Sometimes the month of May is sad as so many things come to an end. The next few weeks I will be bidding farewell to fourteen private students, twelve of which I have known for ten years or more. Tonight, one of my all time favorite television programs came to an end.

For seven years I have been glued to the television screen each week – even during the re-runs, wishing each episode ran longer than its customary sitxy minutes. Many times, I would watch the video the following day, as so many of the episodes were so captivating. For two presidential elections, I wished that Josiah Barlett (played by Martin Sheen) was really on the ballot! Tonight I watched CJ Craig (Dayton’s own Alison Janney), President & Mrs. Bartlett (Mrs. – Sotckard Channing), Josh, and the others I have known for seven years, depart the White House. In Decemeber, one of my favorite actors, John Spencer who portrayed Leo McGarry, the president’s chief of staff, died of a heart attack.

OK – finally – in the last episode, there were things that really bothered me. I have always been critical of movies or television programs with inaccurate White House layouts, but THE WEST WING was always on top of the game, having evolved out of AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT. Tonight, however, inauguration day, was heaped with things that would not have happened.

First of all, Mrs. Barlett and the President discuss the weather for inauguration day, and she asks, “Who determined the changing of power should occur in the cold winter?” President Bartlett said, “Jefferson, Adams, Franklin…” Ugh! The traditional date, beginning with John Adams, was March 4th. It remained this date until Franklin Roosevelt moved it to January 20th.
The traditional parade, which lasts for 3-4 hours following the swearing in ceremony was over WAY too soon and the new First Lady sends a reminder to President Santos that it is 6:00PM and they needed to prepare for the balls. Generally, the parade is still continuing until after 6:00PM, and the balls do not begin until after 9:00PM. Plus, the day was still very light. In January at 6:00PM?

As CJ Craig was leaving the White House, she strolled in front of the White House where people, mostly sight-seers were strolling casually along Pennsylvania Avenue. There was no reviewing stand for the parade (which ended way too soon!) and it is Washington, DC during the inauguration – there would have been no way you could move in the city due to the excessive crowds – and especially not in front of the White House.

Normally, I am more forgiving, but this show has always displayed such tremendous attention to detail, and tonight was such a let down. Very disappointing last episode.

Still, I must say this was still the only television show which has held me captive for seven years.

Here are a few write ups…

NEW YORK – It was an orderly transition Sunday night as President Jed Bartlet left office and “The West Wing” came to a graceful end.

After seven TV seasons (and two terms in his fictional White House), the heroic, quirky, often embattled chief executive played by Martin Sheen was succeeded by Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits). As the Bartlet administration came to its inevitable conclusion, so did the NBC drama.

“You did a lot of good, Jed, a lot of good,” the First Lady (Stockard Channing) told her husband as Inauguration Day dawned.

Bartlet’s mood at that moment must have matched many viewers’: relief, satisfaction, gratitude and sadness that it was about to be over.

And later on, Abbie Bartlet said proudly, “Jed, you made it. You’re still here” — after the assassination attempt, his battle with multiple sclerosis, and the punishing duties of his job.

Sentiment hung heavy through the hour, both for the characters and the audience. In particular, former chief of staff Leo McGarry, who had died suddenly on the campaign trail as Santos’ vice-presidential running mate, was repeatedly recalled (as was, implicitly, the late John Spencer, who played him until his death of a heart attack last December).

“I’m gonna take one final stroll around the joint, to make sure nobody’s making off with the cutlery,” Bartlet told his secretary (Lily Tomlin) after tending to one final presidential task: signing some pardons in the oval office.

Caution: Spoiler alert. Would he pardon Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), a trusted senior adviser who had leaked classified information out of conscience, then confessed; been fired, tried and indicted; and now was facing prison?

Though still torn between feelings of betrayal and affection — well, of course, Bartlet pardoned Toby.

For the episode, a full-scale inauguration platform was erected, where the ceremony would soon begin as, back at the White House, Bartlet staffers watched coverage of it on their TVs and finished packing up.

Then, at 42 minutes into the hour, Santos took the oath of office. An era was over. So, remarkably, was the brief inauguration scene.

“Nice speech,” the former president told President Santos (viewers will never know).

“No JFK,” Santos replied.

“No,” smiled Bartlet. “But you’ve got time. Make me proud, Mr. President.”

“I’ll do my best, Mr. President,” Santos said.

And Bartlet was gone.

In the unseen Santos administration ahead, “West Wing” favorites Donna Moss and Josh Lyman (Janel Moloney and Bradley Whitford) will be part of the team — and presumably will remain an item, a recent development after having been partners for years in TV’s sexiest unconsummated, unacknowledged romance.

“The West Wing,” which premiered in fall 1999, was the vision of Aaron Sorkin, whose genius was reflected in the pilot episode, repeated Sunday night just before the finale aired. Sorkin not only created the series, but wrote all the episodes for several seasons before leaving it.

