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Set in the West Wing of the White House the show follows the working lives of President Jed Bartlett and his senior staff as they deal with the day to day issues in the White House from terrorist threats to personal indiscretions which threaten the popularity of the Administration. I always like to have a DVD box set on the go, no matter how long it takes me to get through a series and The West Wing is one of my favourites.
The show was created by Aaron Sorkin on the back of the screenplay for his film The American President. His experience of visiting the White House and some unused pieces of script helped him create a new series which he put forward to television networks. NBC loved the idea but in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal debated whether the audience would warm to it, however as other networks became interested they picked it up and the first season was broadcast in the fall of 1999.
=== The storyline and characters ===
The West Wing follows the lives of the President of the United States and his senior staff as they go about their everyday business. Although based on a fictional administration, the show provides an insight into American politics and the tribulations that the President's team face on a daily basis, from speech writing, to press conferences to strategic decisions about the country and its legal system.
At the head of Administration is President Josiah (Jed) Bartlett serving his first term. He's a tough character but a compassionate family man who loves his country and looks out for his staff. A former economist and Governer, the President is highly intelligent and genuinely wants to use his role to make the country a better, safer place. He hides a secret from the country that is revealed half way through the season and allows the audience to empathise with him further. I can't imagine anyone but Martin Sheen in the role which is interesting considering the show's creator Aaron Sorkin originally wanted the President to be a recurring character just to appear in a few episodes. Sheen gives the most wonderful, passionate speeches as President and it's hard to believe he's just acting!
Leo McGarry, a patriot and long-time friend of the President, serves as Chief of Staff and is very much central in the running of the West Wing. Passionate about his work, Leo is a kind-hearted man who cares about his staff and always puts his country first. He was the one who convinced his friend Jed to run for President in the first place and assembled the team around him to win the election. I warmed to the character almost immediately because he is fiercely loyal but battling with his inner demons. Leo is portrayed by John Spencer who is absolutely wonderful in the role, especially in the storyline where he battles with addiction, as Spencer himself is a recovering alcoholic.
Josh Lyman serves under Leo as Assistant Chief of Staff. He is one of the brightest young members of staff although occasionally acts rashly and makes silly mistakes which the rest of the team have to fix right from the first episode. Played by Bradley Whitford, Josh is my favourite character and I think most people would agree. His humour is a good source of relief especially when the episodes focus on serious issues! I think it shows that the role was created with Whitford in mind as he is perfect as Josh and his acting seems effortless. He has a wonderful relationship with Janel Maloney who plays his assistant Donna.
C.J (Claudia Jean) Cregg is Press Secretary to the President. She is another funny character, with her sarcastic humour at press conferences making fantastic viewing. She is wonderful at dealing with the Press but worries whether they have respect for her, especially with her potential romance with Danny Koncannon, a Senior White House Correspondent. C.J. is a popular member of the team but being the only female amongst the senior staff often feels like she isn't included in key decisions and that her opinion isn't taken seriously. Alison Janney is wonderful in the role and as a fan of hers I can tell that she has a lot of input into C.J. as a character. One of my favourites scenes from the first season is her rendition of 'The Jackal' at a staff party. Apparently, the creator, Aaron Sorkin saw Janney in her trailer miming the words perfectly and wrote her party trick into the show.
Sam Seaborn is Deputy White House Communications Director and writes most of President Bartlett's speeches. A natural people person and communicator he is a popular member of staff and close friends with Josh. He is very honest and always wants to do the right thing which makes him appeal as a character but can also get him in trouble, especially when his relationship with a call girl causes embarrassment to the President. Rob Lowe is one of the most well known characters in The West Wing but for me is one of the weakest. He's attractive and Sam is a genuinely nice character and even though he's a big part of the show I didn't warm to him the way I did some of the others during the first season.
Toby Ziegler is Director of Communcations at the White House and Sam's boss. Toby rarely smiles and always seems sad, yet he's so amusing with his witty remarks and hot-headed reactions. The audience know that Toby has a astronaut brother and an ex-wife who is in Congress but apart from that not much is revealed about his life so I'm quite excited to see how the character develops. Richard Shieff won an Emmy during the first season based on the episode In Excelsis Deo and is an excellent actor, especially at some of the more emotional scenes.
