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The West Wing is a TV Drama that just really does entice the viewer. The show is interesting, gripping, fast-paced and witty. It really is another brilliant export from across the pond.
The show follows the presidency of Josiah Bartlet and his staff in the west wing of the white house. The show will follow an individual staff member that is dealing with a problem or there can be a wider story arc dealing with all the characters in one, like the state of the union address. The programme will take the viewer from Bartlet's second year in his first term, through his re-election campaign, and then through his next four years, and eventually the fight to replace him. Overall the story never weakens, the programme makes for very consistent viewing.
Although on the face of things the show may seem a bit "uninteresting", do not be put off. I contemplated whether or not to buy this set and I must say I contemplated too long. The programme makes for addictive viewing and you are always kept guessing. There are so many smart developments in the plot, and without giving too much away there are a number of unexpected twists that are portrayed brilliantly by the actors.
Martin Sheen plays Josiah Bartlet and does a fantastic job in being both witty and intelligent. He is constantly listing of numbers and facts to the displeasure of his personal aid, Charlie. The show is fast paced, the tempo nor the quality ever drops, and the show has become famous for it. The 'walk 'n talk' scenes are a trademark of the West Wing and can be very comical sometimes.
The box itself is a sleek design, with nice exterior artwork and clear labeling on the inside. The individual season boxes will be worn down over time (as with any DVD box set) but they do nestle nicely in the box. This set will add a touch of class to any DVD collection.
Overall, do not hesitate in buying this box set. I cannot stress this enough! The show is exciting, addictive, intelligent, humorous and consistent in quality, buy the box set, it is well worth it.
The West Wing is one of those American Drama's that quite frankly embarrass the UK on how to make a good solid drama. Aaron Sorkin who wrote the first half of the seven season hit, is an absolute genius in his writing skills, and lets the actor's put in Grammy award winning acting. I first watched this series when it used to play on Channel 4 up to series 5 and was always left wanting more, if you haven't seen this yet what are you playing at???
The series follows the Democratic Party that has been elected into the White House, Martin Sheen who plays President Bartlett, is shown each episode trying his best to run a country where he didn't get the majority vote. You also follow his Senior Staff who work behind the scenes in trying to produce the best policies that will make America a better place.
One of these senior staff is Deputy Communications officer Sam Seaborn who is played by Rob Lowe. There is no star billing in this show each character has equal billing and each is treated to very interesting and intricate storylines. My personal favourite is Martin Sheen, his comedy timing is perfect, with his interactions with his staff, and his unique ability to put people on the spot with his intelligent lines. Sorkin's writing is very wordy and in depth, but you don't need a degree in politics to understand what is actually happening. In fact I learnt most of my American politics from this show, because it's that accurate.
The underlying story follows the President through his eight years in office, following election and also his final term, then looking forward to the next President. Each week you are faced with a new story, but a lot of the character's stories continue throughout the series developing well and making you feel for each of the characters. It can get a little American flag loving but if you're going to make a series in the White House you have to expect this.
For the best series go straight to series 4, so much happens at breakneck speed you find yourself constantly pressing play for the next episode. Sadly this is the last series that Sorkin is involved and leaves before series 5 starts. You can tell something has changed by the style of writing in 5, however get through the first few episodes and you will rediscover some classic episodes as the writers find their feet again.
The Box set is a brilliant value now a days for no more than £50 this can be picked up for at places like HMV and Amazon. The Box set itself is beautiful in a virtual cube shape with glossy pictures of the Whitehouse printed on it. Each series is in its individual box, and contains and average of 24 episodes per series. There is an eight disc set which contains the usual deleted scenes making offs and bloopers.
If you have a taste for American drama and never tried this, then you are missing out, I guarantee a brilliantly written piece of work, which does make you come back for repeat viewings
I watched the first few series of the West Wing and became completely obsessed with it. However, when I moved away to go to university, I was unable to watch it and had to wait for the boxset to be released, so I could watch it in full from the beginning. When I spotted it late last year in HMV for £49.99, I decided to snap it up, as it had previously been around £120.
What is the West Wing?
The West Wing is an American drama that focuses on the goings on in the White House, and is led by Democratic president Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen). Series 1 joins the president in his first term, and the series runs through the rest of his administration, until a new president is chosen in the final episodes of series 7.
