A couple of days ago, I began rewatching Aaron Sorkin’s political TV drama series, The West Wing, from the very first episode. I love the series a lot, for all its faults, and look forward to being back in the company of some fine characters for some time to come. it’s also enlightening to see the early episodes with the full benefit of seven years worth of hindsight.
As I was watching the first couple of episodes, a throwaway discussion on Twitter with my friends Jim and Paul somehow got us talking about how we would cast a theoretical Carry On version of life in and around the Oval Office…
* President Bartlet: Kenneth Williams
Who else could portray the intellectual, Latin-quoting Nobel Laureate who is also prone to overblown comedy moments?
* Mrs Landingham: Hattie Jacques
As the Oval Office secretary, Jacques would hold all the real power in the West Wing. The other secretaries would be ruled with a kindly rod of iron, which would come in handy for keeping the pesky men at bay, too.
* Sam Seaborn: Jim Dale
An idealistic youngster whose eye for the ladies can’t help but get him in to trouble? This is one character that barely needs rewriting to fit within the Carry On mould.
* Josh Lyman: Kenneth Connor
The well-meaning Deputy Chief of Staff who has a knack for saying the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time would be perfect for one of the original Carry On stars.
* CJ Cregg: Joan Sim
Serious, efficient and professional, but also incredibly funny, flirtatious and sexy, Sim would be able to hold her own in an office dominated by men.
* The Vice President: Sid James
In the show, VP Hoynes was a reformed alcoholic and womaniser who was always on the lookout for his own career above all else. James would be perfect, except for the “reformed” part. He’d put the vice back into vice president.
* Leo McGarry: William Hartnell
Casting the role of Chief of Staff is a tricky one, as none of the usual Carry On men really has the gravitas it needs. Here, I’ve gone instead for the eponymous star of the first film in the series, Carry On Sergeant, playing the serious authority figure forever exasperated by his team’s relentless incompetence.
* Toby Ziegler: Bernard Bresslaw
On TV he’s a brutally sharp mind, prone to fits of anger. I imagine Bresslaw would play him slightly differently.
* Margaret: Patsy Rowland
Never given many lines, Margaret just needs to dress oddly, come out with non-sequiturs and steal a scene with just a look. Rowland fits the bill well.
* Donna Moss: Liz Fraser
The hardworking aide to Kenneth Connor’s bumbling Josh Lyman. Be prepared for the lens to go all blurry once he realises that he’s in love with his secretary…
* Ainsley Hayes: Barbara Windsor
The Republican blonde bombshell who loves a song and a dance as much as she does sparring with Sam Seaborn would be perfect for Babs’ cheeky charms.
* And finally, Charlie Young: Charles Hawtrey
He has the correct first name already. And, this being the politically incorrect Carry On films, where would we be without some racially insensitive make-up job? Once you get the vision of Hawtrey in blackface in your head it’s a mental image that’s hard to shift…