If you are new to The West Wing, I cannot tell you how good it is. I remember when I bought the Season 1 box set a number of years ago. At the time, I had no interest whatsoever in politics and I was merely going on a handful of recommendations. I had no idea that I would be buying not only the best TV show ever created, but also the best piece of entertainment ever created in ANY format.
First and foremost, the writing is of the absolute highest quality. The only thing that comes close to the intelligent and often hilarious writing is Aaron Sorkin's (creator of the show) other work, i.e. A Few Good Men, The American President (which is like a condensed, movie-version of the show). Sorkin wrote nearly every episode of Season 1-4 and I think he is the closest thing we have to a modern day Shakespeare. The fast paced, overlapping dialogue that he penned is simply sublime, as brilliantly crafted, heavyweight characters spar with each other over colossal issues that impact millions of people or over the day-to-day banality of working in the office (albeit the most important one in the world). Sorkin has taken the senior staff of a White House Administration and created a unique and endearing character for each position. The pitch perfect casting of these characters is the second thing that makes the show so special.
I can praise the standard of writing or the exceptional acting forever, but perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay is to reveal how inspirational this show has been for me. Before I bought The West Wing, I was languishing in my final year at University, simply going through the motions of trying to briefly memorise facts and figures for exams. After watching this show, I developed a thirst for knowledge and a desire to become more dynamic. I wanted to debate two sides of an important issue by calling upon a body of knowledge and citing numbers from `three sources'. I wanted to be this informed and resourceful individual who could delve into his college work in an organised `what's next?' kind of way. I stopped reading my textbooks simply for the sake of reading them and I even based a vital university assignment on the first year episode that dealt with a delivery company strike over two-tier hiring. The pros and cons of two-tier hiring were superbly argued in this episode and, by expanding on the points raised, I received a very good mark for my `Strategic Human Resource Management' assignment. Please don't be put off, however, by talk of mundane things like two-tier hiring. Even if The West Wing did an episode on wheat prices in Russia, it would still be an outstanding piece of smart and funny entertainment.
For those of you who didn't know, this complete box set contains the region 1 extras that aren't available on the individual box sets. This includes deleted scenes and features - a whole wealth of bonus material that has never been available to region 2 DVD owners before.
It is a big investment to buy all 44 discs and 154 episodes at once, but I couldn't imagine spending all this money on any other show. The series is understandably affected when Sorkin departs at the end of Season 4, but I would give anything to discover The West Wing again. I had to wait for several agonising months before I could see what happened after the amazing season one cliffhanger - I am green with envy to think that you can switch discs in a matter of seconds to find out what happens next. Then again, you never got that great feeling I did on the day when the old `Season 2, Part One' box set was FINALLY released.