Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Belgium and the West Wing

For a tiny country, Belgium gets mentioned a lot on the West Wing.
So I thought, you know, in the interests of expat research, or something, I would start listing those mentions.

Let Bartlet Be Bartlet (season 1?) - Donna and Josh are discussing the issue of "English as a National Language". Donna just wants to check: "Are we for it or against it? I mean we’re not in favor of making another language the official language, are we? Like Dutch or something..."

Series 2, episode 7 - CJ is annoyed with Danny and quips, "well, I certainly hope we don't accidentally send your luggage to Belgium on the way back". Classic.

Series 2, "In this White House" - CJ again, she is obviously a fan! "I rode the Lifecycle this morning for an hour and a half. If it was a real cycle, I'd be in Belgium by now."

Series 3, episode 8 - countries who were partners in a UN mission are no longer taking part. Albie Duncan excuses "Belgium and the Netherlands"... because "they've got cheese and chocolate to make, I suppose"...

Series 3, "Dead Irish Writers" - Abbey Bartlet, about to get drunk with Amy and CJ: "The wine is a '95 Old Vine Zinfandel from Hog Cellars, which once belonged to King Baudouin of Belgium"...

Series 3, H Con - 172, Leo: When the British Ambassador told the German Foreign Minister that they were going to war over Belgium's violation of the neutrality treaty the German Foreign Minister said "You're going to war over a piece of paper?" (erm, I'm a bit hazy on what exactly he was referring to here, but anyway!!)

Series 5, I think - there are issues over the trip to Brussels because there are "tractors clogging up the Place de Brouckere". Which makes me smile every time I pass it on the metro.

Series 6 - Josh tells Santos' campaign staff: "Don't let him change the official language to Flemish while I'm gone." I've got to ask though, is there a reason why the only language that is ever named in the West Wing as possible contenders for the national language (other than English) is Dutch/Flemish. Odd that....

Series 7 - Josh goes on holiday (with Donna - everybody say aaaahhhhh) leaving employing future members of staff a week, because "it’s not like they’re going to take director of cabinet affairs jobs in Benelux countries" . Well I dunno Josh, Belgium is a pretty interesting place politically! No, really! You thought the US was complicated...!!


roland said...

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johnandemma1 said...

The West Wing official companion. p.239
Richard: "Toby can't be too good of a person. None of us really should be too good of a person, or too smart or too cocky. And we're not..." He also says on the subject of the Toby's character "I don't like to label it because then you are beholden to the label. And then you start getting limited".
John p.313
"Working on the role, I read thoroughly a book that Aaron gave me called 'Chief of Staff'...Ultimately - it's true of any research you do - bottom line, you've got to play the scene. You research for five months and then you're in there with those words playing the scene. That's basically what I did. I think Leo is the chief of staff that John Spencer would be if he were chief of staff."

Anonymous said...

Hi, just found your blog because i was also wondering about the belgian/west wing connection. another link: when meeting sam, will says sam ghost writed for the king of belgium at some point.

Madelien said...

You forgot another one: at one point Leo tries to sign his name in the wrong place and Margaret corrects him with "You are not the foreign minister of Belgium".

Anonymous said...


The TV in the Santos headquarters states that President Bartlet and the first lady are on their way to Brussels.

It is not only The West Wing though, Belgium seems to be a favorite for odd and exotic references on american television.

W.V. Antwerp

Wouter Jacobs said...

Season 3 episode 15 when the first lady wants to get drunk with the girls. The bottle of wine used to be from king boudouin of Belgium!!

Marlon said...

"Series 3, H Con - 172, Leo: When the British Ambassador told the German Foreign Minister that they were going to war over Belgium's violation of the neutrality treaty the German Foreign Minister said "You're going to war over a piece of paper?" (erm, I'm a bit hazy on what exactly he was referring to here, but anyway!!)"

Late Late Late Response, but, the piece of paper they're referring to is the 1839 treaty of London. In that very treaty, all major powers of Europe recognized Belgium as an independent country, and, and this is what it was all about in WWI, Belgium declared to be eternally neutral, and France, Prussia, the Netherlands, Austria, Russia and the UK declared to respect and defend Belgium's neutrality. If any country, including Belgium, would ever break the Belgian neutrality, the signatories HAD to go to war with whoever broke it.

In 1914, the Prussians.. which had by then become part of the German Empire, did not expect in any way that the UK would still adhere to a 75-year old treaty, of which all signatories had died long ago.
That's what the quote is about: On the 4th of august, shortly after the German attack on Belgium, the UK declared war on Germany, after which the German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg exclaimed that he could not believe that Britain and Germany would be going to war over a mere 'scrap of paper'

Most people know that this was just an excuse to go to war, but it sure was a damn good one. That's what you get for signing treaties that are 'eternal'.

Funny detail: To this date that very same scrap of paper still causes some strains between Belgium and the Netherlands, but that's another story for another time. :)

S.DM.S. said...

I also found this blog because I noticed Belgium being mentioned a whole lot.

I assumed people would be confused about the "piece of paper" and was going to clarify it but someone seems to have beaten me to it. :)

Antwerp, Belgium