21 year old Charlie Young arrives in the third episode to interview as a messenger but is confused when he is then asked to meet with Josh Lyman who is recruiting for Personal Aide to the President. He is offered and accepts the job after meeting the President. Charlie starts a relationship with Zoey Bartlett, the President's youngest daughter which leads to hate mail and death threats from white extremists who don't approve of an African-American man dating the President's white daughter. Charlie's redeeming feature is that he is young and inexperienced but that aside his character isn't explored in the first season which was surprising as we found out early on that his parents aren't in the picture and that he looks after his younger sister.
Mandy Hampton was my least favourite character in season one of The West Wing. An ex girlfriend of Josh's, she is a feisty and ambitious political strategist who is taken on as a media consultant to the President although she opposes many of his ideas. One of Mandy's biggest storylines arises when a memo that she sent to her former employer is made public which criticises the President and his administration causing much embarrassment to the party. Her role in the show is cut significantly over the season and although she is named on the opening credits, she is a minor character by the end and Mandy did not feature in season two as Moira Kelly moved on to star in One Tree Hill.
=== Highlights of season one ===
Season one of The West Wing was very much a scene setter and a great way of introducing the viewers to the Bartlett Administration, the senior staff and to some of the daily issues and decisions that the President faces. However, some of the episodes were outstanding pieces of television and are amongst my favourite today.
For me, the stand out episode of season one is In Excelsis Deo. Episodes where Toby is prominent are generally dark and sad and this is no exception. Toby is contacted by the Police when a homeless man is found dead wearing a coat with his name in it which he had donated to charity. He searches in to the man's background to find that he is a forgotten war hero who lives rough and Toby does all that he can to ensure that he gets the send off he deserves. It is this episode which gives us more information about Leo's past as the truth about his addiction threatens to be revealed.
Another episode which meant a lot to me was Take Out The Trash Day as it contained references to Matthew Shepard, a young man who was murdered for being homosexual. As the President and his staff consider how to deal with a new sex education bill, there is concern that parents of a murdered gay teenager will not attend the signing of a new Hate Crimes Bill, but not for the reason that CJ assumes.
The other story from season one that really stands out is the cliffhanger in the final episode What Kind Of Day Has It Been. Charlie and President's daughter Zoe have been dating which has attracted negative attention from some white extremists who have been sending death threats to Charlie at the White House. After the President gives a speech to a group of college students at the Town Hall, a shooting takes place with devastating consequences. Apparently critics blasted the episode for being a sell out. However, it was moving and exciting and I couldn't wait to get on to season two!
=== The DVD ===
Season one contains 6 discs and 22 episodes. Extras include bloopers, 'making the show', deleted scenes and a series of features with the cast.
The box set can be bought from Amazon for £7.19 which is the cheapest I have seen it.
=== Overall ===
The West Wing is one of the most popular television shows of the past decade. After the first season it continued for another six and maintained its popularity throughout. The talented cast, most of which remained with the show throughout its duration, were rewarded with numerous awards. However, for me the best thing about the first season of The West Wing was the script. The dialogue between the characters is some of the best I've seen on television but is written in a way which is realistic but doesn't alienate the viewer. In fact, one of the best things about the show is that you can learn about American politics and situations that the government face, but at the same time it is thoroughly entertaining with interesting side stories for the main characters.
Season one of The West Wing won 9 Emmy Awards; a record for any show. It's success continued right through until the final season but the first has a special place in my heart as it introduced me to characters who are amongst my favourite on television and ignited an interest in American politics. It's a show that you can really get stuck into so if you're looking for a new series to get into, I'd recommend season one of The West Wing as a good place to start!
I couldn't possibly give it less than 5 stars!
What can you say about the West Wing series 1? It's the beginning of one of the best series ever to be on television and I envy anyone coming to this series for the first time, what a treat awaits you.
The West Wing is about the daily trials and tribulations of the White House senior staff who work in the West Wing of the White House. Whilst President Bartlett is a main character he isn't THE main character, the show focuses on the ensemble group around him. His Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry and Deputy Chief of staff, Josh Lyman, Communications Director, Toby Ziegler and Deputy Sam Seaborn and his Press Secretary, CJ Cregg form the core group but there is a huge ensemble cast around these who you get to know and identify and become like old friends. The actors playing these roles are at the top of their game, notably Martin Sheen as Bartlett, Bradley Whitford as Josh and Allison Janney as CJ but everyone fits so well in their roles.
