I'm currently in the middle of a conference (but it's in Birmingham, so I'm at home to sleep!) and I'm giving a paper on Latin in popular culture (which will hopefully eventually be published online in Rosetta, if it's accepted. Otherwise I'll post the slides or something!).
During my paper, I'll be mentioning this episode of The West Wing which is, according to me, The Best Single Episode of a TV Drama Ever Made. (In case you're wondering, The Best Single Episode of a TV Comedy Ever Made is either Blackadder Goes Forth, 'Goodbyee', or Yes, Minister, 'Party Games'). It is genius, pure and simple. Like my opinion on the awesomeness of Star Trek: Voyager, there is no moving me on this.
The main reason for it's wonderfulness (along with the last few minutes, which involve Dire Straits' 'Brothers in Arms') is that, halfway through, following an old friend's funeral, Bartlett stays alone in the National Cathedral and hurls abuse at God. In Latin. It's a wonderful, wonderful scene, brilliantly performed by Sheen and incredibly powerful - whether you're religious or not, the sight of Bartlett's very strong faith collapsing around him can't help but be moving.
The Latin, like the Latin in Joyeux Noel, is there because it is Catholic, and the point I am making in my paper is that one of the reasons that Latin is still quite strong in popular culture (compare the number of times my 'Latin' label gets used with the 'Greek' one!) is because it is the language of the Catholic Church, so if you have a Catholic character (or director - I will do a post on The Passion of the Christ at some point, when I get hold of it) you get random occurences of Latin.
Part of the reason for the Latin is also that it is simply awesome, for almost indescribable reasons - so much so that it is currently top of TV Tropes' Crowning Moments of Awesome for The West Wing. It's very hard to say why it's so awesome - perhaps we're all awed by Bartlett's ability to actually speak Latin, perhaps, because of the heavy influence of the Vulgate Bible (though the New Testament was originally written in Greek) it feels almost like Bartlett is yelling at God in His own language, perhaps we're so overwhelmed by such a devout Catholic yelling at God in the first place that he could do it in Klingon and we'd be impressed. Somehow, it is awesome.
I also wonder if it was hoped that Bartlett telling God to go to Hell would sound less potentially offensive if it's in Latin. I'm not sure about this, as he calls God a 'feckless thug' in English, so that might not have been the thought process at all, but the Latin in unsubtitled, so I wonder if it seemed that it would be less blasphemous and get past the censors more easily if some of it was incomprehensible.
The whole thing, with translation, is all over the internet, including here.
If anyone has any other ideas about this let me know - it'll be too late for my presentation, but might be useful for the written paper!