Saturday, December 17, 2005

RIP, John Spencer

I was about 90 seconds from leaving work last night for our office holiday party when my editor walked up and said, "John Spencer died." After a minute to process this, Matt started working the phones while I began looking for archival quotes so we could write the obituary.

John Spencer was one of the nicest celebrities I've ever had the pleasure to meet. He always considered his post-rehab life to be time he hadn't expected to have, so while 58 is way too young to die, he enjoyed every damn minute of the last 16 years.

It's obviously much too early to know what "West Wing" is going to do without him. The show caught a bizarre lucky break when Leo wasn't included in the flash-forward to the dedication of the Bartlet presidential library in the season premiere. At the time, I heard lots of speculation about his absence: Leo's busy doing some VP assignment; Leo is actually the president (Santos having died sometime after winning the election) and is therefore the guy coming out of the limo; Leo suffered another heart attack and died. I'm almost certain they have to kill him now; the only question is how close production was to the election episode.

About the only silver lining of this whole situation is that it could spur Sorkin and Schlamme to come back to write and direct Leo's farewell. Hell, if we're really close to the end of the series, maybe Santos chooses a familiar face to be Leo's replacement: Sam Seaborn.


Anonymous said...

Good work Alan.

So many of your collegaues have wondered how the writers could work around the fact that Leo was (supposedly) in that opening "flash-forward".

But as I wondered where he was while originally watching it -- he couldn't have been included without giving away the outcome of the election.

Had Santos won, Leo would have been called "Mr. Vice Preasident" and had to have had a secret service contingent.

On the other hand, VPs rarely attend (perhaps are forbidden?) any functions with a sitting president, so I thought perhaps that did give credence to the fact that Santos won -- because had he lost, one would have assumed McGarry would not has missed the dedication of the libray for his best friend.

I enjoy your work -- and this was just another example of its quality.

Fred Farrar, Los Angeles

Anonymous said...

I liked your comments about "The West Wing" and the passing of John Spencer. I, too, was shocked to hear about his death and have wondered how the show is going to deal with it. I had the last new episode still saved in my DVR and when I finally watched it, I was truly saddened when Spencer was on-screen. He was a great actor, and I'm sure he was a great man as well. I look forward to watching the show no matter how they end up dealing with his absence.

Anonymous said...

Having just stumbled across your blog I have been enjoying your writing. I too felt the loss of Mr. Spencer and though I have been watching The West Wing since its beginnings I never had the pleasure to meet him. However it is a testament to his talent that I feel as if I had, and that the end of Leo evokes such a poignant response in myself and any other fan of the show.