These are all vividly written characters. Writer and creator Aaron Sorkin has put together believable characters who are well rounded and speak with eloquent language. Yes the show is talky but the language itself if amazing. The first series shows this with the "walk and talks" scenes where two characters will discuss an issue whilst walking the halls of the west wing. These are long tracking shots and its one of the hallmarks of the series and great device that makes you feel as if you are really there.
The stories are gripping and do deal with American politics, some issues are not immediately understandable to those unfamiliar with the American political system but this is never a barrier and by the end of an episode you'll know exactly what's been going on. It does deal with real world serious issues but it can also be full of humour! In fact there are brilliantly timed laugh out loud moments.
This first season deals with a staff finding their feet in the halls of power. They have to deal with personal crisis such as alcoholism and drug abuse or accidently sleeping with a high class escort along with issues such as capital punishment and "proportional response" in regards to a terrorist attack. As they find their feet you're taken along with them. By the end of the series you won't want to leave them.
Be warned - make sure you buy series 2 along with series 1. This series has a humdinger of a cliff-hanger that you will need to see the resolution to as soon as possible!
All in all highly recommended. A funny, moving, engrossing and ultimately uplifting series. A must see and own!
Every once in a while, a television show airs that seems almost too good to be true. A show that shows the ins and outs of the White House is such a wonderful concept that one can't believe it has never been conceived of before and this First Season of the show is arguably its greatest.
The show focuses on the daily challenges of the President, his chief of staff and the deputy, his head of communications and the deputy, and the press secretary. The acting is flawless throughout, Martin Sheen stealing every scene he's involved with, along with fantastic performances from Bradley Whitford and Rob Lowe, moving away from the sleazy yuppy type he played so often during the nineties.
To say more would be to risk spoiling the plot, but one of the best aspects of Season 1 of the West Wing is that as the Bartlet administration is in its early days, so too are the characters and the relationships between them. All of this equates to the finest first season that any show has had in recent memory and possibly of all time
The West Wing Season 1 introduces the cast and characters of Aaron Sorkin's dramatisation of a White House under a Democratic President.
Sorkin manages to put together an ensemble cast that fleshes out the Senior Staff, various deputies and the First Family. The remarkable thing about the regular cast is that there are no weak links both in the performances and in the characters themselves. A look at the regular cast displays a wealth of talent.
Martin Sheen as President Jed Bartlett and his First Lady Stockard Channing, giving her best performance since Greece. John Spencer as Recovering Alcoholic and drug addict Chief of staff Leo MaGarry. Richard Schiff as the irrascable communication's director Toby Ziegler; Alison Janney as press secretary CJ Cregg who seems, in the first season, to be outside the inner circle and not fully trusted by the President or Chief of Staff. Rob Lowe as the idealsitic and rather naive Sam Seaborn. Bradley Whitford as Deputy Chief of Staff, the politically savy but hot headed Josh Lyman. Janel Moloney as Josh Lyman's Senior Assistant Donna Moss whose unrequited feelings for her boss provide a story arc through out the whole serries, also the only Senior Assistant who really makes in to the regular cast list with a major part instead of just a bit part in the back ground. The reglar cast of major players is rounded of by Dule Hill as the President's personal aide Charlie Young, bagman, boyfriend to the President's youngest daughter and Son the President never had.
There are others, but it is this ensemble that form the core of characters that the stories of intrigue, political machinations, personal lives and professional triumphs and disasters revolve around.
The cast can only be as good as the dialogue they are asked to deliver, and in the West Wing, the dialogue, by Aaron Sorkin, is some of the cleverest, most inteligent and thought provoking to ever grace the screen. The dialoge and the plot lines raise the standard to new heights, there is certainly no dumbing down for mass TV consumption.
The majority of the action takes place in the West Wing of the White House filmed on a huge set that allows for single take tracking shots shots, impressive back drops and a much used ploy, the long explanatory walk, where two characters will walk in and out of various rooms, through twisting corridors, carrying out an in depth conversation that explains the complex plots and story lines in single takes. These became a trade mark device of the show and they ably demonstrate the talent of the cast and crew in every respect.
Season 1 consists of 22 episodes and starts a year into the 4 year presidential term. The President and his staffers are beset with problems, unable to get polices through the Senate or Congress. Plagued by circumstance, they appear to be at a loss as to how to move forward and they slowly begin to accept that it isn't going to get any better until the turning point episode Let Bartlett be Bartlett. The first season then takes an about turn with a reenergised staff ready for the fight and a President no longer trying to take the safe middle ground.
