The West Wing: Season 1

The West Wing: Season 1


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

In the middle of their second year, Democratic President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his White House staff strive to make the country a better place, while maintaining lives of their own...

You're probably thinking that a show about politics would be boring as hell. A dry, snooze-fest. Changing legislations, creating policies, yapping on about the constitution... it could so easily have been a one-way ride to dullsville. Instead, what we got back in '99 - when it first aired - was a smart, savvy, funny and insightful drama which, despite a little dating, still stands among television's finest.

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So who to thank? Well there's so many (we'll get to that cast in a minute), but the main praise should clearly be laid at the feet of showrunner Aaron Sorkin. Following up his highly-praised but hardly watched Sports Night, the scripts - most of which he wrote or co-wrote himself - are truly exceptional. Bouncing between witty comedy and genuinely human moments in a natural rhythmic way. Sometimes, even within the same sentence.

But what stands out the most is the zinger-filled rapid-fire dialogue, bouncing back-and-forth between White House staffers who walk-and-talk in true Sorkin fashion. At times, undeniably, the material veers into sentimental territory and even borders on preachy, but thankfully stops short of being cheesy or silly.

Still, none of this sparkling banter would work if the cast didn't 'get' the material, and with the notable exception of Moira Kelly's aggressive Media consultant - who didn't return for series 2 - most visibly thrive on it. At first, you’ll wonder who is who, and who does what, but it falls into place quickly. Bradley Whitford’s strutting Josh Lyman is Deputy Chief Of Staff (basically, the go-to guy), Richard Schiff’s grumpy, beardy Toby Ziegler is Communications Director (he directs all communications) and Rob Lowe’s quirky, be-spectacled Sam Seaborn is Deputy Communications Director (he helps Toby direct all communication).

Then there’s Allison Janney’s flamingo-like Press Secretary CJ Cregg, who controls the press-pack and enjoys the shows best romantic plotline with a nice-guy White House reporter (a bearded Timothy Busfield). Saving the best till last, John Spencer (RIP dear friend) brings plenty of class as the President’s trusted number two, whilst Martin Sheen's Jed Bartlet is the type of man you'd love to lead the free world.

All in all, it's a classy, brilliantly-written affair, and with regards to any of those 'best ever TV show' polls, definitely worth voting for.

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2011
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Behind the scenes at The White House when Martin Sheen is President.
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Read more The West Wing: Season 1 reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray *****

Director: Thomas Schilamme

Writer: Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Rob Lowe, Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, John Spencer, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Dule Hill, Stockard Channing, Moira Kelly, Tim Matheson, Janel Moloney, Timothy Busfield

Year: 2000

Runtime: 925 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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