on January 10, 2004
I do not think it is necessary to describe how awesome the first season of this show was, but it is necessary to say how crappy the DVD's are constructed. They are double sided (old style) which can lead to a lot of scratches if you aren't very careful with them.
on September 29, 2003
This was the show that began the 'Government Craze' in television. The West Wing was truly original: a compelling drama, a trendsetting program, and a look into the inner workings of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue through the lives of the administration's most powerful people. That a show like this, without explosions and seldom a gunfight to be seen, could become so wildly popular is a testament to the ability of the American People to spot quality artistry. It certainly has renewed my hope in this country.
The premise of the show is that the viewers would see the inner workings of the executive branch through the most powerful people working there. Martin Sheen plays the President, Jed Bartlett, a highly principled and highly educated man who is nevertheless idealistic about America. John Spencer plays his Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, Bartlett's closest adviser and confidante. Bradley Whitford plays Josh Lyman, McGarry's deputy and occasional loose cannon. Richard Schiff plays Director of Communications Toby Ziegler, a humorless, no-nonsense administrator. In the first few seasons, his deputy was played by Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, who often brought humor and warmth to the show. There are countless other guest stars who would contribute to this show and deeply enrich it, making a show about politics both incredibly informative and deeply character-driven.
Some first season highlights include the Pilot, which introduces the characters in their element rather than just settling for lengthy exposition and has a few of the characters in trouble immediately with various groups. One need only watch the famed episode "In Excelsis Deo" to realize what a special show this would become. Other good shows include "A Proportional Response", in which the president learns the virtue of, well, proportion in foreign policy. "Mr. Willis of Ohio" is the story about a politician who actually makes decisions according to facts and conscience instead of polling and party lines. "The Crackpots..." features the first "Big Block of Cheese Day", which would become a kind of tradition in the show and afforded some humor as well as an examination of the fringe groups.
In short, The West Wing combines entertainment with education and, for what will perhaps be the only time, doesn't compromise either ideal. No wonder it's the most respected show on television. This belongs in everyone's DVD library.
on January 18, 2004
Needless to say, West Wing is an excellent TV show and the first season has some of the very best episodes.
Unfortunately, the DVDs are extremely poor quality and, so far, I have discovered that one of the discs in the set that I received is completely unplayable. The very first time I took it out of the box, I found that 5 tracks on the disc simply freeze repeatedly and eventually stop playing at all.
The show is great, but the DVDs are junk.
on December 30, 2013
I absolutely love this show, from cast to writers. The pace and occurance of one-liners is fast and fabulous. The dialogue assumes the audience actually have brains, and it goes a long way in explaining what is right & what's wrong with the political machine. You can really learn alot from this show. Its been awhile since this show ended and I wore out my vcr tapes of it but now I plan on replacing all the tapes with dvds.
on June 19, 2004
I, like many other people, am very glad Aaron Sorkin created "The West Wing". Seasons 1 through 4 of the series (written by Mr. Sorkin) represent, in my view, the best drama program on commercial television since ...... umm ...... give me a few months and I might be able to come up with something (but it won't be an easy assignment).
It would be extremely difficult indeed to come up with a TV series that had a rookie season as spectacular as "The West Wing". Each and every one of the 22 first-season episodes located on this 4-Disc DVD collection is truly memorable. Not a bad apple in the bunch, in my opinion -- which is remarkable for any series that was just getting its feet wet.
This tremendous batch of programs includes "Five Votes Down", "Enemies", "In Excelsis Deo", "A Proportional Response", and "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet". These episodes, and all the others in this 1999-2000 campaign, are so darn good, I felt like re-watching each one of them two minutes after viewing them via these DVDs.
The crafting of each episode is absolutely remarkable and worthy of high praise. The effort (and obvious care and precision) that goes into shooting just one scene is amazing. Take for instance one of the very first scenes ever filmed (for the Pilot; which is discussed by actor John Spencer in one of the very informative Making-Of documentary pieces contained on Disc 4 of this set) -- As Mr. Spencer explains in the featurette, the scene in question (one of those long, walking-the-White-House-corridors-while-talking-a-mile-a-minute type of scenes, a "West Wing" speciality) was originally written by Aaron Sorkin to be EIGHT different shots! But, instead, they filmed it as just ONE continuous "hallway walking" scene....and it's simply amazing.
