Jelena Woehr (@jelenawoehr) writes television, and based on this Twitter thread she just casually dropped over the weekend, someone should probably hire her PDQ. People have gotten jobs for far sillier reasons, after all. But, honestly, this isn’t all that silly—well yes it is deeply silly, but intentionally so. As an earnest fan of The West Wing who is also aware of its many flaws, this writer would like to assure you with perfect honesty that Woehr wrote a scene for an imagined 2020 episode of The West Wing that expertly skewers The West Wing while simultaneously capturing what made it great. That’s the short version; if you’d rather jump from here directly to her thread, rather than read it as a series of embeds, have at it, and be well. (But before you go, did you see that Sterling K. Brown is playing Leo in the reunion episode for HBO Max? It’s great casting!)
Anyway, let’s do this. Have someone bring you the finest muffins and bagels in all the land, and read on.
So first, we should note that Woehr is rightly either a) ignoring the stupid “Toby commits treason” storyline in the Wells era or b) assuming that Jed would eventually have completely given up on pretending he wasn’t dead wrong there, which tracks with both the events of the flash-forwards in the final season and the fact that Martin Sheen played that storyline with a heady undercurrent of shame and self-reproach. (If you’re thinking that this Great Job Internet story is headed curiously close to TV Club territory, you are not wrong.)
Seriously, she’s got the Sorkin banter rhythm down pat and Jed in particular is dead-on. Right down to the lite misogyny!
This, reader, is where we fell deeply in love. If you can’t hear this section in your head—complete with Megan Thee Stallion blaring in the background on repeat—and picture a slightly sweaty Allison Janney drinking an enormous glass of wine while still sort of dancing to “WAP” then we shall simply never see eye-to-eye on anything. If you cannot see Stockard Channing pulling out her iPhone to look that shit up, then we don’t even know what to tell you.
And then Ainsley shows up! As she will in the HBO Max special! And the idea that the principled Ainsley would still be a Republican is pretty upsetting but also probably true! And yes, Woehr sort of acknowledges that!
We are not the only people who consider this thing to be pretty damn great. Both Krista Vernoff (the showrunner for Grey’s Anatomy) and Brian Koppelman (the creator of Billions) also chimed in. It continues, and just wait until you get to the subject of Zoey’s employment.
Wait, where’s Josh?
It’s worth noting that Josh Lyman was inspired in part by Rahm Emanuel, and we feel it our duty as a Chicago-based publication to note that Rahm would never get arrested at a protest in Portland, and this is one of many, many ways that Josh Lyman sucks less than Rahm Emanuel. (Josh does still suck sometimes, though.)
If you’re unfamiliar with The West Wing, you may not know that there was a multi-season arc about Bartlet concealing an illness from the American public. It’s very good and may be therapeutic viewing if you want to live in a fantasy world where something like that would be shocking and would throw all of the characters into a moral and ethical tailspin.
Here is where we were caught totally by surprise. It turns out she can write Sorkin’s soaring rhetoric, too.
Someone get those guys some pie.
One small note: Bartlet was succeeded by Matt Santos, not the guy from The Apprentice. Matt Santos would absolutely have had to have a fight with some advisor about whether or not wearing a mask would make him look weak but he’d absolutely have worn one because while fictional, he is also not an idiot.
Back to “WAP”!
So where’s Zoey?
Why isn’t Danny also dancing to “WAP”? This is really our only note, other than the Santos thing.
And here’s the perfect little ending:
It may not be a complete spec script, but it’s pretty damned impressive all the same. If Woehr decides to write a proper 42-minute episode, may we suggest she call it something like “Six Diagnoses Before Lunch” or “17 People, Again” or maybe just “WAP”?
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