The first Season ends with a story arc that plays in the background of the final quarter of the first season and may have gone unnoticed until it is brough scraming to the forefront. The only thing I will say about is is if you are going to buy Season 1 buy Season 2 at the same time as you will not want to wait a moment before starting the second season such is the heart stopping shock of the cliff hanging final episode.
This is televison at its very best. It deserves the lavish praise heaped upon it, I watch the West Wing from Season 1 to Season 8 each year and even after watching the first season at least 5 times it still hasn't lost its sheer watchability. If it were a book you would call it a page turner you couldn't put down.
Were any of you old enough to be reading newspapers during the Watergate scandal? If so, you may remember that the papers were full of not just Nixon and Deep Throat, but other key people with exotic names and titles like Bob Haldeman, Chief of Staff, John Ehrlichman, Domestic Affairs Adviser, John Dean, White House Counsel. The newspaper articles had little explanatory panels explaining who these guys were and what they did. So involved were they in the scandal that they all did time in jail. Since Nixon there have been (quick check on Google) seven presidents, and presumably at least that many Chiefs of Staff etc. Of these I could name precisely none, not even the present incumbents. But never mind, instead I have Leo McGarry, Toby Ziegler, Josh Lyman, Sam Seaborn, C J Cregg. Yes, folks, I have discovered West Wing.
So have I been living under a stone for the last ten years, I hear you ask. In my defence, I have to say that I was not unaware of the series. But there are many programmes I am aware of, that I would not dream of wasting a second of my precious allotted span watching. Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity, Deal or No Deal, EastEnders, Lost, the X Files, anything with Simon Cowell, anything with Gordon Ramsay - I'll stop before this becomes a serious digression and I lose my thread. I wasn't even moved to get WW: my husband brought it home one day, showing a hitherto unsuspected brilliance of insight. We were so grabbed by it that we were watching two episodes a night, for several nights in a row. We had to call a period of cold turkey and put it away for a bit. Now we've got it under control at one episode a week. (Thursdays. 8-ish. Don't ring).
I think my viewing experience of WW falls into two parts: the first episode, and all the rest. The first episode, which was also the pilot, set the scene with a bang, and the strengths and weaknesses of the series were evident here. Frankly, I was floundering a bit. It was fast moving, quick-witted, and assumed the viewers were intelligent adults with an attention span longer than a nano-second. So naturally I was caught unawares. To be fair, as the pilot it was also a little raw, unbalanced and the actors were not totally into the skins of their characters. But it soon settled down to become one of the most enjoyable TV series I've ever watched. At times it's so good I could hug myself.
For fellow stone-dwellers out there a brief bit of scene-setting. We are in the early days of a new administration led by President Jed Bartlet, a Democrat and liberal academic economist with a fondness for the classics. The story line revolves round him and his inner circle of advisers as they grapple with international, national and personal issues. I like to think it was written as an antidote to Dubya, as a representation of the kind of ideal president we would like to have before Saint Obama came along. Bartlet has the vision of Kennedy, the statesmanship of Roosevelt, the charm of Clinton, the family values of Carter. But as well as those qualities he also has faults and problems, to make him a fully rounded human being. The whole tenor of the administration, however, is one of trying hard to do their best and maintain their principles in the face of the inevitable events which threaten to derail them or at best demand compromises.
It is actually a soap, in that it has running themes affecting the same characters over a series of episodes. But comparing it to EastEnders is like comparing Dickens to Dan Brown: it is so far at the upper end of the spectrum it is out of sight. So let's stick to drama as a definition, especially as part of its effectiveness lies in its deployment of classical dramatic devices. This programme takes no prisoners, so I won't either. I'm going to invoke Aristotle (President Bartlet would approve) and his unities, of place, time and action. Proper drama, the Great Man said, should take place in one location, in a period of 24 hours and have one theme. Of course, since Aristotle's time we have been round the loop from these classical restraints, to the relatively unstructured Shakespearian model, and back again several times. But for sheer drama you can't beat the claustrophobic tension engendered by what is effectively a ticking clock in a small space. WW frequently has a timescale running, counting hours or days since or until something has happened or will happen. Equally, most of the action is, unsurprisingly, in the West Wing, the administration offices or the Oval Office itself. It does, of course, venture out to other locations, but the best stuff all happens literally in the corridors of power.
