When the erudite Democrat Josiah "Jed" Bartlet is elected U.S. president, he installs his administration. He places confidants from his electoral campaigns in the White House. Each of these people play a significant role in the Washington power game: the Chief of Staff (Leo McGarry), his deputy (Josh Lyman), Communications Director (Toby Zeigler), deputy (Sam Seaborn, and later, Will Bailey), and press secretary (CJ Cregg). Also in key positions are the assistants of each of the power players. We follow these people through many political battles, as well as some personal ones. Also playing roles are the First Lady (Abigail Bartlet), the President's daughters (Elizabeth, Eleanor, and Zoey), and the personal aide to the President (Charlie Young). All make this series, which supposedly follows the political events (often paraphrasing historical reality) almost day by day, more than merely a political soap. The demands of office on each character show the personal sacrifice and the ... Written by
Aaron Sorkin told Entertainment Weekly that the first actor he and the producers wanted to play President Bartlet was Sidney Poitier. That idea was abandoned when Poitier's fee was, in Thomas Schlamme's words, "very high", and John Wells was able to ascertain that Poitier was not interested when his manager asked Wells to stop calling. See more »
Several times characters refer to military hardware by incomplete names; for example: "AIM Sidewinder" missile instead of AIM-9 Sidewinder (as well as saying A-I-M rather than saying the word "aim"), "AH Apache" helicopter instead of AH-64 Apache. See more »
[still new to the White House, Josh can't find his desk]
I'll just walk around some more and see if I can get into a pick-up meeting.
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Episode titles are usually the first thing shown on screen (after recaps). This is one of the only American series to show episode titles before its opening credits. See more »
This gem of a series really took me by surprise. Observing the world of American politics and the lives of those working in the White House could be an extremely dull concept. But thanks to an outstanding script and the wonderful skills of the experienced cast, The West Wing effortlessly draws the viewer in and provides top quality drama in every action-packed episode.
Following the trials and triumphs of those working behind-the-scenes in and around the Oval Office, this series perfectly portrays the shrewdness that the president and his staff require to do their jobs and the way they inter-relate in a manic environment to get those jobs done, while still managing to maintain a personal life. Combining a subtle mix of poignancy, humour and dramatic tension with varying degrees of pace, it is a joy to watch.
Each episode is relatively self-contained with running storylines developing throughout the series. The characters are perfectly rounded, the script continually sharp, and credit goes to the directors and editors who ensure such slick movement and spot-on timing on screen.
Singling out any particular member of the cast is difficult as each one of them is truly first-rate. However, Martin Sheen is excellent as President Bartlet, a fiercely intelligent and discerning man with a genuine passion for his job. Rob Lowe is a revelation as Sam Seaborn, the wise and witty deputy communications director, and Allison Janney, as the astute press secretary, CJ, is far removed from her almost unrecognisable role as Barbara Fitts in American Beauty.
Whether White House life is in reality as appealing as this remains to be seen. It would, however, be very reassuring to believe that those who actually do hold such influential positions are as unashamedly charming as The West Wing brilliantly depicts them.
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