West Wing 6×10: Faith Based Initiative

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[Writer: Bradley Whitford | Director: Chris Misiano | Aired: 1/5/2005 ]

“Am I wrong to want to set the record straight? No pun intended?” – CJ

If you’ve been following these reviews for a while, you’ve probably noted that I don’t like The West Wing placing its politics front and center. The show is at its strongest when it points the magnifying glass at its characters, with policies and procedures functioning mainly as story fuel.

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West Wing 6×09: Impact Winter

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[Writer: Debora Cahn | Director: Leslie Linka Glatter | Aired: 12/8/2004 ]

“This is the back room.” – Leo

During the teaser sequence of “Impact Winter,” Annabeth and Josh discuss the upcoming press briefing, which will occur during “Take Out the Trash Week.” Annabeth asks Josh if he’s interested in doing the press briefing in Toby’s absence, but Josh swiftly declines, noting what a powder keg the press room can be.

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West Wing 6×08: In the Room

6x08_top[Writers: Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 12/8/2004]

“You have a year to talk me out of voting for him.” – Donna

Among the numerous changes made during the Sorkin-to-Wells transition, few are as jarring as The West Wing’s newfound penchant for “modern” cultural references. Sorkin cut off the show’s real-world history around the Nixon era, and the culture discussed in the White House rarely ticked past 1975. But a new production team brings a new flavor to the series, and so it is that references inch slightly closer to the 21st century. “In the Room,” for example, has a throwaway line where Bartlet references the political TV series Crossfire. It’s only a brief mention, but it sticks out jarringly against the show’s retrograde framework.

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West Wing 6×07: A Change is Gonna Come

6x07_top[Writers: John Sacret Young & Josh Singer | Director: Vincent Misiano | Aired: 12/1/2004]

“Piece of cloth. Cheesy piece of fabric.” – Josh

As I’m writing this review, my West Wing DVDs – the Complete Series collection – sits idly on a nearby shelf. It’s a magnificent DVD set, packed with great special features and a glossy series guide. But a thin layer of dust covers the set box – in truth, I’ve not consulted the DVD set in a while. Whenever I need to rewatch an episode for review, I simply pull it up and stream it on Netflix.

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West Wing 6×06: The Dover Test

6x06_top_[Writer: Carol Flint | Director: Laura Innes | Aired: 11/24/2004 ]

“You don’t work here anymore.” – Debbie

It’s unfortunately telling that the two most interesting characters in “The Dover Test” do not have any direct affiliation with the Bartlet White House. In fact, it’s unfortunate, period – most of the main characters spend this episode looking out of their element, wandering from one hallowed room to another in search of a direction.

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West Wing 6×05: The Hubbert Peak

6x05_top[Writer: Peter Noah | Director: Julie Hébert | Aired: 11/17/2004 ]

“We didn’t have the votes.” – Josh

The Toyota Prius is one of the most fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly cars ever made. Not only will it get you where you need to go, but it’ll do so without polluting the air with unwanted carbon emissions. You can look good while driving, and you’ll save a dozen friendly seagulls with each trip. Go green – go Prius!

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West Wing 6×04: Liftoff

6x04_top[Writer: Debora Cahn | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 11/10/2004 ]

“I don’t think this is gonna work out.” – CJ

Network television is built on status quo – individual episodes may play around with character dynamics, but in the long run, nothing can change. Yet the longer a show stays on the air, the more difficult status quo is to maintain. Even the most reliable formula will eventually grow stale, at which point fans will begin hungering for change.

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West Wing 6×03: Third-Day Story

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[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 11/3/2004 ]

“It’s that little burst of warmth before you freeze to death.” – CJ

“Third-Day Story” is a step up from the first two episodes of The West Wing’s sixth season. That’s not saying a great deal, but it’s worth acknowledging. As the show shucks off the effects of the wrong-headed Israel/Palestine arc, it tries to return to its baseline status quo – but the results, especially in the early going, are mixed.

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West Wing 6×02: The Birnam Wood

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[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 10/27/2004 ]

“Sir, should we be here?” – Josh

About the best thing that can be said about “The Birnam Wood” is that it’s not nearly as self-aggrandizing as it could have been. The episode could have been an exercise in pompous polemic, the sort of all-too-important speechifying that doomed the worst of the Sorkin episodes. But John Wells (who wrote this episode, in addition to the preceding “Memorial Day” and “NSF Thurmont”) keeps the drama toned-down and evenly moderated. Attempts at political grandstanding are few and far between.

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West Wing 6×01: NSF Thurmont

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[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 10/20/2004 ]

“Everyone disagrees with your assessment.” – Leo

When trying to persuade someone to watch the post-Sorkin seasons of The West Wing, I typically offer some standby words of encouragement: “Season Five is pretty rough. But stick with it. The show gets back on its feet in Season Six.”

And it does! The sixth season of The West Wing returns the show to its revered status as one of television’s most complex and riveting dramas. Except… it doesn’t do it right away.

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