TV president Martin Sheen tugged at America's heartstrings on Sunday night (08JAN06) when he paid a personal tribute to late The West Wing co-star John Spencer at the beginning of the new season of the political drama.

The new season of the show will begin with Spencer's final episodes. The actor died of a heart attack on 16 December (05).

Sheen, who plays PRESIDENT JOSH BARTLETT on the hit show, took a moment to remember his pal, stating, "Good evening. On December 16 we lost our good friend and colleague John Spencer.

"Through our shock and grief, we can think of no more fitting memorial to this wonderful man, this extraordinary actor, than to share with you, beginning tonight, the last few months of his work here on The West Wing.

"Johnny, it seems we hardly knew you, we love you and we miss you."