Oct 13 2013 12:45pm

Shipping Sunday: The West Wing’s Josh/Donna

Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney as Josh and Donna in The West WingThe West Wing is considered by many to be one of the best television shows of all time, and its four consecutive Emmy wins for Outstanding Drama Series certainly support that claim. But a huge part of what puts the show at the top of my own list of personal TV favorites is its long-simmering office romance between White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman (Bradley Whitford) and his senior assistant, ~Deputy Deputy Chief of Staff~ Donnatella “Donna” Moss (Janel Moloney).

Josh and Donna's chemistry is undeniable from the very first episode, and the charming banter and the longing looks and eventually the epic angst all combine to make for an incredibly memorable pairing. After all, who can forget lines like “If you were in an accident, I wouldn't stop for red lights” and “If you think I don't miss you every day...” And then there was Josh dropping everything in the middle of a “Biblical apocalypse” in Washington to be by Donna's side at a hospital in Germany after she was injured in a terrorist attack. *swoon*

Plus, the best part? It all pays off beautifully for them in the final season and especially in the last few episodes. It is a rare thing to see as beautiful a sendoff to a 'ship as Josh and Donna got. Theirs is an immensely satisfying romance, and I love it to pieces.

Fandom note: I was late to the West Wing party, so I missed the heday of Josh/Donna fandom. Sadly, a lot of fan works have been lost due to the closing of Yahoo!'s GeoCities, but there are still a lot of brilliant works to be found on YouTube (I've embedded a few recently discovered faves below), fic archives like Archive of Our Own and The National Library, Tumblr communities like fuckyeahnoredlights and fyeahjoshdonna (see some examples of the gorgeous graphics they post and reblog below), and Yahoo! groups and LiveJournals.

Josh and Donna

(Above) Image source: fyeahjoshdonna Tumblr

(Below) Gif sources: (hug) and fuckyeahnoredlights Tumblr (in bed)

Josh and Donna in The West Wing Season 7


Find Heather Waters on Twitter at @hwaters_

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Kiersten Hallie Krum
1. Kiersten
I love Josh & Donna, but at first was really irked by how they were immediately shipped romantically. I have a huge jones against the fact that there can never be a male/female friend pairing on TV that is deep and emotional and totally not romantic or sexual. It's why I majorly do not ship Abbie and Ichabod on Sleepy Hollow. Leave 'em alone. What they've got works well as is and has a long way to go that will be ruined by romance and sexcapads.

What made Josh and Donna (eventually) work for me was it evolved organically and responsibly. Once Donna split off from Josh as his assistant and began to make her own way in the political environment, they became public equals as we had always known they were privately. With the removal of the icky boss/assistant dynamic, I was on totally on board. I think the way their relationship ultimately played out is a master class of how to do this kind of character and relationship development organically in a manner in which it can be believed as concrete and real-life. That's a rare thing to find in dramas.

"I wouldn't stop for redlights" remains one of my all-time favorite lines evah. Along with "No, I divined it!"
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
While I, too, think TV could do with more platonic male/female
relationships (Wallace and Veronica are perfect as friends in Veronica Mars, for instance, and I personally have never seen or wanted to see any romantic tension between them), I never saw Josh and Donna as candidates for that, so if I'd been watching live from episode 1, I probably would've been shipping them early on too. (As it was, I already knew they were a popular ship, so I was interested in them before watching the pilot and got hooked on the reality of them quickly.)

I mean, CJ and Toby? Some people shipped them, but I think they were a great example of platonic friendship in the show; they were obviously close before Toby brought her on to the campaign and they remained that way, with lots of nice moments. Toby and Ginger? Yes. I loved their scene together in "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen" where he hugs her and asks if she's OK and then if she's ready to get back to work. Sam and Ainsley? I saw some sparks, actually, but they seemed content as friends before both ended up leaving and I think that worked well.

But Josh and Donna? They were pretty inappropriate from Day 1, as when Donna handled Josh brilliantly, getting him to change by telling him that "all the girls think you look hot in this shirt." By Season 2, when Josh brings her flowers for their work anniversary, I was a hardcore shipper, and other characters in the show seemed to be rooting for them--or at least aware of feelings between them, even if Josh and/or Donna hadn't yet realized it--as well, as when a Congressman asks Josh about a date Donna's on and he responds that it won't work out with her and the guy because he says so, or when Joey tells Josh straight out that Donna clearly has feelings for him.

I'm also a fan of boss-assistant in fiction, so while I am happy it
worked out that they didn't get together until they were on the
campaign trail (though technically Josh was once again her boss on the Santos campaign), that aspect of J/D never bothered me anyway. There was always a balance of power between them, in my eyes, and besides, that was the only real obstacle between them, and it became a real source of angst as the series progressed (like in the Gaza arc when what's-his-face asks Josh why he flew thousands of miles to be by her side and Josh just says "We work together," which explained everything and nothing). I ate it up.

I do, however, feel 100% the same that the slow, organic development of their relationship was aces and a brilliant example of TV romance done right.
3. flamingo
so im 15 years late t the west wing party (Netflix and a week off work,) .... and josh/donna is killing me! mis season 4 and he's just hold her... thse stories would make me like you... this is the worst ship I've ever boarded and I'm 15 years late so no other passengers to drown with :'(
Heather Waters
4. HeatherWaters
@flamingo -- No worries, I'll always go down with the Josh/Donna 'ship! I promise it is worth the wait. I was really really happy with how their story turned out, is all I will say. :)
Jennifer Proffitt
5. JenniferProffitt
So I recently started watching The West Wing and I'm loving it! (Thank you, Netflix!) And I can't wait for Josh and Donna to happen...I know it's a relatively long ship but gah! Loving it. Luckily I love the show as it is so I'm not minding waiting for it all to happen!
Heather Waters
6. HeatherWaters
@JenniferProffitt -- Ugh, they are so good and worth the wait. Glad you're enjoying! Demonstrates your excellent taste. ;)
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