Conventional wisdom prior to season one of The West Wing
was that the only successful television shows were half hour sitcoms and hour long police, legal, or medical dramas. Building on surplus ideas from his film The American President
and the walk-and-talk style of comedy and drama from his critically acclaimed television show Sports Night
, Aaron Sorkin bucked the trend and created his masterpiece, one of the most memorable American political depictions to reach the big or small screen. Season one introduces viewers to a Nobel Prize-winning economist and unabashed intellectual president Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his key staff members, a newly elected Democratic administration trying to find its footing amidst the corridors of the White House's west wing. To the credit of its cast and their brilliant ensemble acting, The West Wing
manages to immediately conjure nearly a dozen distinct and memorable characters. Perhaps the greatest star of all is Sorkin's rapid-fire dialogue, especially as delivered by Press Secretary C.J. Craig (Alison Janney), Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), and Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer). They carry on conversations while stalking purposefully and unhaltingly down corridors, around corners, and through doorways, and all of it unfurls with the choreographic precision of a classical ballet and the pace of an Olympic ping-pong rally.
What emerges is more than a collective liberal dream of an impassioned administration battling back ultra-conservative bogeymen ranging from the religious right to bigots to gun-toting militants. Wonderful episodes like "The Pilot" and "In Excelsis Deo" portray a government led by heroic, intelligent, and decent men and women. Whether or not one regards that as a political fantasy, it's a remarkably refreshing and appealing vision of politics and its practitioners, one that the public embraced with consistently strong television ratings. In a country whose citizens are used to viewing their elected leaders with mistrust and cynicism, that might be The West Wing's greatest accomplishment. --Eugene Wei
From Creator Aaron Sorkin and Director Thomas Schlamme ("Sports Night") and Executive Producer John Wells ("ER," "Third Watch"), and featuring one of the most talented ensemble casts ever to star in a drama series, "The West Wing's" Fall 1999 debut on NBC immediately received an extraordinary reception from viewers and television critics alike. The high-profile drama series uniquely documents the daily activities of a fictitious U.S. President's (Martin Sheen as U.S. President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet) highly talented administration portrayed by Dulé Hill as President Bartlet's aide Charlie Young, Allison Janney as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, Moira Kelly as Media Consultant Mandy Hampton, Rob Lowe as White House Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, Richard Schiff as White House Director of Communications Toby Ziegler, John Spencer as White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry and Bradley Whitford as Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman. Also starring in the award-winning series is Stockard Channing as First Lady Abigail Bartlet and Janel Moloney as Assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff Donna Moss. Both went on to become regulars on the show. Guest stars during The West Wing's first season include Timothy Busfield ("Thirtysomething"), Tim Matheson ("Martha Inc.") and John Amos ("Coming to America").
Quickly establishing a strong mandate among audiences, The West Wing burst onto the American entertainment and political arenas as one of the finest portrayals in entertainment of The Oval Office's inner sanctum. In addition to generating impressive ratings, The West Wing's historic first season resulted in securing 18 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning in nine categories. Emmy's The West Wing received for its first season include Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Schiff), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Janney), Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Sorkin and Rick Cleveland for "In Excelsis Deo"), Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Schlamme for the "Pilot") and Outstanding Main Title Theme Music (W.G. Snuffy Walden), among others.
The West Wing has won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series every season it has been on the air, and was once again nominated in the highly-competitive award category for the 2003 Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be held in Los Angeles on September 21st. The series will vie for a total of 15 Emmys this year. Throughout its history, The West Wing has received a total of 72 Emmy Nominations, winning 22 different times.
"THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON" contains all 22 episodes:
2. "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc"
3. "A Proportional Response"
4. "Five Votes Down"
5. "The Crackpots and These Women"
6. "Mr. Willis of Ohio"
7. "The State Dinner"
9. "The Short List"
10. "In Excelsis Deo"
11. "Lord John Marbury"
12. "He Shall, From Time to Time..."
13. "Take Out The Trash Day"
14. "Take This Sabbath Day"
15. "Celestial Navigation"
16. "20 Hours In L.A."
17. "The White House Pro-Am"
18. "Six Meetings Before Lunch"
19. "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet"
20. "Mandatory Minimums"
21. "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics"
22. "What Kind of Day Has It Been"