The acting on "The West Wing" is equal to the excellent writing of Mr. Sorkin. Every character is drawn well and realized to their full potential by the great collection of actors and actresses that were assembled for this TV series. It's very difficult (I would imagine) for ANY "West Wing" fan to choose his or her "favorite" character on this show. They're ALL favorites. They're ALL that good.
We're not likely to see a TV program this well done for a long, long time. And it's a privilege now to be able to own these hall-of-fame-caliber shows on the DVD format.
These episodes look and sound just fine on DVD. Video is in the originally-aired television ratio of 1.33:1. (NOTE: Season Two's DVD set goes to Widescreen, even though that season, like this first season, was also originally shown in the Full-Frame (1.33:1) ratio. Season #2, however, WAS "composed" through the camera lens for EITHER a Full-Frame OR a Widescreen ratio presentation. And Season 2, just like #1, looks great on DVD.)
Sound comes from Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround tracks. Even though the shows are Full-Frame here, the Menus are anamorphic in nature.
A very nice bundle of Special Features is served up here, including Audio Commentaries for five episodes (in which Aaron Sorkin participates). Many other bonuses are located on Disc 4. Here's a look ...........
>> Two terrific behind-the-scenes Making-Of documentaries, entitled "The Primaries" (17 minutes long) and "The Inauguration" (29 minutes), which both give us interviews with many members of the cast and crew, including Mr. Sorkin and "President Bartlet" himself (Martin Sheen). Fabulous stuff here.
>> Two other shorter featurettes are "Capital Beat" (8 minutes), which includes interviews with real-life political "consultants", who helped put a true-to-life political face on the series. And "Sheet Music" (6 minutes), which talks about the show's music.
>> 4 Deleted Scenes (total run time of just over 5 minutes). These scenes can be accessed individually, or played back-to-back via a "Play All" selection.
>> "Gag Order" -- A three-minute gag reel of bloopers and assorted oddball on-set happenings. There are a couple really funny screw-ups presented here. But this is way too short. It leaves you yearning for more. But -- it's fun while it lasts.
>> "The West Wing Suite" -- This is a montage of some scenes from Season 1 of "The West Wing", with appropriate musical accompaniment. But I'm not entirely sure what purpose this bonus is supposed to serve here. It's nice, I guess, as a kind of "trailer" for Season One. It has a running time of just under 2 minutes.
>> "Off The Record" -- This bonus segment (of 3.5 minutes duration) is a collection of outtakes from the four featurettes/documentaries on the DVD.
>> Easter Egg -- There's a nifty little 2.5-minute "Egg" hidden on Disc 4 (the "Special Features" only disc). It highlights "Manny: Head Of Security", who is in charge of keeping people off the West Wing set when scenes are being filmed. This is a really fun Easter Egg, which also shows West Wing actor Richard Schiff having fun with "Manny" while riding around aimlessly on the studio lot in a golf cart-like vehicle. Kind of neat.
You access the "Egg" by hitting your remote's Left Arrow key followed immediately by the Right Arrow key from any of the eight Special Features Menu choices on Disc #4. After performing this "Left then Right Arrow" combination you'll see a "Star" come on the screen. Pressing "Enter" or "Play" with the star on the Menu screen will access the "Manny" Easter Egg.
Overall, it's a pretty satisfying batch of supplements offered up for this boxed set. But, in the end, this DVD collection would have been worth the price even if the 4th disc of bonus materials was excluded altogether. For it's the twenty-two magnificent episodes themselves that are truly the stars here.
on June 12, 2004
I had only seen perhaps one show, about a year ago (to catch Danica McKellar's character), before I bought the first season.
I must say this was a pleasant surprise. Well-written by Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote two Rob Reiner films "A Few Good Men" and "The American President", the depth of the political and social subject matter is very good.
As most people know, the series has garnered many Emmy awards. I believe one was for episode #10 "In Excelsis Deo", in which a homeless vet dies overnight on a park bench wearing the coat Toby (Richard Schiff) donated to the Goodwill. This deeply unnerves Toby, who is determined that "no one in the US should be left behind". In a later scene, Toby is trying to arrange to have the man buried at Arlington national cemetery with an honor guard. President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) at first is against it and asks..."Toby, if we start pulling strings like this for everybody, you don't think every homeless veteran will come out of the woodwork?" Toby replies "I can only hope, sir."
