Cutthroat presidential advisers get their personal lives hopelessly tangled up with professional duties as they try to conduct the business of running a country. Fictional Democratic President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet suffers no fools, and that policy alienates many. He and his dedicated staffers struggle to balance the needs of the country with the political realities of Washington, D.C., working through two presidential terms that include countless scandals, threats and political scuffles, as well as the race to succeed Bartlet as the leader of the free world. Written by
In the opening credits, there is a still shot of Martin Sheen's character, President Bartlett leaning on a desk with his head bowed. We see him from the back. This was a direct tribute to the famous photograph of President John F. Kennedy taken during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The only difference is that JFK was holding a cigar in his hand. See more »
At one point, National Security Advisor Nancy McNally makes a reference to "M2 Bradleys with 120 mm guns". In reality, M2 Bradleys are Infantry Fighting Vehicles and are armed with 25mm guns. This was most likely a mixup with the Main Battle Tank M1 Abrams, which is armed with a 120mm gun. See more »
This guy's walkin' down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, "Hey you! Can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole, and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, "Father, I'm down in this hole; can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey, Joe, it's me. Can ya help me out?" And the ...
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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 »
I couldn't get into the West Wing when it began its run. The people spoke too quickly, I didn't get most of the references, and where the heck were they powerwalking to? I just didn't get it. After an episode or two, I just forgot about it.
On a recent weekend, though, I heard the pilot was being broadcast and thought I'd give it a try. Watching this show from the beginning - and being able to see episodes over again - makes all the difference. This time, I realized that I wasn't *supposed* to understand what they were referring to right out of the gate; it would be explained before the episode ended. After watching the pilot, I also realized that unlike most TV shows, The West Wing episodes are visual manifestations of great books. Both force the viewer to ask questions, challenging simple answers, refusing to provide easy, fixed-in-60-minutes situations, and providing sudden, unexpected plot twists.
As excellent as the actor's performances are, it's the writing that makes the show so good. It doesn't shy away from moral ambiguity, it rarely takes the easy way out, and it compels you to believe in your government despite all the reasons it gives you to despair of it.
Some might think that only jingoistic supernationalists enjoy the West Wing, but neither of those words describe me. I feel very comfortable questioning the decisions my government makes, and I appreciate how the West Wing has broadened my understanding of how it operates. For that reason alone, it deserves the accolades it receives. It's one of the best shows in the history of television.
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