[Writer: John Sacret Young | Director: Rod Holcomb | Aired: 3/16/2005]
“I’m gonna remember this…” – Leo
The rules of fictional writing (be it in television, film, or literature) dictate that there are two types of bad stories – those that fail in concept, and those which fail in execution. The West Wing, despite its many triumphs, has produced multiple episodes in both categories. The “fail in concept” basket includes “Slow News Day,” which is ineptly plotted but at least features some glimmers of character competence, while the latter category slots in “Constituency of One,” which starts with a promising series of storylines and then bungles every last one of them.
And then once in a while, we get an episode that fails in both concept and execution. An episode like “Ninety Miles Away.”
Continue reading “West Wing 6×19: Ninety Miles Away”
[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Jason Ensler | Aired: 3/9/2005]
“Eleven and thirteen.” – Santos
Matthew Santos is charming, handsome, and charismatic. He jokes effortlessly with reporters and maintains friendly rapports with the folks on his campaign staff. He has a lovely wife and two cute-as-a-button kids, and they make the most beautiful gosh-darn family you’ve ever seen.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×18: La Palabra”
[Writer: Carol Flint | Director: Richard Schiff | Aired: 3/2/2005]
“He started it.” – Bartlet
I love debating. Whether it’s about TV shows, politics, or TV shows about politics, a good debate reminds my brain to stay alert and perhaps face arguments I’ve never considered before. Though we don’t always (read: basically never) convince our opponents over to our side, debating people with conflicting views is a good way to put your own views in perspective, and perhaps even sway neutral third parties in our direction.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×17: A Good Day”
[Writer: Debora Cahn | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 2/23/2005]
“You got a chance to shape the debate, strengthen the party, and you blew it!” – Toby
Among the many failings of Season Five, one of the most egregious was the way it turned TV’s greatest political series into a primetime soap opera. Illicit romances, interpersonal vendettas, and betrayals/backstabbings were brought to the forefront, often seemingly out of nowhere, and the show’s once-cutting political vernacular fell to the wayside.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×16: Drought Conditions”
[Writer: Josh Singer | Director: Laura Innes | Aired: 2/9/2005]
“The document is just the beginning.” – Lessig
I’m a sucker for titles with double-meanings, and “The Wake-Up Call” has a doozy. The name refers here to the late-night/early-morning call that the President receives during a national emergency. But it also refers to the recent metaphorical wake-up call – mapped out in the purposeful “365 Days” – to the Bartlet administration at large, which is now in its final year and must determine how to end on a high note.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×14: The Wake-Up Call”
[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 1/26/2005]
“I lived the opposing arguments.” – Santos
It’s impossible to envy the position John Wells was put in during the summer of 2003. Not only had he been left to take charge of one of the most lauded and award-winning dramas of the era, but he’d had no direct involvement with the series beforehand. That the series didn’t immediately collapse into a pile of ash and broken dreams with the Season Five premiere was something of a miracle.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×13: King Corn”
[Writer: Mark Goffman | Director: Andrew Bernstein | Aired: 1/19/2005]
“Everyone’s walking around here like we’re finished.” – Leo
There are certain oddities and inconsistencies of The West Wing which must be accepted in order for us to appreciate the show’s finer aspects. The unexplained disappearance of many side characters (did Mandy just get lost on her way to the Sit Room?). The occasional character inconsistencies and continuity errors (pretty much everything involving Zoey Bartlet). The fact that election years are staggered two years against real-life elections (although if they occurred during leap years, as happens in reality, I suppose this episode would have been distractingly titled “366 Days”).
Continue reading “West Wing 6×12: 365 Days”
[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Chris Misiano | Aired: 1/12/2005 ]
“How do you wanna go broke? As the brown candidate, or as the American candidate?” – Josh
Politicians, despite what cable news may tell us, are not props. They are as human as you or I. They have hang-ups and flaws and quirks and foibles. They have favorite foods and favorite films and families they occasionally get to see.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×11: Opposition Research”
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×10: Faith Based Initiative”
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×09: Impact Winter”
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×08: In the Room”
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×07: A Change is Gonna Come”
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×06: The Dover Test”
[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!
Continue reading “West Wing 6×05: The Hubbert Peak”
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×04: Liftoff”
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×03: Third-Day Story”
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×02: The Birnam Wood”
[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.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×01: NSF Thurmont”