on 4 January 2004
The complete first series of Aaron Sorkins critically acclaimed 'The West Wing' is a must see drama for anybody with as television. This shows follows the innermost workings of the office of the President of the United States as he and his staff strive to guide the United States through a series of domestic and international crises.
The West Wing moves straight to the action in the first few episodes initially we meet the staff in the middle of a public relations crisis caused by both Deputy Cheif of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) mouthing off on television about Christians and by President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) crashing his bike into a tree. The action never stops moving into the presidents first conflict situation and continuing throughout the series with a number of suberbly written and directed incidents including The State of the Union, a possible Nuclear war between Pakistan and India and difficult confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Aaron Sorkins 'The West Wing' is a masterpiece. It is well written and directed throughout with a strong and believable cast. Even if one knows nothing of the United States political systems the show is easy to understand through the excellent use of the personal assistants (most notably Donatella Moss played by Janel Malloney) to explain any of the complex political workings.
See this show I guarantee it will enthral and even addict you.
on 25 January 2006
I didn't catch any of the West Wing went it was broadcast on Channel 4 and was bought the season 1 box set as a present. I found the pilot episode to be a bit fast and furious and quite confusing. I also found it difficult to remember who was who, who did what and what the hell they were talking about: all this because the programme very rarely patronises you and just lays the story out for you to take in as you will. It made me read up on American politics and the staff structure of the West Wing and how that related to the president etcetera etcetera. What other programmes on mainstream television make you do that?
The West Wing is excellent television made to the highest standards with very good talent, sharp scripts and long term plots that immerse you completely. I have just bought season 2 (because, at the end of 1, you kind of have to) and am greatly looking forward to it. This is good, smart television - and that doesn't come along very often - so I unreservedly recommend it to the un-initiated.
on 4 June 2006
I ordered the first series of the west wing on a whim, I can't remember exactly why but I'd never seen it on television before apart from trailers and just fancied giving it a go based on the strength of online reviews.
I wasn't disappointed in the slightest, it exceeded my expectations in so many ways. The overall strength of the acting, the camerawork, the storylines, the whit and humour and the way in which you develop such likes or dislikes for certain characters is remarkable. I have since purchased all series up to series 4 and I'm gradually making my way through the episodes.
There are 22 episodes in the first series, each of 42 minutes in length. Thats at least a week and a half worth of entertainment for the price of a day out based on watching two episodes per night.
One thing I do recommend is that you purchase series 2 as well once you know you are enjoying the first series as the cliffhanger is unbelievable between the two series. I watched about 5 in one night at the point of transition from first series to second series.
on 12 March 2007
The second best season in the series starts out as being just another day at the office, with the president riding his bicycle into a tree, Sam accidentally sleeping with a callgirl and political issues up to wazoo. The first season got a total of nine Emmy Awards, and they're well deserved. The script is magnificent, the cast exceptional, and the plot varies from ordinary to divine.
What makes this season so good? What makes this season one of the two I could (and do) watch over and over? Well, the cast members are still working their way into their respective characters, feeling their way on how to deal with their own acting and reacting, and the fact is, it just gets better and better from start to finish. Once you start, you can't stop. The plot is engaging enough to keep you interested from episode to episode, and then all of a sudden something happens which leaves you completely star struck. Toby's conversation with Mr. Willis and the other congressmen, the staggering (literally!) performance of Roger Rees as the Lord John Marbury, and the increasingly quick and amusing bouncing-back-and-forth comments by Sam, Toby, Josh and CJ sets the standard for all the other seasons to come.
It also sets the tone for what kind of president Bartlet's going to be. Intense, oratory and passionate, the president goes from quoting Roman emperors to saying "well, duh" in the same sentence. Toby later describes him as "the two Bartlets": one is the absent-minded professor with the "Aw, Dad" sense of humour; disarming, unthreatening, good for all time zones, and the other is the Nobel Laureate searching for salvation; lonely, frustrated, lethal, who's father never liked him because he was too smart. On the one hand a scholar, on the other hand an average Joe who can say "get your fat asses outta my White House" when he feels like it.
This thing is great, which is why it got a total of nine Emmy awards. If you haven't bought this already, do so. That's all I can say, really.
on 24 June 2009
These are the first 22 episodes of the greatest multi-season drama ever screened on television. Nothing less.
The first six episodes alone are worth the price. No TV show in my lifetime has started as confidently, and with this much wit, intelligence and humanity. You will realise, by the time Josh gives up his nuclear attack escape card in episode 5, that this isn't just a heavyweight political drama. It is about beautifully-drawn characters and their relationship to each other.
The quality of the writing, by creator Aaron Sorkin, is simply stunning throughout. It is matched by probably the greatest cast assembled for any television show. Then-unknowns like Richard Schiff and Allison Janney deservedly won Emmys for their roles. The show won a record 9 Emmys for this first season.
There are many outstanding episodes; even the weakest one would get three stars. Special mention should be made of the Emmy-winning Christmas episode, "In Excelsis Deo", which could make a hardened cynic cry. Episodes 12 through to 15 display a show at the very top of its game, covering a presidential illness, the chief of staff's alcoholism, excruciating moral dilemmas over gay rights and the death penalty, and finally a superb comic episode with a powerful statement to make about race relations.
