07 June 2012


In honor of Aaron Sorkin's upcoming HBO series, The Newsroom, I thought I'd publish a slightly revised The West Wing review, which was written originally for the series DVD release several years back.

From the amazingly crafted pilot episode (aired September 22, 1999) through the touching final scene in "Tomorrow" (aired May 14, 2006), The West Wing for the most part held its own for seven seasons as possibly the most well-written, well-researched, superbly-acted one hour drama in American television history. 

It’s true the show had its weaknesses, which were amplified with the 2003 departure of its original creative team, Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme. These weaknesses, however, were nothing at all compared to seven seasons of riveting (can we really be watching this?) behind-the-scenes look at the most shrouded building in the world.

With this show, Sorkin struck gold with the concept; and then hit the jackpot with that cast. The leads were in a league of their own and completely perfect from the moment they appeared on screen. Well, perhaps not Moira Kelly, who was dealt with (and written off the show) rather quickly.

Even the recurring cast, especially Timothy Busfied, Mary Louise-Parker, Oliver Platt, Anna Deavere Smith, Mark Harmon, Emily Proctor, Michael O'Neill (Secret Service Agent Ron Butterfield), the late Kathryn Joosten (the glorious Mrs. Landingham), John Amos (Joint Chiefs), and, of course, Marlee Matlin - gave 100 percent, 100 percent of their onscreen time. They added so many levels to the world created inside this West Wing.

Another key strength to the show was its amazingly creative ability to go back in time and add meat and propel the story further. Though fairly standard in 2012 dramas, flashbacks had never been done so effectively before.
Its final (seventh) season was exactly the season The West Wing needed to be to end its streak. It was funny again. It was smart again. And, most of all, it remembered who it was again. Though I preferred the Bartlett-related storylines to Santos/Vinick, seeing an entire season build up to a Santos victory had its moments. The live debate was a unique gimmick, and it worked.

Bottom line. If you only caught an episode or two of this show while it was on, here's your chance to spend a small fortune for the DVDs. And then disappear for a week and watch it from start to finish... you'll be amazed at how well it all fits.

The West Wing is a DVD must-own (and currently unavailable on BluRay).

(This review originally appeared on Amazon.com)
The West Wing image, NBC

The Newsroom premieres on HBO on June 24 at 10:00pm