Although a popular hit as well as a critical smash, the series in recent seasons dropped precipitously from its former Top-10 status and was canceled by the network.

Even so, this season’s episodes have been strong, charting not only White House goings-on but also the campaign between Santos and his Republican challenger, Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda).

Viewers can be cheered that Sorkin will be back on TV: NBC has announced that his new series, “Studio 60 on Sunset Strip” will be on its fall lineup, with stars including “West Wing” alumni Whitford and Timothy Busfield.

And Sunday the final scene of “The West Wing” left the audience on a forward-looking note, too, even if expressed in a wistful tone.

“What are you thinking about?” Abbie Bartlet asked her husband as they flew back home to New Hampshire after the marvelous adventure they had shared with “West Wing” fans.

“Tomorrow,” he replied.

It’s the little things that doom a presidency: the Depression; Watergate; Aaron Buerge proposing to Helene Eksterowicz.

The West Wing leaves office Sunday night having survived 154 episodes, seven seasons, cast and crew departures and the death of a beloved costar, but never having recovered from The Bachelor.

Once a Top 10 hit, the Oval Office drama faltered four seasons ago, when it was up against ABC’s then-new, then-hot matrimonial-minded franchise. In one year, viewership fell 22 percent. And it never got back up. This season, the show was about as popular as such quickly forgotten series as The Book of Daniel and Threshold.

Sunday’s finale, airing at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) on NBC, looks forward to a new administration that audiences will never see, barring a reunion movie or series sequel. Titled “Tomorrow,” the episode takes place on Inauguration Day–Congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) is moving into the West Wing; President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is moving out.

In real life, Sheen is moving onto Ireland and undergrad studies; among his costars, Bradley Whitford is moving onto West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin’s new Saturday Night Live-inspired series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, starring Matthew Perry.

Borrowing from Will & Grace, The West Wing has loaded up on guest stars, or at least distinguished alumni, in its final days. Mary-Louise Parker, Marlee Matlin and Tim Matheson were among those who reprised their recurring roles in recent weeks. Rob Lowe, who left the show in 2003 after squabbling over his role and his paycheck, returns Sunday for a cameo as Sam Seaborn, Bartlet’s former spin doctor.

Like the real Washington, D.C., the fake Washington, D.C., of The West Wing relied on a large, revolving crew of steady pros, not flashy stars, to get its business done. Since things tend to run smoother if the president sticks around, Sheen stuck around for the full run, his character having staved off several international crises, not to mention a 2002 campaign challenge from Barbra Streisand’s better half.

Key West Wing staffers Whitford (as Josh Lyman), Janel Moloney (as Donna Moss), Allison Janney (as C.J. Cregg), Richard Schiff (as Toby Ziegler) and Dulé Hill (as Charlie Young) also remained loyal to the cause. Stockard Channing, as Bartlet’s wife Abigail and the nation’s first lady, appeared in more than 50 episodes from 1999 through Sunday.

John Spencer was a West Wing lifer, too, his battle-tested Leo McGarry, Bartlet’s confidante and former chief of staff, was a linchpin of the show and a key player in this past season’s election storyline (his character was Smits’ running mate). When he died last Dec. 16 from a heart attack, it seemed a final, fatal blow to a series already listing. NBC announced West Wing’s cancellation a month later, although the network said the pink slip was being written prior to the actor’s death.

As far as Bartlet and company were concerned, McGarry lived on until April, when he died (off screen) on election night–something that would be called a neat dramatic twist had it not been necessitated by a real-life tragedy.

Spencer’s death was the gravest of The West Wing off-screen dramas, which included the Lowe falling out, the 2001 salary holdouts of Janney, Schiff, Spencer and Whitford, the 2003 exits of Sorkin and director Thomas Schlamme, and most recently, the reputed pay demands of unnamed “key castmembers” over a planned retrospective special.

NBC defused the last one by pulling the plug on the retrospective, once slated to air before the finale. In its place, at 7 p.m. (ET/PM) Sunday, the network will rerun the show’s inaugural episode, originally broadcast Sept. 22, 1999.

Through it all, The West Wing won Emmys, lots of Emmys–24 for the series, including four for Outstanding Drama, four for Janney and one trophy each for Channing, Spencer and Whitford. Its haul puts it sixth on the all-time series wins list behind Frasier (37 Emmys), The Mary Tyler Moore Show (29), Cheers (28), Hill Street Blues (26) and The Carol Burnett Show (25). It’s possible it could claim even more glory at this coming fall’s Emmys–nominations are announced in July.

As a TV president, Sheen outlasted the likes of Geena Davis (of the one-and-done Commander in Chief), Patty Duke (of the one-and-done Hail to the Chief) and the marked chief executives of 24.

Perhaps if Aaron and Helene hadn’t looked so in love, The West Wing would still be flying high–and Sheen would be lobbying for an end run around term limits.

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