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‘The West Wing’ newbie recap: 100 years ago, Bertha didn’t wash her hair terribly often

Season 1 | Episode 17 | “The White House Pro-AM” | Aired March 22, 2000

We open this week with the first lady playfully taunting a 14-year-old child who’s appearing with her on television to discuss international child labor. She’s as quick-tongued as her husband, but a little meaner. I like it. Bumping her off the front pages, though, is the news that the chairman of the Federal Reserve board has died. So that’s what the Bartlet Bunch is dealing with today.

Sam, hearing the news about the fed chairman, announces that he’s headed to the gym to ward off future heart problems. Toby pointing out that the fed chair was 138 years old doesn’t deter him. After Sam leaves, Toby mutters the he needs to start eating right. It’s tough facing your mortality, guys.

Elsewhere in the West Wing, Donna approaches Josh to talk about a book she’s reading on what life was like 100 years ago: The population of Las Vegas was 22, women washed their hair once a month, Florence and Bertha were popular girl names, and Denver had a problem with drive-by stagecoach shootings. Josh isn’t as impressed as I am, the philistine.

C.J.’s leading a press conference on the fed chairman’s death, and Danny asks her to respond to a leak indicating that the first lady prefers Ron Ehrlich as the new fed chairman. This results in Sam postponing his gym plans to track down Lili, Abbey’s chief of staff. (She’s played by Nadia Dajani, whom I know as Nina Katz from that one “Sex in the City” rerun that I’ve seen 70 times because apparently it plays on E! around the clock and is therefore is impossible to avoid.) Lili denies that she was the leak, and Sam, satisfied, tries yet again to go to the gym. Seriously, I’m watching Chris Traeger being born before my very eyes.

In the Oval Office, the president tells Zoey that they’ve been receiving threatening letters from white supremacists, who know that the couple plans to attend a club opening that weekend. They can’t go, the president says. Zoey, looking downtrodden, agrees to tell Charlie.

Hey, Sam made it to the gym! But he’s interrupted when Congresswoman Becky Reesman approaches him about a child labor amendment she’s attaching to a trade bill on the cusp of passage and — I’m sorry, I got totally distracted by the guy with the great biceps doing curls in the background. What were they talking about? Oh, right. Reesman was inspired by the first lady and wants to be out front on this issue. Since this will kill the trade bill, Sam has to cut his workout short to get back to the White House.

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Charlie and Zoey are having lunch, talking about Donna’s book on life 100 years ago. And finally Zoey comes out with it: They can’t go to the club opening. She explains why, and Charlie gets angry. “Hey look,” he spits. “It says here that 100 year ago, a black guy couldn’t show up at a club opening with a white girl for fear he’d be killed.” He storms out.

Good ol’ Danny’s been summoned to the Oval for an off-the-record chat with the president. Mrs. Landingham tell him she’s not used to having a member of the print media waiting in the office, and he jokes that he’ll try not to get any ink on the upholstery. JOURNALIST HUMOR! Charlie wanders through the office and spills his Zoey problems. Danny gently reminds him of what a circus Zoey’s life has always been: bodyguards, thousands of marriage proposals, thousands of death threats. “If it was me, just for now, I’d make sure I was the one guy in her life who was totally hassle free,” he says. Danny’s a sage. An oracle. A mensch. Charlie should listen to him, is what I’m saying.

Sam, back in work mode, enters Lili’s office but finds Abbey instead. He’s brutally honest, telling her that she’s making amateur mistakes and needs to straighten up. Brrr. The temperatures must’ve dropped about 20 agrees, but she agrees to tell Reesman to back off the amendment.

And she does just that, ordering Reesman to kill the amendment before it kills the bill. Reesman tries to bargain for support to run for a Senate seat, and Abby tells her not to haggle. FLOTUS is downright arctic. To quote Jim Halpert:


But Abbey’s not done. She beards the lion in his den, storming into the Oval Office to ask Jed why he tasked his staff to handle her. “Jed, we share a bed. Why didn’t you just come to me?” (Side note: The president has a framed photo of a black cat behind his desk. I MUST KNOW THE BACKSTORY TO THIS.) The president shouts that he knows she was the one who leaked her support for Ron Ehrlich, whom he was planning to appoint as the new fed chair anyway, but now it looks like he’s taking instructions from his wife. Abbey says he’s upset because this Ron fella was Abbey’s boyfriend for six months 30 years ago. “It was nine months,” Jed corrects, then he calls his choice for the fed chairmanship “Skippy.” Drama!

They’re straight-up shouting now, but it’s kind of sexy shouting. What it boils down to is that the president doesn’t want her to pass him messages through the press. In the end, President Bartlet sums up his argument thusly: She’s wrong.


Heh. Abbey acknowledges what he’s saying but warns that she won’t back down from the child labor issue. Then they both deflate slightly, glad to have their first Oval Office fight over and done with. They exit said office arm in arm, harmony restored.

And the episode ends at Zoey’s dorm, where Charlie shows up with flowers, popcorn, videos and a heck of an apology. Aww! I hope these two make it.

Yet again, this episode passed with no Mandy, not even a mention. I assume Moira Kelly was too busy faxing head shots to casting directors?

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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