The West Wing - Complete Season 4
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The complete fourth series of the acclaimed political TV drama series. The re-election campaign for President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is underway in the two-part episode '20 Hours in America'. In 'College Kids', Bartlet decides he needs legal help after Qumar declares war on Israel. 'The Red Mass' sees Leo (John Spencer) discreetly meeting the Israeli Foreign Minister to discuss mutual strategies. 'Debate Camp' sees Bartlet preparing for the crucial upcoming debates while on a weekend retreat. In 'Game On', Bartlet makes mincemeat of his Republican rival, Governor Robert Ritchie (James Brolin) in their debate. The votes are being counted in 'Election Night', as the Presidential staff eagerly anticipate the outcome. In 'Process Stories', the White House staff celebrate Bartlet's win. 'Swiss Diplomacy' sees Bartlet in a dilemma when the Iranian Ayatollah requests that his son be flown to the US for life-saving heart surgery. In 'Arctic Radar', Sam (Rob Lowe) heads out to California to begin his election campaign. A few unexpected Christmas visitors turn up at the White House in 'Holy Night'. 'Guns Not Butter' sees the staff fighting a losing battle on a foreign aid vote in the Senate. In 'The Long Goodbye', CJ (Allison Janney) reluctantly returns to Dayton to speak at her high school reunion. Preparations for the Presidential inauguration are underway in the two-parter 'Inauguration'. In 'The California 47th', Bartlet decides to get tough in order to end the genocide in Kundu. In 'Red Haven's on Fire', Bartlet waits for the results of the military strike in Africa. 'Privateers' sees Abbey (Stockard Channing) upset by an anti-abortion provision attached to a foreign aid bill proposed by Bartlet. In 'Angel Maintenance', tensions in Air Force One grow as there are concerns that an aircraft has been tampered with. 'Evidence of Things Not Seen' finds the White House on lockdown after a street gunman fires three shots into the West Wing. In 'Life on Mars', Joe Quincy (Matthew Perry) pieces together three press leaks and uncovers a scandal that forces Hoynes (Tim Matheson) to resign - all on his first day in the job. 'Commencement' sees the US on high alert after some suspected terrorists go missing. In the season finale, '25', Bartlet invokes the 25th amendment after Zoey (Elizabeth Moss) is kidnapped by Qumari terrorists.
United States President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen - Apocalypse Now) and his devoted staffers tirelessly serve the country, facing new, late-term challenges. The innovative, multiple Emmy Award-winning drama series "The West Wing" comes from award-winning producers John Wells ("ER," "China Beach"), Aaron Sorkin ("Sports Night") and Thomas Schlamme ("Sports Night"). Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series and for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Christopher Misiano).
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This, in so many ways, is what we hope Pennsylvania Avenue, Downing Street and other seats of government are like. I don't think they are but there is nothing wrong with sitting round the television imagining and wishing; the detailed and imaginative storylines and the situations with which they have to deal are, perhaps, the reasons seats of government are not like this. (Recent picture of President Obhama, Secretary of State Clinton and Vice-President Byden sitting with their war cabinet watching events playing out in Pakistan was not so shocking to those of us who have seen it so often on the WW.)
President Bartlett is a character with whom many of us could do business, as are many of the team which surrounds him - all credit to the script-writers. This, and others like it, have a great effect on the electorate's view of politicians, politics and the system in which they live but that is more a PhD thesis rather than a review here, e.g. the thought of a woman or a black president had already been mentally digested by the public in other series.
The maelstrom that is politics is portrayed so well by such a talented group of actors, technicians and script-writers it is easy to understand why this series became so popular and why there were so many.
Even if you have already seen it when it was first broadcast, buy it. I am sure, in this fast-moving programme, you must have missed something.
However, fear not avid fan. A dip for "The West Wing" still keeps it head and shoulders above most other TV dramas, and the change is not so bad you notice or care less about Bartlet and his staff, or root for them with any less loyalty. Much of the season, in any case, is as good as it gets for the show, helped by the timing of Bartlet's re-election run. Until now, we've only seen short flashbacks to his first presidential campaign; in Season 4, the election gets much more coverage. Arguably the best episodes of the season is the opening two-parter, "20 Hours In America" which begins with an election swing through Indiana that has comic results for Josh, Donna and Toby, landing them right in the middle of "real America" and confronting them with the worries and concerns of the most average of voters. "Debate camp" is another highlight, and gives us another glimpse into the past as the staff recall their turbulent transition and earliest days in the White House. Bartlet's debate with Ritchie is also great viewing, and Sam's own run for office in California is also something different, though ultimately the departure of Rob Lowe's character does have a dent on the ensemble performance of the main characters (Joshua Malina's replacement character, Will Bailey, is funny and engaging but long-term lacks the wit and charm of Seaborn). As the season rolls on and Bartlet is re-inaugurated, gives another state-of-the-union, and has to deal with yet more melodrama and scandal in his White House, the staff are made to work for every victory they get, and are never far away from political or foreign attack. The continuing threat from Qumar, carried over from the Season 3 finale, has dramatic consequences for this season climax, and should leave jaws firmly glued to the floor.
The cast, for their part, still seem to be enjoying themselves, along with newcomers Joshua Malina and Lily Tomlin, the latter playing Bartlet's new personal secretary Debbie Fiderer. Having lost the unforgettable Mrs Landingham (Kathryn Joosten) at the end of Season 2, the writers wisely make Debbie into something totally different, though she has all the brains and wit needed to blend in with the rest of the cast. Christian Slater also makes a few brief appearances, as does "Friends" star Matthew Perry as a new assistant White House Counsel, though his character Joe Quincy is never quite as at home in an opposition White House as Ainsly Hayes was. And of course all the regualrs are here, Martin Sheen as engaging as ever as the Commander-in-Chief, John Spencer, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and Allison Janney all making the most of playing characters that, by now, must be second nature to them. Josh and Toby in partiular seem to crave more opportunities to flex political muscle in year four, perhaps with one eye on the future, and the chemistry between Josh and Donna continues to simmer under the surface, though Josh's relationship with Amy Gardner (Mary-Louise Parker) continues to complicate things. A particularly memorable episode for CJ fans is "The Long Goodbye", an episode that doesn't really have a place in the chronology of the show, but is a one=off special about Alzheimer's Disease, and follows CJ as she travels home to Ohio to speak at a high school reunion and vist her father. It is a moving and poignant episode, and Allison Janney takes her character to new territory with a fantastic performance.
So, plenty to see here folks, even if some of the later episodes might lack some of the early series magic. Part of the draw of this show is to see how Bartlet and his staff adapt and continue to work in the White House. The cast are as comfortable as ever in their roles, and Aaron Sorkin continues to keep the storylines fresh and interesting. See how they continue to run in "The West Wing", Season Four.
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