There is humor in the series as well. In one funny scene, the president had taken some medication for his bad back, and was higher than a kite. "You mean you're not supposed to take them both?"
I've just finished season two...waiting for season three.
on May 2, 2004
This series is funny and can also really pull the emotions from a viewer at times. A lot of comedy and good laughs in it. But the series also looks at some very serious and thought provoking issues of our time. It makes you think about those issues. And some episodes can also bring a tear to the viewer's eye. It attempts to show how decisions are made at the White House. The politics and so on. And I think it does a good job of it. Not sure it is that accurate as I have never served on the staff there, of course. We will have to hear from someone that has for that view.
Overall, it does what a good movie should do. And it does it time after time. Very good series. I missed it on the original release on TV. I am very glad that I watched it on DVD.
If you have not watched it, give it a try. I think you will be glad that you did.
Oh, by the way, I ran a business for over 20 years and I tend to be somewhat conservative. So this review is not because I am a liberal democrat. Whatever side of the fence you are on politically I think that you will probably enjoy the series.
on February 15, 2004
I was so happy to see the West Wing come out on DVD so I can get my fix whenever I want! I can't wait for the subsequent seasons to be released. The West Wing cast is tight right from the get-go. I love Allison Janney's CJ Cregg, Bradley Whitford's Josh Lyman and Moira Kelly's Mandy - she is perfectly crazy! The flow of the episodes is superb, especially without commercials! Sorkin's President Bartlet likes to drive his staff crazy with inane trivia and the dialogue is witty, smart and clever (3 words that mean the same thing, but you'll get it if you watch).
The bonus features and commentaires are stellar (have you found the easter egg? I have). There are some similarities to "The American President" and one episode has the same title as a Sports Night episode, but all is forgiven because Sorkin really seems to have his finger on the pulse of DC. With former Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers as a consultant, Sorkin strives for authenticity. It's realistic without being a documentary, fictional without being a total cartoon and I for one enjoy the heck out of it!
on February 10, 2004
I never watched "The West Wing" when it aired on broadcast TV simply because I wanted to enjoy the show from season one, and more importantly....in ORDER. Each of first season's 22 episodes are only 42 minutes commercial free minutes long and not one dog in the bunch! This show defines creative writing at its finest. It matters not what political persuasion you happen to be to enjoy this show for what it is, but for dramatic purposes the show's writers naturally had to pick a political party and run with it. So, like the proverbial coin toss, "The West Wing" happens to depict a fictional Democratic administration. Thanks to excellence in writing and acting, you may even learn some arcane details about our political process in a highly entertaining ways. The writers constantly challenge your intellect with amusing asides such as the President saying " Four words in the English language begin with the letters dw. What are they?" The rapid fire delivery of dialog by this superior ensemble cast is verbal poetry taking a brisk walk. This show is broadcast television striving hard to reach its finest potential. All the Emmys it has garnered speak for themselves. Highly recommended.
on February 6, 2004
I am a writer and, in my own opinion this is the only television show to achieve the level of perfection sought after by countless dramas, that end up adding up to nothing more than soap opera drivel. Aaron Sorkin is the one writer on television worth admiring, I dare you to compare any of his scripts to the best of any other tv show, and then make an attempt to prove to me that Sorkin's isn't the only one you would want to see performed and brought to life. Add to that, the best ensemble of actors in the history of commercial television and you have pure gold. I don't agree with his (real-life) politics, however, Martin Sheen proves here that he is the only man who could pull off such a rich and distinct character. While, Rob Lowe plays an idealist with a sense of absolute good, unseen on network television for being able to transform those ideals into being able to change and improve his country with what he sees and feels is right. This succesful imaginative concept is breathtaking in its finished form.
The season being aired now, season 5, is absolutely horrible, and it's not the actors fault. Aaron Sorkin left the show after the fourth season, and now John Wells took over! Are you kidding me his pervious show, ER, is one of the dramas of soap opera drivel that I was reffering to earlier. All of season 5's scripts are horrendous, and just downright sloppy.
So stick to only getting seasons 1,2,3, and 4 on DVD. And by the way season 2 was just announced for May 18th! and in widescreen nontheless. However it'll be on only four discs like the 1st season, so that means that they'll be two sided again which i hate, i have a 300 disc dvd changer and what's the point of having a piece of tecnology like that, if you have to keep flipping the disc's to watch the next episode. O well, for this show I'm will to take the punishment.