Unity of action would have no point in an on-going series such as this, and in any case, it's often the side-by-side action of the internationally important and the mundane that produces its strokes of genius. But just to stick with Aristotle for a bit longer, his drama was the clash of gods and princes. You can't have drama without Big Issues and these aren't found among the peasantry. He wouldn't have got on with EastEnders at all. In our more egalitarian times, the equivalent is the leader of the western world, and the Big Issues all around - race, terrorism, drugs, welfare, gun crime, equal rights - are intrinsic to the action, not just artificially tacked on to an everyday story of country or city folk. What happens matters, and is all the more dramatic for it.
Where we finally part company with Aristotle (you'll be relieved to hear) is with the humour. To Aristotle drama was tragedy, comedy was something else, and the two didn't meet. In WW the humour is sharp, topical and so, so clever, but also surprisingly wide-ranging. It's not just pointed barbs and plays on words; at times it ventures into the burlesque and even farce. And gets away with it. The balance of humour varies across the episodes so that the tenor of each one is slightly different, ranging from the dark "Take This Sabbath Day" to the richly comic "Celestial Navigation". The conjunction of drama and humour has long been acknowledged, both in fiction and real life, as the contrasts accentuate the effect of each, but the range of comedy in this series is so wide, yet always finely judged.
It gets away with it, as I said above, because if there is one quality the series exudes it's self-confidence. Can you imagine a British TV episode with a title "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc"? It's pacey, witty, clever, does what it wants on its own terms and if the viewer can't follow what's going on, too bad. There are no compromises, no meeting halfway, and it's enormously refreshing after the fudge and dumbing-down of most British TV output. The genius of the screenplay is matched by the direction which makes great use of moving shots through cutaway walls as characters walk down corridors or from office to office. It conveys a sense of urgency, keeps the pace of the narrative going at a lick and at the same time emphasises the unity of place I was going on about above. In one instance the camera looked down on a character from the ceiling of a small office, a perfect metaphor for being boxed in, as indeed the character was.
I haven't mentioned the actors who, to me anyway, were mostly unknown apart from Martin Sheen as Bartlet. Each show usually has a special guest and I don't know them either, except the old-timers like Jay Leno and Karl Malden. Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman) and John Spencer (Leo McGarry) both appeared in a mediocre Harrison Ford film I saw recently but they were minor actors, as I suspect they all were before WW. None is outstanding and that is actually a virtue in that there is no dominant figure, no big ego to skew the emphasis. If one character is central at any time it is because of the narrative drive, and that character is not always the president. Sheen as Bartlet has great screen presence, as demanded by the role, but his rather short stature, softness around the eyes and mouth and air of vulnerability ensure that we remember he is human not just an all-powerful figure-head.
Now, in the interests of balance I ought to mention weaknesses. The difficulty is that I don't want to imply that these are in the slightest way detrimental to the brilliance of the series. They matter not a whit; I mention them for the record. Firstly, it can be a little too schmaltzy for British tastes, especially in the Christmas episode "In Excelsis Deo" (more Latin!). This is not a fault, just a difference of culture, but I prefer it when it's meaner and tougher. Then there are two characters whose personae tend to be contradictory: Toby Ziegler is the most taciturn, buttoned-up Communications Chief I've come across in real life or fiction, while Josh Lyman manages to be both the class clown and a ruthless, hard-dealing Deputy Chief of Staff. This makes them interesting, but not totally believable. And finally, to scrape the barrel, when we are introduced to Charlie, the president's bag-man, we are told his mother was a police officer shot and killed in the line of duty. Charlie looks after his little sister, but if he's at the president's side 24/7 who is looking after her?
Since it ran from 1999 to 2006 there are many DVD compilations of WW divided up into series, volumes and seasons. This is the complete first season of 22 episodes on 6 discs, available on Amazon for £8.97 compared with a jaw-dropping RRP of £61.99. It's the best ten quids' worth of entertainment you'll find and, joy, there are lots more seasons after the first. I have the second one, right here ...
So, to sum up, I liked it. As always, I look forward to your comments, but with two provisos. Firstly, you can say what you like about the review (and I know you will) but I won't brook any negative comments about the series itself! Secondly, no unintentional spoilers like "it goes downhill after this". Just remember, Aristotle would have enjoyed it. He might even have managed a smile!