The drama has been exceptionally well written, with the first four seasons being written and produced by Aaron Sorkin (who went on to adapt the screenplay for Charlie Wilson's War). In particular the show is well know for the "walk and talk" shots, which features the exceptionally busy White House staff trying to grab any face time they can with the President or senior staff. This means we often get to see incredibly important conversations taking place between meetings as staff through corridors in the White House, or through car parks and kitchens. This often adds a feel of authenticity to the show, and can be very funny!
Martin Sheen in particular is incredible in the show, with his character President Bartlet being instantly likeable and very believable. In many ways, Bartlet is an idealised president, as he is both friendly and strong, and incredibly intellectual. He also has a very strong moral code, and the writers often use the show as a chance to almost rewrite history, as they show what Bartlet would do in situations where other presidents were deemed to have been less successful. It is also interesting to see how the president copes with tough situations, and we get more of an insight into the behind the scenes action and decision making that goes on in the White House, as well as how this feeds into the information that is ultimately presented to the press and the public.
As well as focusing on the President, the series also revolves around the White House senior staff, with the main focus being on the 'behind the scenes' work that happens that the public don't get to see. The all-star cast are extremely talented and convincing in their roles throughout the series, and I was instantly captivated by most of the characters from the get go. The characters make the West Wing so watchable, as we get to see them grow in their roles, and how they overcome issues, both in their personal lives and when serving the President. It is also quite funny to see the characters attempt to have a work - life balance, as any plans they make invariably get cancelled because of a crisis in the office!
This show is interesting as it gives a real insight into the goings on in the Oval Office. I'm interested in American politics and world affairs anyway, so had a grasp on most topics that were covered, but if I knew nothing about them then I found the show educational in a fun way. As the show moves at a very fast pace, however, I didn't always follow absolutely everything that was happening or understand completely. This didn't stop me enjoying the show, however. In fact, it just meant that when I watched the dvds a second time, I picked up more from them, and it makes them more watchable as there is so much depth in each episode that you will see something new each time you watch them. Viewers who don't know too much about the American political system might find the show slightly confusing at times, but I think that anyone could watch the show and understand most of what is happening.
The West Wing is of consistently high quality, although I do prefer the earlier seasons. This is probably because I enjoy the original cast, and also I think Aaron Sorkin added the most to the writing of the series. Although the final season is very exciting because it focuses on the election of the new president, the action that happened in the White House itself was weaker as half the cast had become embroiled in the new election, and didn't seem to have been replaced.
What extra features come with the dvd boxset?
Of all the boxsets I have (including my beloved Sex and the City set that came in a pink shoe box), the West Wing has the best appearance. The box itself is dark blue, smart, and has a picture of the White House on the front. The box has an easy to open lid, with each season of the series inside in different coloured boxes. Each box contains smaller dvds for a few episodes, which makes it really quick and easy to find the episode you are looking for.
Also included in the set next to the season boxes is a dvd containing two discs of special bonus features. These are divided up by season, and provide an interesting insight into the making of the West Wing, with interviews with cast members, as well as reflections from the creators of the show. I found the bonus features disc to be informative and thorough and it's fascinating to see what has gone into making the series.
What's the overall verdict?
This is one of the best shows to have ever been screened on television, and to get the whole set for under £50 is a bargain, and also an incredible investment. (The West Wing box set is available for £49.98 from amazon.com).
The show is superbly written and acted, with incredible plot twists, cliffhangers, and it also manages to be fast paces and thrilling. As well as all this, it also manages to 'do' emotion (in ways that other political dramas have failed), and does so with tenderness and grace. If you have watched any of the West Wing and enjoyed it, this is a definite must have. If you haven't seen any before, it might be worth trying to watch a few episodes first just to make sure it's your sort of thing.
If you don't already own the West Wing on DVD, you need to buy this. In fact even if you do own it - or most of it - at around £50 you might want to buy this just for the nice collectors box.
The box contains The West Wing seasons 1 to 7 - the entire run, along with an additional DVD of bonus features.
If you're reading this review, the chances are that you have already seen some of the West Wing. But if not, the general premise is that it follows the inner workings of the White House during the presidency of Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen), with the later seasons focussing more on the presidential campaign for his successor.
While there are plenty of twists and turns, if you're looking for the kind of action and suspense found in 24, then you would probably be better off looking elsewhere - perhaps at the latest season of 24. What you get with the West Wing is, in my opinion, the singular best written tv drama ever to have come out of America.
If I had to make any complaints about the West Wing, it would be that at times - being British - the intracacies of the American political system being referred to went over my head. This is not such a large issue that it ever had an impact on my ability to follow the plot, and would almost certainly not be a problem for someone who is familiar with the American system.