One of my favorite shows is “The West Wing,” and as much as I may be a super-fan, designer Jon White has taken it one step further.
With SeventeenPeople.com, White has created a wonderful “live infographic” about one of the best and most classic “non-Dire-Straits-featuring episodes” of “The West Wing” – an hour of television known as “17 People.”
The episode itself, at its core, is about Toby learning the President has M.S. While everything else may be going on around them, this is the central point which, when it aired, had a great impact on what followed.
White’s deconstruction of the episode is spot on and this one page site is a work of art. His love for the series, and this episode in particular, shines through in the introduction with lines like, “I love this episode” and, “It contains my favorite West Wing punchline, which I keep waiting for a chance to use at parties (
I could’ve countered that, but I’d already moved on to other things in my head‘).
“But more than anything, it’s the acting across its five disparate stories. In words said and unsaid, a lot happens in this hour, though it never feels rushed. It just unfolds, convincingly, over the course of one late evening. It is, simultaneously: a story of intrigue, of persuasion, of drama, of comedy, and of romance.”
After the introduction, he asks “What’s going on, Leo,” in which he lays out the Intrigue, Persuasion, Drama, Comedy and Romance of the episode, each with their own sections, detailed with where they action takes place.
The Intrigue section begins with one of my favorite lines from the show: “Toby, the total tonnage of what I know that you don’t could stun a team of oxen in its tracks.” White then diagrams Toby’s thinking timeline and the breadcrumbs that helped Toby figure it out in six days and 23 minutes.
Following that is the Persuasion section, where Sam and Ainsley discuss the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), complete with an explanation of the ERA. This section also contains “The Food That Ainsley Anticipates Eating” and a “Point /Counterpoint of Sam & Ainsley on the ERA.”
Next up is Drama, “in which Jed and Toby share a drink.” In this section White lays out “Toby’s Five Possibilities,” followed by “What Makes This Night Complicated” and finishes the section with a list of “The Sixteen People,” not counting President Bartlet himself, which makes for the 17 people the episode is named for.
Beyond the Drama is Comedy, “in which we have an hour to find the funny” for the Correspondents’ Dinner speech. Donna, Breech, Lippman, Kyle, Sam, Josh, and Larry are all quoted in this section, where White has laid out all of the jokes, who they were proposed by, notes on the joke, and if it was put into the speech or not.
The last main section is about Romance, “in which flowers are sent” from Josh to Donna based upon her returning to work for him and that not being followed by her not working for him. White wonderfully draws out both Josh and Donna’s separate interpretation of the events.
This entire site is a work of art, and Jon White has some serious skills. He has a Flickr gallery, showing the process and a few behind the scene photos that illustrate the work that went into the creation of this site.
Many people on the internet say they like and or love certain shows. But the devotion that Jon White has to West Wing and this episode in particular are beyond reproach. As fellow fan of the show, it’s hard to argue with his logic that this is the best “non-Dire-Straits-featuring” episode. Even if you are a fan and “17 People” isn’t your favorite episode, then it’s bound to be in your Top Five.
Not many people have the talent to pull off what Jon White (@jonwhitebriefly) has created with SeventeenPeople.com, so I applaud him, because it is simple and brilliant, two words that are hard to come by simultaneously. Seriously, most sites dedicated to one episode of a television show are usually trying to be too hard or too argumentative, and this is neither. It’s just brilliant, period.