The West Wing follows the trials and tribulations of President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet and his dedicated White House staff. Season One introduced the gang that would go on to become one of the best loved and reviled group of characters on modern television.
The fast talking, quick quips, and witty dialogue, coupled with the intense and endearing chemistry of the characters, is one of the most inviting aspects of this fabulous show. It is rare that an ensemble cast this big has so many excellent and diverse characters that you actually like, but Aaron Sorkin has managed to create an abundance of intense characters that you will love.
As well as the serious nature and subjects the show tackles, there is a wonderful humour and many laugh out loud moments.
The show deals with governmental and political issues, but it is not essential to understand, or even be interested in politics to enjoy this tremendous show - it is just as much about the characters as their politics.
The West Wing's first season deals with issues ranging from military missions and critical votes to arguments over who get's to interview the 'crazy' UFO scientist and 'accidental' liasons with call girls. Along the way huge secrets are exposed that could threaten a Presidency, and the explosive season finale promises to have you jumping around your living room and begging for the next season.
The West Wing is arguably the best television show in modern history, and should NOT bet missed.
Aaron Sorkin's creation, The West Wing, is often hailed as one of the best modern dramas to hit the screens. It is critically acclaimed, and since it first hit our screens in 1999, it has also been one of my favourite programmes. The show ran for 7 seasons in all before it ran its course, and many have actually said that it probably should have stopped after a shuffle behind the camera brought in new controllers with a couple of seasons left.
However, I still enjoyed all 7 seasons, even though it wasn't plain sailing before that. Initially, I hadn't wanted to watch, not being a great fan of some of the cast, Rob Lowe in particular, at the time. My wife assured me it was worth it, and so with a certain amount of trepidation, I conceded to watch the first episode. The rest, as they say, is history.
The first episode of the first season of a new series will usually break you in slowly, developing the characters and letting us, the viewers, get a feel for the show in general. Not The West Wing. Right from the off, it launches us into a situation inside the White House as if we were watching an established show with a few seasons behind it already. The West Wing (WW) gives us the behind the scenes look at the administration of the Bartlet presidency. Completely fictional, but no doubt with a few similarities to real people that the US public is probably more adept at noticing, it is fast paced and with quick, snappy dialogue and minimal sleep for its main players.
President Bartlet is played superbly by Martin Sheen. Originally intended to be a bystander in terms of character, with the show's producers hoping to focus more on the staff than the President himself, found that the character under Sheen's control would be more effective as a main player. As such, we see him and indeed the main staff as people, not positions in the White House, and I think this is the appeal, particularly of season 1.
Bartlet's Chief of Staff is Leo McGarry, right-hand man and lifelong friend to Bartlet. John Spencer takes this role very well, and combines well with Bradley Whitford, who plays Leo's number 2, Josh Lyman. We are also introduced to the character I was dreading, that played by Rob Lowe. The actor had annoyed me in a couple of films, but I found his acting exquisite as Sam Seaborn, Deputy Comms Director. His boss is Toby Ziegler, played by Richard Schiff, and with Alison Janney giving us Press Officer C J Cregg, you have your main players.
It is also important to point out Dule Hill, who joins the show a couple of episodes in as Charlie, the President's aide, and Janel Moloney as Donna Moss, Josh's personal secretary. Charlie becomes an integral part of the show quite quickly, and Donna emerges as the rational side of Josh's work, and it is perhaps these two characters who are explored in their boss/employee role throughout the 7 seasons.
The first season throws everything at us, firing high political talk at us from all directions, and it no doubt puts off a decent sized population who just want a bit of light-hearted comedy or an action series or even something clever but easily understandable. The one thing you get with WW is something that you need to concentrate on. There is no use putting it on while you're doing something else - it will require your full concentration if you want to understand what is going on half of the time.
However, this is no criticism, and the first season does, by the end of it, find its way to getting us to become familiar with all of the characters, and I didn't even realise it had happened. It is a very good first season, and the sign of excellent things to come. I rate it very highly, and there are some brilliant moments, but it is not a patch on some of the events to come in further WW seasons.
The politics on the show tries to very current, and I can only imagine that each and every episode must be carefully constructed so as to not interfere or jeopardise anything too current in the US' political agenda. However, examples of issues explored involve Iraq, leaked memos, political debate, cross-party politics, the passing (or lack thereof) of bills, replacement of staff, and of course political scandal, of which we become quickly aware there will be lots.
