The West Wing

This is now on Netflix Streaming, so let’s chat about it!

Its really good. But I don’t remember much of it…

Watch it again! ;-)

That’s so surprising. I thought I had read that Amazon had cornered the rights for streaming West Wing episodes. I’m glad that’s not the case!

AH, great news. I’m feeling about due for a rewatch and this makes it a whole lot easier than my season box sets.

You hear me, physical media? Even when you felt easy, you were always high maintenance.

I’ll always want physical media for the special features, but I love this convenience. Makes tracking the episodes we’ve seen easier too.

I use thisto track tv episodes, for new and old shows.

Really comes in handy when you are watching like 10 different shows. :)

The first four seasons are great, but then it starts going downhill. Apparently they righted the ship for the finale, but they had lost me by then.

Sweet! I never saw any of it. I might even be able to persuade the wife to watch it…maybe.

K, this is very cool. :-)

Time to watch this for the fourth or fifth time! I love this show. I think my hatred for Newsroom was amplified by my disappointment that it came from the same person as The West Wing.

It’s pretty clear at this point that Sorkin peaked with The West Wing. The Newsroom is fine, but it’s a pale shadow of WW. Still, you know, being largely responsible for 4 seasons of one of the best television shows of all time is still pretty good.

And despite having watched the full series twice (and plenty of episodes I’ve seen 5 or 6 or 7 times), I started another run last night. Sigh.

Yeah, I’ve not been able to get past the pilot of The Newsroom. We were both like, “This is no West Wing” – which had one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen – and moved on.

So, when do people generally think WW went a bit downhill? Am I mistaken in saying somewhere in Season 4? (about the time of the re-election anyway)

Somewhere in season 4, you could tell Sorkin was becoming less involved, as the scripts didn’t feel as tight. It took them almost an entire season (season 5) to get their rhythm back after Sorkin left, but seasons 6-7 are almost as good as seasons 1-3, so thankfully it ends strong after that bump in the road.

To be fair, Newsroom did slowly get better in various ways over the course of the season.

I recently watched the first two episodes and I haven’t had a desire to watch any more of it. Keep in mind, I’m a guy who keeps up on current events, listens to NPR, follows politics, is fascinated by the office of the president, etc. I’m also kinda a sucker for Sorkin’s walk-and-talk style and competent people having technical conversations filled with snappy and biting comments. My impressions:

Who am I supposed to care about in this thing? The president comes off as imperious and over-perfect (the sledgehammer of an intro–“I am the Lord, your God…”–sets the tone). I LOVE Brad Whitford, but his character is an ass, and not in a charming way. I’m baffled by the fact that the story seems in the early stages to revolve around the president’s PR/communications people. I assume that’s because of Sorkin’s natural affinity for writers (he did comedy writing later with Studio 60)? The policy feels like it would be more interesting than the speechwriting.

It feels manufactured. More than most network dramas. The plot points with the president’s military surgeon, for instance, come too fast and too coercively. Yeah, thanks for making a big deal out of his beautiful new baby… And about that “I am the Lord” line… Are we really expected to believe that a conservative Christian, no matter how cynical or stupid, would quote the first commandment as “Honor thy mother and father”?

It feels self-serving. I don’t exactly agree with Sorkin’s politics, but I knew what I was getting into on that front, and I can tolerate plenty of other shows with a liberal bent. But if you’re going to be political, I think rule #1 would be to be just a little bit deferential and generous with your opponents. Avoid the straw-man and the easy jabs. What you don’t want is the audience feeling like Sorkin’s just making himself feel good about himself. And there were a couple of moments that had that feeling for me.

Someone care to explain what is so great about this show? I wasn’t watching much TV at the time it came out, and never had much interest in checking it out over the years, but it seems to be higly praised.

Convince me I should add it to my instant queue.

I think there’s a very clear decline in quality between the work Sorkin did on The West Wing prior to the September 11th attacks and his post 9/11 work. They recorded a special episode right after 9/11 that was really bad, but even if you skip that episode season three grapples with Sorkin’s 9/11 trauma in ways that hurt the show.

Because a number of episodes were already recorded or partially written before the attack you don’t really notice the decline until about a third of the way into season three. But once the show introduces a fictional Middle Eastern nation / whipping boy, you know you’ve hit the point where at least part of every episode is going to suck.

For the first 3.75 seasons, it’s some of the best television ever made. Amazing dialogue given by totally lovable characters (pulled off by a wonderful cast) and believable plotlines all come together to make something special. It’s really the pinnacle of Sorkin’s work. The fifth season stumbles after Sorkin leaves, but they find their rythym without him around the end of season five, and seasons six and seven are almost as fantastic as the first few. Totally worth watching.

I don’t think the decline is that early, as I had no problem with the middle eastern nation bit.