Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Favourite on-screen romance

My favourite on-screen romance is (as you can probably predict) between Jed and Abbey Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen and Stockard Channing) in ‘The West Wing’.
In the series, they’ve been married for over 30 years so how can it be a romance?
Simple answer - because they are still deeply ‘in love’.
Over the years, they must have changed and matured, but their relationship is still dynamic, passionate and intense, flirty too at times. They continue to be stimulated and challenged by each other, and they enjoy each other too.
They’re also completely attuned, instinctively aware of the other’s feelings, reactions, deepest desires and worries. When Jed decides to run for a second term as President, Abbey has serious misgivings because of his health issues, but knows it’s what he has to do and puts her own fears to one side to give him her wholehearted support. When Abbey voluntarily forfeits her medical licence (after helping to conceal Jed’s multiple sclerosis), Jed is shocked, knowing the enormity of the sacrifice she is making. They understand each other perfectly.
Some of the best on-screen moments are when they communicate in a private way even when they’re in the public domain – sometimes just by eye-contact, or a smile, or a hand on the other’s arm. Beautifully and so naturally done.
They argue, too – or rather (as Stockard once said), ‘You don’t fight with someone unless you care about them, especially in a marriage. They’re not nasty fights. They’re responsible, energetic discussions.’ Abbey knows exactly which buttons to push, Jed knows what she worries about and what will make her cross.
We never see more than a chaste kiss between them – but we’re left in no doubt that off-screen they have a very active sex-life! For one thing, the on-screen chemistry between them sizzles! Abbey makes seductive references to ‘a special garment’; Jed has a frustrating day trying to find a gap in his hectic schedule for some ‘time-out’ with Abbey after 14 weeks of enforced celibacy after he was shot. We see them both making their way to the White House Residence after the Saturday morning radio-talk and we know exactly what’s going to happen there! Of course, I (and many other West Wing fan-fiction writers) have been more than happy to give the fans the benefit of our imagination of those scenes we never saw!
Press Secretary CJ Cregg once asked Jed why he had abandoned his ambition to become a priest. His reply was “I met Abbey” – just three words, which he didn’t need to elaborate, explain, rationalize or justify. Those three words said it all. He gave up all idea of the priesthood because he had met his soul-mate. The romance between them began – and continued.


  1. How lovely, Paula, you bring it all back to me and remind me why I watch this series over and over again.

  2. Jed & Abbey Bartlet get my vote absolutely. The characters as played by Martin Sheen & Stockard Channing were without doubt the most believable couple ever portayed on TV. Their amazing chemistry, charm and realism made Jed & Abbey the romantic couple for all time.
    > Cally

  3. Their acting was top-notch. Aaron Sorkin gets credit for his character development, too. In The American President, Annette Bening and Michael Douglas were very romantic.

  4. Amen, sistah! :-)

  5. Thanks, Margaret and Cally!
    I used to think Douglas and Bening were 'romantic' too, Ana, but they paled into insignificance compared with Martin and Stockard. With lesser actors, Jed and Abbey would have been just another President and First Lady (notwithstanding Sorkin's scripts). As Cally has said, it was Martin and Stockard's amazing chemistry which made the relationship between Jed and Abbey so real and vibrant. Stockard herself said she and Martin had great chemistry and added 'That's an accident. You can't buy it.'

  6. Thanks, Adrienne (even though we couldn't find that article about Jed and Abbey on the internet!) - glad you think I've done them justice nevertheless!