It appreciates public opinion in its filming, making the characters anxious at the slightest slip up and how it may be portrayed in the public eye, and this goes some way to exposing the US public and indeed human nature all over the world as flippant and how taking one thing out of context can be disastrous. Health issues are also discussed, and many revelations come out that will be explored in later seasons as ongoing issues.
The season ends on a cliffhanger with the 22nd and final episode just egging you to come back for the second season, as if it needs it. WW is an excellent show, and I am glad to have watched all 7 seasons of it. There are some magical episodes with scenes watched by millions on YouTube and other such sources online. I have these on DVD, but sometimes if I am in the mood I will access the online sources as they can be quicker. However, Season 1 doesn't have many of these, and although it is an excellent start to an excellent series, it is not quite so memorable overall as the later seasons are.
A very solid and excellent start to the series, the DVD boxset consists usually of two separately released parts, then also accessible as 1 boxset. The episodes are spread amongst the discs, with a few extras thrown in for good measure. One disc is set aside for these extras, with interviews featuring creators Aaron Sorkin and John Wells, as well as the odd audio commentary spread throughout the discs themselves. There is a 'making of' style documentary with the majority of the cast taking part, snippets of conversations, interviews, and the ideas and retakes bandied about. To show the amount of fun they have, there is also a gag reel and well as some outtakes and deleted scenes.
The boxset of season 1 of The West Wing is readily available from a number of in store and online suppliers, with amazon.co.uk currently featuring it at £13.98, a brilliant price considering it had an original RRP of over £60!
The West Wing is an American political drama series, set in the White House and featuring the US President and his staff as they go about running the country. Now I can imagine a lot of people would switch off at this point and think it was not for them, but hear me out because you might just like it after all.
Okay so I'm biased because I love this show and I'm quite interested in politics too. Before I watched the first season on DVD, I'd seen the odd episode before but these were mid-season and I didn't know what was going on, so consequently didn't really like it. Then a friend lent me the first season and I was hooked from the first couple of episodes. My wife was not interested at all in the show, thinking it sounded really boring and not at all for her, but she was in the same room as me on the computer while I watched it. It took a few episodes, but soon she was as hooked as I was and she previously couldn't stand politics.
So it's about the US President and his staff, what's so great about that I hear you ask? What makes the show great is the characters and the writing. The show is usually short on action - you hear about things happening but rarely actually see the action as it happens. Similiarly the show shows you the build up to a big speech, but rarely actually the speech itself. Instead the dialogue and interplay between the characters is the main draw, and as you get to know the characters better you start to get hooked on their every word. A lot of the time it is actually rather funny too in an often rather subtle way, though sometimes it can be as laugh out loud funny as the best sitcom.
There were seven seasons in all, and Season one is at least as good as the rest. The first couple of episodes help establish the characters. Martin Sheen is fantastic as the President, in fact he was originally only supposed make occasional appearances, but he was so popular with viewers that they put him in every episode. The other characters are great too, especially Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman who is played by Bradley Whitford.
Season One has it all: personal difficulties, global crisis', classic one lines, great performances, and (beware) a big, dramatic cliffhanger at the end. It might take you a few episodes to get into it, but you'll have so much to look forward to after that, it will really be worth it.
West Wing Season One is available from all Amazon, Play HMV and other good stores. Because it's a few years old now, it's quite cheap. You should be able to pick up the first season new for under £15, and may be able to get it for less than £10 on ebay.
The West Wing is a brilliant political drama, that follows the President of United States, and his staff who work in the west wing of the White House over the 2 full terms her is commander in chief. The truth is that when the show finished in 2006, I had never watched it before, but for christmas two years ago, I got the full box set of all 7 seasons. After watching season one, I was hooked, and I love this this show.
During this first season, we are introduced to the main characters, Jed Bartlett, whe newly elected president. Leo, his chief of cheif, and a father figure to many of the other characters, and Josh, the deputy chief of staff. Then there is CJ, the press secretary, who provides a little comedy to the show. Toby, the communications director and his deputy, Sam. The season begins within the first months of he new administration, and throughout the season, we get to see, through flashbacks how they all worked together to win the election. At the end of the season, there is an assaintation attempt of the life of the presidents chief aid, who is blakc, and going out with the first daughter. With this DVD, you get a brief description of the plot of each episode, and so when I read about the ending of this season, I wanted to skip the rest and watch this episode, but I decided against this idea. Before getting this DVD, I had heard of the show, and knew how big is was, and now I know why. I will write a review on each season very soon.
