Stars who gave a boost to 'Cheers,' 'Buffy,' 'The O.C.,' 'M*A*S*H," and more
"The West Wing"
Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda)
First introduced: Season 6, episode 4 and Season 6, episode 8 respectively
The slowly developing presidential race between unproven Texas Congressman Santos and Fantasy California Republican Senator Vinick gave "The West Wing" an unexpected jolt of adrenaline in its sixth season as the writers were able to step away from the increasingly stale adventures in the Barlet administration to offer a nuts-and-bolts look at the primary and national election process. Based very, very, very loosely on Barack Obama, Santos was a fairly conventional Democratic contender, but Vinick let the "West Wing" writers create one of their most nuanced Republican creations, albeit one who would essentially be a Democrat in today's political climate. "West Wing" had created an embarrassing Republican straw man for Barlet to beat up in his reelection run, but Vinick let the writers actually honor politics on the Red State side of the spectrum in a way which, in turn, honored the entire process.
- Daniel Fienberg