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The Next-To-Last WEST WING Ever!!

I am – Hercules!!

The May 12 edition of Entertainment Weekly (the one with Tom Cruise’s big smiley face on the cover) contains an excellent piece by Lynette Rice regarding the secret origins of “The West Wing.” Learn that:
* screenwriter friend Akiva Goldsman (“Batman Forever,” “Batman & Robin,” “A Time To Kill”) was the man who suggested Aaron Sorkin turn his movie “The American President” into a TV series;
* “ER” overseer John Wells refused to write the “Third Watch” pilot for NBC until the network bought “The West Wing”;
* Sidney Poitier was sought to play President Bartlet but proved too expensive;
* Leo McGarry was originally Leo Jacoby, and that Sorkin had Judd Hirsch in mind for the part;
* Eugene Levy was Richard Schiff’s leading competition for the role of Toby Ziegler;
* CCH Pounder was Alison Janney’s leading competition for the role of C.J. Cregg;
* Janel Moloney also read for C.J.;
* When negotiations with Rob Lowe proved difficult, Bradley Whitford was offered the role of Sam Seaborn; and
* Lowe didn’t sign on to the series until the day before the pilot began shooting.

Tonight’s penultimate episode, “Institutional Memory,” deals with C.J. and Will Bailey contemplating what to do with their futures. We know from the season-starting flash-forward that C.J. ends up with the violin guy from “Revenge of the Nerds,” but what of her career? And we know Will, unlike Sam, is elected to Congress – but what of his growing attachment to Vinick-voting deputy national security advisor Kate Harper?

The print edition of TV Guide tells us that next week’s series finale (featuring a cameo by Lowe) will be preceded by a “West Wing” special looking back on the show’s seven years – but NBC issued on Thursday a press release indicating that the network intends to run instead the show’s Emmy-winning pilot at 7 p.m. No explanation given for the substitution!

8 p.m. Sunday. NBC.

Great googly moogly!! Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season and Moonlighting: The Complete First and Second Seasons both just went 50-percent off!! $29.96 and $24.97, respectively!!

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