There are no superlatives good(est?) enough to describe the unadulterated joy of the WW. The scripting is sublime, the plots are brilliant, the story arcs well thought out, and the humour permeates at every level.
This is the first season of seven, and the series follows the daily lives of the staff of the West Wing, under the fictional President Josiah (Jed) Bartlett - the legend that is Martin Sheen (if you don't rate him, give WW a try, I guarantee you will change your mind), the newly elected Democratic President of the United States (POTUS).
We meet the Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry and his fast-talking arrogant but brilliant deputy Josh Lyman, the Communications Director Toby Ziegler (who will fast become someone you can't help but love) and his deputy, the adorably confused Sam Seaborn. We also meet CJ Cregg, the White House Press Secretary, and various assistants, notably Donna Moss, Josh's assistant. Then there's Abby Bartlett, the First Lady (who is Rizzo from Grease... ahem, I mean Stockard Channing, sorry).
At first, not being a political type, and knowing less than nothing about the US political system, I worried that I would have to do a course in politics to keep up. After three episodes I needn't have worried - you find out what's going on, and if you have a brain in your head, they'll explain, but without resorting to 'daytime tv' speak.
In fact, some of the advisors on the show have worked in the WW for real and have added to the authenticity of the set and the scripts.
Aaron Sorkin, who wrote all of the first three, and most of the fourth season, also pioneered the "walk and talk" shot, which becomes the show's trademark, whereby characters are followed by the camera as they walk the corridors of power, in a single, sweeping take. This adds to the sense of urgency that is always in the background, and has certainly allowed me to understand that governing a huge country isn't the easiest job in the world.
I won't spoil the story lines, but I urge you, I beg you - buy the whole box set, right now. It's the best purchase you'll ever make.
I received this as a Christmas present and was not at all disappointed. I knew the concept of the programme, that it was based on the President of the United States and his staff, but I had no idea how charming and funny the programme could be. In the 22 episodes that make up season 1, I have gone through nearly every emotion and feel as though I have gained many new friends. The acting is superb with Martin Sheen as a very believable and likable President, along with Rob Lowe and Bradley Whitfield. The script was perfect in each and every way. I was very impressive. I watched it in little over a week and was so disappointed when it ended. I need to see what happened next. I truly recommend this to anyone to watch it, as I believe that there is something for everyone. I just hope it continues to be as good for the next 6 seasons that I intend to watch!!
Aaron Sorkin's American political drama The West Wing is more than mere feel-good viewing for sentimental US patriots. It is among the best-written, sharpest, funniest and most moving American TV series of all time. In its first series, The West Wing established the cast of characters comprising the White House staff. There's Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer), a recovering alcoholic whose efforts to be the cornerstone of the administration contribute to the break-up of his marriage. CJ (Alison Janney) is the formidable Press Spokeswoman embroiled in a tentative on-off relationship with Timothy (Thirtysomething) Busfield's reporter. Brilliant but grumpy communications deputy Toby Ziegler, Rob Lowe's brilliant but faintly nerdy Sam Seaborn and brilliant but smart-alecky Josh Lyman make up the rest of the inner circle. Initially, the series' creators had intended to keep the President off-screen. Wisely, however, they went with Martin Sheen's Jed Bartlet, whose eccentric volatility, caution, humour and strength in a crisis make for such an impressively plausible fictional President that polls once expressed a preference for Bartlet over the genuine incumbent. The issues broached in the first series have striking, often prescient contemporary relevance. We see the President having to be talked down from a "disproportionate response" when terrorists shoot down a plane carrying his personal doctor, or acting as broker in a dangerous stand-off between India and Pakistan. Gun control laws, gays in the military and fundamentalist pressure groups are all addressed--the latter in a most satisfying manner ("Get your fat asses out of the White House!")--while the episode "Take This Sabbath Day" is a superb dramatic meditation on capital punishment. Handled incorrectly, The West Wing could have been turgid, didactic propaganda for The American Way. However, the writers are careful to show that, decent as this administration is, its achievements, though hard-won, are minimal. Moreover, the brisk, staccato-like, almost musical exchanges of dialogue, between Josh and his PA Donna, for instance, as they pace purposefully up and down the corridors are the show's abiding joy. This is wonderful and addictive viewing. --David Stubbs