West Wing Walkout?

NBC's political drama The West Wing is back in session for the fall season, but four key cast members who are negotiating for raises were no-shows this week, Variety reports.

Variety's Army Archerd reports that John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, and Emmy winners Allison Janney and Richard Schiff did not join Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, and Janel Moloney at Monday's read-through of the third season's first episode.

Archerd was told that Spencer and Schiff were detained at respective engagements back east and were not expected until today. All the cast members are under contract and expected to be back on board by Monday, when shooting begins, Archerd reports.

Last month, writers on the show, which is primarily written by series creator Aaron Sorkin, protested when they did not receive raises, especially in light of a raise given to the show's producers.

"I know it seems like there should be nothing but money around here, but it's not the case," Sorkin told Variety. "This is an expensive show to do and it's not our money — it's [producer] Warner Bros.' money."

Producer John Wells, who is also the president of the Writers Guild of America, said, "The West Wing is a show where the teleplays are wholly written by Aaron Sorkin. So the writing staff doesn't really function as a writing staff. They function as a research staff and in pitching out stories."

A June New York Post account of friction between star Sheen and Sorkin following Sorkin's April 15 drug arrest was pooh-poohed by the show's publicists. Sheen, a recovered alcoholic, had reportedly threatened to leave the show unless Sorkin cleaned up his act. The West Wing creator is now in a two-year rehab program.