Show: The West Wing
Character: CJ Cregg
Actor: Allison Janney
Actor Not To Be Missed In: Let’s put it this way. Allison Janney should be in EVERYTHING. But if you’re looking for specifics, try Drop Dead Gorgeous, where she gets to play white trash to the nines, decked out in skin-tight leopard print and a teased ‘do, flirting with hunky bartenders at the “hotel by the airport”, cheering on her best friend’s daughter after a devastating fire hot-glues a beer can to poor Ellen Barkin’s hand, chain-smoking and otherwise being awesome on a full-time basis.
Basically: Claudia Jean Cregg is the White House Press Secretary for President Bartlett and it’s hard to picture anyone else in the job. Sharp-tongued, poised and cool under fire, CJ is remarkably adept at managing to charm the members of the White House press corp (eventually marrying that adorable guy from thirtysomething) while keeping them at bay. She can also hang with the boys, whose affection and respect for her is unending.
Why CJ Rocks: CJ is basically the kind of woman you wish you could be. She doesn’t apologize for her brains or her ambition and the fact that she’s still single isn’t an issue because she doesn’t make it an issue. Which isn’t to say she won’t hook up with hot Secret Service protector (Mark Harmon), assigned to protect her and oh, so much more.
Lord, there are so many. CJ sings ‘The Jackal’, for instance, is a classic for its plain weirdness but also the dorky reverence everyone has for it is just adorable (side note: IMDB tells me that lip-synching ‘The Jackal’ is actually Allison Janney’s own party trick and Sorkin wrote it into the show which makes me love Janney even more). I also thoroughly enjoyed the Thanksgiving episode when the boys put the “to-be-pardoned” turkeys in her office, leaving them to wander around and poop over all of her things. And there’s the classic “Cheese Day” when a team of bizarre animal activists politely request a $900 million dollar budget to build a “wolf-only” highway throughout the Western United States. To this day, CJ’s burst of laughter at that still rings in my ears.
But this one takes the cake. In one of my favorite West Wing episodes of all time, the show flashbacks to when current President Bartlett’s team came together during his first election. Here, Toby goes to recruit CJ and apparently, he picked the right time as she’s living in LA and was just fired from her high-paying PR job working for a slimy, hot-shot movie producer.
And, I mean, she made Toby laugh. I think it’s the only time in West Wing‘s seven season run, frankly, and it was so worth it.