s Gonna Kill You, when Josh signs 'MS’ to her and asks her to come up with a way to poll the reaction to the President’s MS without having anyone realize the questions they’re answering. There’s a complexity to the way Marlee acts, and given that she is stripped of a huge part of the communication process, it’s unbelievable the fluidity of the scenes she’s in. Credit also must be given to Kenny. As well as intense emotional moments, Joey also has a hilarious banter with Josh (and some of the other characters too) as seen in episodes like The War at Home, 100,000 Airplanes and The Benign Prerogative (one of my favourite moments is the pregnancy reveal). There is also the tenderness of Mandatory Minimums, in which Josh reveals the story of his Joey Lucas suit (not his regular Tuesday suit).
She’s just a fantastic character, with a great rapport with the ensemble. You can tell that every time she returns, they’re like 'YAY JOEY’. And damn, the girl’s got sass! I mean, the women on this show are like a congregation of the biggest HBICs in all the land!