InsidePulse DVD Review – The West Wing Season 6


credit: www.amazon.com

Cast:

Alan Alda……….Senator Arnold Vinick
Stockard Channing……….Abbey Bartlet
Kristin Chenoweth……….Annabeth Schott
Dulé Hill……….Charlie Young
Allison Janney……….Claudia Jean ‘C.J.’ Cregg
Joshua Malina……….Will Bailey
Mary McCormack……….Kate Harper
Janel Moloney……….Donna Moss
Richard Schiff……….Toby Ziegler
John Spencer……….Leo McGarry
Bradley Whitford……….Josh Lyman
Jimmy Smits……….Congressman Matthew Santos
Martin Sheen……….President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet

The Show

Since its premiere on television in 1999, The West Wing was consistently one of, if not the, best shows around. Smart scripts written by series creator Aaron Sorkin combined with a true insider’s feel provided by Washington, DC veterans such as Dee Dee Myers, Marlin Fitzwater, and Gene Sperling all added up to one of the most engaging and authentic glimpses into the inner workings of the American government to grace episodic television. But after the fourth season, Sorkin left the show after getting arrested for drug possession, leaving things in the hands of veteran TV producer John Wells. After a lackluster fifth season which was spent trying to find a new balance for the show, the sixth season arrived with muted expectations from its fanbase.

The end of the fifth season saw President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) deftly maneuvered into agreeing to try to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, after a bomb went off in the Gaza Strip, killing former Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Fitzwallace (John Amos) and severely wounding Donna Moss (Janel Moloney), longtime assistant of Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford). Bartlet is finally able to broker a deal between the Palestinians and Israelis, but the cost is using American troops as peacekeepers. This causes a violent disagreement between Bartlet and his Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer), leading to Bartlet firing Leo, which causes Leo to have a massive heart attack.

Bartlet and Leo mend their fences, but Leo is in no condition to continue working, so Bartlet, at Leo’s suggestion, appoints Press Secretary CJ Cregg (Allison Janney) as his new Chief of Staff, bypassing Josh and Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff). This, combined with Donna’s decision to quit as Josh’s assistant due to lack of job growth, causes Josh to question his continued presence in the White House. The Presidential Primaries are about to get under way, and both the former Vice President (Tim Matheson) and current Vice President (Gary Cole) want him to run their campaigns. Josh, however, decides to go in a different direction, recruiting Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits), a congressman from Texas who was about to quit politics.

While the Democrats slug it out for their party’s nomination, their worst fears are realized when Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) handily wins the Republican nomination. Vinick is the Democratic Party’s nightmare: a pro-choice Republican wildly popular in his home state of California. Meanwhile, Bartlet has issues of his own, as his multiple sclerosis kicks in, leaving him physically debilitated. And, to top it all off, three astronauts are trapped on the International Space Station as it slowly loses air, and none of the shuttles are in any condition to mount a rescue mission. There is, however, a military shuttle that’s been kept top secret and could mount the rescue, but at the expense of the world finding out about its existence. And before Bartlet gets the chance to make a decision about whether or not to use it, someone from the White House leaks its existence to the media.

If the fifth season was a series of missteps as the show tried to find its footing in the wake of Sorkin’s departure, the sixth season finds the show rebounding back as one of the best things on television. While the pithy banter may still be gone (no one writes that type of dialogue like Sorkin), the show is still able to engage the viewer with complex issues and relationships. Storylines that have been ongoing for several seasons finally start to get some closure, such as Bartlet’s MS and Josh and Donna’s relationship. It’s fulfilling to know as a long time viewer that seeds planted in season one finally begin to bear fruit. Is this a box set that newcomers can dive into? Well, yes and no. There are plenty of new storylines occurring that people can get involved with. But there are also things happening that will only be gotten by longtime viewers. Still, in a show filled with great episode after great episode, the sixth season marks a return to “Best Show on TV” status.

Score: 10/10

The Video

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the video is pristine. The West Wing has always been one of the best looking shows on TV, and it loses absolutely nothing in terms of quality with the transfer.

The Audio

Presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround Stereo, the audio is excellent. The dialogue is crystal clear, and the score comes through nicely as well.

The Extras

The extras are on the light side. You get three commentary tracks: “King Corn”, with writer/executive producer John Wells and episode director Alex Graves; “In God We Trust”, with writer Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. and episode director Christopher Misiano; and “2162 Votes”, with John Wells and episode director Alex Graves. All three commentaries are informative if dry. You also get “C.J. Cregg: From Press Secretary to Chief of Staff”, a 15-minute featurette chronicling the character arc of C.J. from, as the title says, Press Secretary to Chief of Staff. You get interviews with Janney and Wells, and it’s a nice addition. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of the extras. It leaves you wanting more.

Score: 4/10

InsidePulse’s Ratings for The West Wing Season 6
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

10
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

4
REPLAY VALUE

10
OVERALL
8.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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