The first ever episode of The West Wing mainly revolves around
Sam Seaborn and his accidental liaison with a call girl, as well as the
aftermath of Josh Lyman’s frustrated remarks towards a conservative Christian
commentator. The President himself is actually noticeable by his absence for the
majority of proceedings, a situation caused by the fact he has reportedly
ridden a bicycle into a tree.
It’s been widely suggested that when the show was first
created, the President’s role was actually meant to be a very minor one.
However, Martin Sheen’s performance proved so unequivocally popular, it was a
no-brainer that the role be hastily expanded.
When Sheen’s character finally arrives in the pilot, it’s an
unforgettable entrance that oozes screen presence. As the senior staff hold a conciliatory
meeting with representatives from the Christian right, things become
unexpectedly heated when Toby loses his rag over the content of the 1st
Commandment. Cue the doors swinging open and President Bartlet striding into
the room whilst exclaiming, “I am the Lord your God. Thou shalt worship no
other god before me... Boy, those were the days.”
It’s an emphatic introduction that leaves an indelible impression on the viewer and in which we also learn a great deal about the President's personality. We know from the off that he is a likeable, funny and knowledgeable central character who you immediately want to hear more from. POTUS had truly arrived.