Newest Review: ... loyal but battling with his inner demons. Leo is portrayed by John Spencer who is absolutely wonderful in the role, especially in th... more
President Bartlet is upon us!
The West Wing - The Complete Season 1 (DVD)
Member Name: pmcds
The West Wing - The Complete Season 1 (DVD)
Advantages: Writing, acting, directing
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!
Summary: Excellently devised show, and brilliantly executed
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