Other major plot lines include a staff member's liaison with a call girl, an inter-racial relationship and the adminsitration's inability to govern effectively. It all builds up to a thrilling climax, which will make you buy season 2 as soon as it's all over.
And do you know what? Season 2 is even better...
on 26 January 2008
Television rally does not get much better than this. In a time when we are lucky enough to have a whole host of excellent TV dramas available to us, the West Wing neverthless stands out. What makes it so good?
The characterisation is strong and convincing. Unsurprisingly, all the people surrounding the president are extremely bright, very forceful and have egos the size of the Empire State Building. The show manages to convince us that they also have the drive to work the long hours required and to advise, and even contradict the president on matters they believe in. What makes them bearable is their humanity, by which I mean their attachment to certain basic principles and, to an extent, the flaws in their character also. Heading up the team is Leo, the Chief of Staff, an old soldier whose marriage is heading for the rocks ever more swiftly as he devotes himself more and more to the service of the president. There is Sam (arguably the least successul of the main characters) whose intellectual brilliance does not prevent him from being hugely naive in certain respects. Josh and Mandy make a great double act, helped by the fact that they used to be partners, and a certain amount of unresolved sexual tension remains. Toby is a towering success as a character - a very strong sense of personal morality coupled with doubts about his personal self-worth. And CJ is a feisty, intelligent but lovable character who holds all the other together. One of the show's finest achievements is to show how this bunch of over achievers do not overwhelm the President, who, while taking their counsel, always remains resolutely his own man, deserving all their respect.
Over and above the characterisation and the acting (also excellent), however, it is the skillful and sensitive writing that makes this show stand out for me. The writers clearly set their stall out as Democrats with Democrat values running through the show like a stick of Brighton rock. They also show the machinations of the White House - one of the most telling lines is "You should never let people see how two things are made - laws and sausages".
All in all, an excellent series that I thoroughly recommend.
on 22 July 2004
West Wing is the best modern drama series ever produced. although at times slightly left wing in its political agenda for the more conservative viewer, Sorkin weaves a masterful display of script writing which, is disturbingly close to current affairs, however the show is only as strong as its weakest cast member, fortunately ,there isn't any weak members, so its ok, From martin Sheen A Commander and Chief that the US would rejoice in, if they had to the assistant deputy chief of staff, there is a seemless genius to the program, which tries to not only be entertaining, but also provoke independent thought.
With expert direction and consultancy from political heavy weights of past and present, the show is a shining light of democracy in the synical world we live in.
I could honestly not rate this more highly
on 10 August 2002
The West Wing has changed the way TV series are made. It's intellegent, witty , never crude and the acting superb. This show has been a huge hit in the uk dispite being put on a grave yard slot because it is superior to any other show in the world right now.
The cast act so well together it is almost impossible to pick the best character. If i had to i'd say Bradley Whitfords brilliant expression of deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman steals the show for me but it's a tough choice. The sign of a great show!
These 22 episodes are fast moving but emotionally played out and the cliff hanger ending will leave you on the edge of your seats!
DVD features include cast interviews and a making of piece. Both are well worth watching.
The only complaint I have is there is no release date for season 2 DVD release in the UK yet!!!
Watch a part of television history and laugh, cry and enjoy.
I was pleased to receive this set for Christmas from my son: I'd never watched the show and by the time I'd become aware of all the plaudits it was too far in to catch.
Though I am enjoying the series, it really surprises me that it has been praised so highly. It is exceptionally old fashioned in its relentlessly positive presentation of the president and his team. They are, without exception, delightful, decent people, not in itself a fault, but it just reveals the approach of the writers to the subject matter. The stance adopted could almost be from a Capra movie. (Before anybody says, 'But what about prostitution, drugs and alcohol addiction, marital problems, homophobia?' I grant you that these topics would not find space in a 30's or 40's movie, but the treatment is so superficial, with everyone being decent, liberal and generous, that I don't feel that brings this show far into the 21st century.)
There's nothing wrong with this pleasant series - acting is great, the camera work good if too hung up on the steadicam roving fetish that ER etc brought in, writing witty and effective in character building, but remarkable? No! If anyone made a programme about the British political system as cosily self satisfied as this one, people would throw stones at their TVs. I thought the Wire and similar programmes had banished the folksy and self-hugging from US tv imports, but i was clearly wrong.
Now if you want a satirical look at US institutions and life, why not try the films of Preston Sturges. His take on politics in The Great McGinty, made in the 1940s, makes this show look incredibly dated.
DON'T GET CROSS - I like it, but great it certainly isn't.
on 12 September 2003
If there is one show on TV where the opinion of my friends and family is not polarized, it is The West Wing.
I first watched it on the recommendation of a friend from the States. I was a bit bit dubious at first - after all, what interest do I have in polictics, let alone those of another country? So I watched the first episode. Luckily, I had taped it. I proceded to watch it three more times before the next episode was on, and that was me hooked!
The show manages to combine good plot lines, strong scripts and excellent acting. The two things that make it great though are inspired casting and the energy between the characters.
The casting is without doubt the best I have seen in any production, be it stage showm TV show or a movie on the big screen. The fact that the show manages to combine hollywood stars such as Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe with relative unknowns (at the time I guess) such as Janel Maloney and Allison Janey, and the fact that they fit together so well, shows just how good it was.
If you have seen show, you know how good the scripts are, and I am amazed you don't already own this DVD. If not, just buy it. You will, I guarantee, buy the second series soon after.