TV Review: The West Wing

April 28, 2006
Vikas Chowdhry

There cannot be a better time than this to get hold of the entire DVD set of The West Wing and watch it right from season one. At a time when the US seems to be bereft of leaders and ideas, with Republicans touting foolish ideas such as hundred dollar cash back to ease gasoline pains at the pump and the Democrats getting shrill about big oil and nobody seems to know if anyone is in control of things or if the buck stops anywhere at all, The West Wing offers a view of the Presidency where the policy and political operatives sound knowledgeable and the President is curious and understands the complexity of the issues facing him.

Even if, like me, you have been following the series on NBC, it is an entirely different experience to watch it on DVD. You will spend only about 42 minutes per episode, your continuity is not broken by commercials and you can watch multiple episodes over a Saturday afternoon or Friday night.

West Wing, which is loosely based on the Clinton years minus the sordid Lewinsky affair, was initially conceptualized as a day in the life of the West Wing operatives. This is borne by the pilot episode where Martin Sheen makes his entry only towards the end as the President of the United States. But urban legend has it that the portrayal of an intellectual President by Sheen was so powerful that the creator, Aaron Sorkin (who dated Maureen Dowd of the NYT for sometime) decided to have more of the screenplay revolve around him.

West Wing is an excellent demonstration of a TV series that manages to be riveting, fast paced and intellectually stimulating all at the same time. A TV drama that manages to educate you about various facets of the US constitution and yet manages to win three Emmys in a row is not a common occurrence on your typical network prime-time slot. If the current administration is an example of a Presidency with misplaced priorities, then the Bartlet administration of the West Wing is an excellent example of a Presidency that could be and The West Wing, the series is an excellent example of a network drama done perfectly. As the series draws towards its end during the next few weeks on NBC, I will take comfort in the fact that I can pop in the DVD anytime and relive those amazing memories.

So long the wonderful people behind this series and thank you for all the fish.

We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by. We can't all be villains because somebody has to sit on the curb and heckle as they go by. I am the one who claps and heckles.
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deepti lamba
April 28, 2006
10:09 AM

Vikas, I love West Wing.Its one the best 'chatty' series that I cant have enough of. The only problem is that I cant do anything else while I'm watching the show as its that chatty and I do like multi-tasking.

BTW- Do you see Shield?

Vikas Chowdhry
April 28, 2006
10:36 AM

You are so right Deepti. I put my laptop away while watching The West Wing because you might end up missing an important moment, a gesture or a dialog.

Shield? This is the first I have heard of it. Do tell me more (it has to be on DVD or on the networks because I don't have cable TV).

April 28, 2006
10:46 AM

4 seasons of Shield are out on DVD and it's the best show on any network.

Vikas Chowdhry
April 28, 2006
01:16 PM

Aha! So it was on FX Network and that is why I had never seen it before. Thank god for Netflix!

April 28, 2006
03:10 PM


confession: other than news don't watch much tv!...two exceptions...also one of them is winding down:(

great script...kept me can get back to back reruns on bravo monday evenings


the second one is called House ..tuesdays at a few and you will get hooked...caveat is very fast paced with great script and multi-tasking;)

Vikas Chowdhry
April 28, 2006
05:26 PM

My problem is that I am a political junkie. So even though House is great and I can't wait to watch Shield (it is already on my Netflix Q) - nothing will be able to replace the West Wing for me because it was a combination of politics and fast paced narrative.

Which reminds me of the three great socio-political serials that I used to love in India. "Tamas", "Chanakya" and "Mahayagya" (with Rohini Hattangadi as the protoganist) - great stuff. Heard that they don't make it like that anymore ever since the "K" team with Ekta Kapoor has taken over prime-time.

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