"You're the president of the United States. I'm frightened. We're all frightened....I need you back "
Firstly let me get this out of the way. The Fifth season of the West Wing is not dreadful as a lot of people have made out. When Aaron Sorkin walked out, he left behind some big shoes to fill. He had created a television series like no other, so the amount of pressure on John Wells was huge. Most people as a rule don't like change, and this is why this season provoked so much negative response from so many WW fans. Personally I like it when shows mix things up a little as it makes watching it a much more exciting experience, and this is what I think Wells and his team tried and in my opinion successful achieved. Compared to seasons 3&4 it isn't either significantly better or worse. Obviously, compared to seasons 1&2, it is slightly behind, but there are few things on TV today that can compare to the genius that was the first two series.
There is a dark cloud looming over the white house and as a viewer you can really feel it from the get go. It's amazing to see the staffers being really angry and snippy with each other. In one early episode 'Constituency of One', the amount of angry confrontations between the staff is amazing. Maybe it's this different ethos that unsettled so many WW fans. For me however it seemed to a very realistic representation of what it must be like to work in such a high pressure environment.
The one thing that hasn't changed in the changeover is the quality of the acting from all the main players. They still put in the BEST acting on a television show at the present time.
During this season all the main characters get to shine and become more developed and rounded. This is also complimented with new characters coming into fray from time to time. Ryan, an intern who works with Josh and Donna fits in very nicely into the dynamic and Rena who comes in as Toby's assistant adds a nice spark of energy.
The show takes time to be less frantic and more focused on the characters motives and reasoning and probes deeper with their relationship with the other members of staff. The only main character that seems to suffer is Will, who doesn't get much screen time and is resigned to a bit player for most of the season. However his scenes with Toby are great. They're verbal sparing matches prove to be one the season's running highlights, particularly when they're paired up alone together in a room in one of the best episodes of the season 'No Exit'.
Do you notice Sorkin's absence? Yes, you do. The dialogue doesn't flow as quickly and freely as it has done and as a result the pace of an episode sometimes slows down. Sometimes you do get a sense that the writers have tried to make certain issues intellectual by being unnecessarily complicated. However these are minor quibbles that I just put this down to the writers and new staffers just trying to find their footing.
The season as a whole is not as funny as previous but this was never supposed to be a comedy show. There's a lot more visual humour; whether it be a look or something subtle off screen it's all part of the big change that the show has gone through. The snappy back and forth exchanges between Donna and Josh remain and the trademark Bartlet quips are still in there.
Another great thing about is the amount of different location shots that come into play. We aren't just taken into the Oval office or the communications bullpen, we get to see inside the Bartlet residence for the first time, and in one of the major plot lines go overseas to Gaza. It's these changes that keep the show so fresh and appealing for the viewer.
If you're a true fan I'm confident you'll love this season as much as the others. Yes, the show does have a bit of a lull in the middle of the season but the great opening and closing episodes more than make up for it. You can forgive the show for losing a little bit of steam after the fantastic quality it has displayed over 4 seasons. And let's face it, a below average WW episode is better than most television out there.
It's still the best show around !