The West Wing

by Alan Rapp on October 17, 2007

in Home Video, Theme Week

  • Title: The West Wing
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“Shows about politics don’t work.”
—Aaron Sorkin (discussing the many concerns the network had with the show’s concept)

“The people I have met have been extraordinarily qualified.  Their intent is good.  Their commitment is true.  They are righteous, and they are patriots.”
—Ainsley Hayes (“In This White House”)

the-west-wing-castThe West Wing broke many of the rules of television.  Discussing politics, morality, foreign policy and the world, political wrangling, real life issues, legislation and the creation of law, and real world problems.  For seven years the staff of President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) raised debate and discussion in the country by presenting a view of government that was hard-working, knowledgeable, passionate, patriotic and smart.  And, somehow, it made it all interesting, entertaining, and must-see TV.

The show was praised by former White House staffers in presenting the pace and challenge of the job.  One of the trademarks of the show was the “walk-and-talks” which filmed the characters walking and talking through the halls of The West Wing  They were simply too busy to sit down.

The cast is terrific from top to bottom and characters.  Every character became part of the family, from Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) with his prostitute (Lisa Edelstein) problems and his sense of government needing to do good, to Josh (Bradley Whitford) and his fear of abandonment and disappointing his friends, to C.J. (Allison Janey) learning to control the Press Room, to Leo (John Spencer) dealing with his failed marriage and a lifetime addiction, to Charlie (Dule Hill) and his growing loyalty and companionship to the President and his youngest daughter (Elisabeth Moss), to Toby (Richard Schiff) being the last line of conscience.  Even characters originally not though to be seen in every episode, such as President Bartlett and Donna (Janel Moloney) became mainstays.  New faces like Sports Night‘s Joshua Malina, Lily Tomlin, Mary McCormack, Ron Silver, Marlee Matlin, Emily Procter, Nina Siemaszko and Mary-Louise Parker (and many, many more) were added from time to time to shake things up.

Although the show drifts a bit after Sam’s departure towards the end of the Fourth Season (and the ill-conceived promotion of C.J. in the beginning of the Sixth Season) the show slowly rebounds in the Sixth and Seventh seasons as it moves its focus towards electing the next President of the United States and introducing new characters played by Jimmy Smits, Gary Cole, Alan Alda, Kristin Chenowith, Janeane Garofalo, and Patricia Richardson.

Yes there’s a heifty price-tag attached to this collection (original list price is $299.98) but you can find it far less online (Amazon is currently selling the entire set for $119.99).  Whatever the cost the show is worth adding to your collection.  No show in recent memory taught as well as it entertained; The West Wing did both with style and grace.

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