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
During a 2014 Screen Actors Guild Foundation interview with Roger Rees (moderated by writer Rick Elice, Rees's husband), Elice said that Rees had originally auditioned to play Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, and it eventually came down to a choice between Rees and John Spencer, who won the role. But after that process, Aaron Sorkin told Roger Rees that he would write a different part for him, which he did: Rees played the recurring character of British advisor (and eventually ambassador) Lord John Marbury throughout the show's run. Elice also said that Sorkin came to Rees for help with tracking down the composer of a piece of music that Sorkin remembered from the Royal Shakespeare Company 1982 production of "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" that Sorkin wanted to use in the episode "Posse Comitatus"; Rees had played the title character in that production. See more »
Some long shots of Washington from season 1 are flipped horizontally, e.g: at one point, the Smithsonian is north of the Mall. See more »
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 »
The original broadcast and syndicated versions of the entire second season were in a 1.33:1 full-screen format, except on select HD broadcasters. The DVD versions of the second season episodes are in the filmed wide-screen format of 1.78:1 See more »
Now that the last episode has been shown in Australia, and having very much enjoyed the show despite seeing it out of order in several different countries, I'd like to make a few general comments. Thankfully the ABC showed series six and seven weekly in blocks of two episodes without commercials; thus the pleasure was undiluted.
1. Whatever inaccuracies there may have been in the depiction of White House procedure (apparently Clinton adviser Dick Morris was not impressed) and however impossibly smart everybody seemed, "West Wing" caught the essential flavour of politics, US style, where a squillion issues, some great, others trivial, all compete for attention in a complex legalistic and ponderous system.
2. There is a lot of emphasis on the trappings of the "imperial presidency"- flitting around the countryside in Air Force One at a cost of about $10,000 an hour, the amazing White House protocol for almost everything, the veneration of the public for the office. Louis XIV never had it so good. But then I was brought up in a country where until recently the Prime Minister's phone number was in the phone book and he used to walk the 800 metres to work. Of course the security measures don't require much justification in the land of guns for all.
3. President Jed Bartlet is indeed the liberal ideal (the show could well be called "Left Wing") but he is also a patriot, and to those of us who have to put up with the US heaving its weight around abroad this is a problem, not a matter for praise.
4. The "walking heads" delivering rapid-fire dialogue are off-putting at first, but do give the show pace; compare "Commander in Chief" which is leadenly slow (and otherwise dire) by comparison. It no doubt helps to know something about how the US political system works but generally there is enough information provided to at least follow the story.
5. The internal politics of the White House are downplayed; Bartlet's team are portrayed as uniformly bright, keen and loyal, both to the president and each other, and not interested in internecine conflict. Lucky Jed.
6. The acting from the main players is all that one could ask for they emerge as real people, but then they get a lot of air time, sometimes with most of an episode to themselves. Some of the minor roles tended to be written and played as stereotypes. My favourite was Lily Tomlin as the Pres's secretary she acted as if she could do his job herself, although Allison Janney as CJ ran a close second.
7. It must have been a fun series to create and we must thank Aaron Sorkin for the effort he made in developing this show from his "The American President" which was a piece of fluff by comparison. He got away with what must be about the talkiest show on television. Alas, things did tail off a bit after he left (after the fourth series) but the show had enough momentum to make it entertaining right to the end of Bartlet's second term, though the last few shows were rather limp.
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