The West Wing is widely acknoledged to be one of the finest slices of television, consistently good across seven seasons, with sparkling dialogue and memorable characters. For a Brit viewer, some of the episodes – those politically heavy – sounded as though they were being acted in another language, since I have absolutely no knowledge of the American political environment, but even those gripped me.
A forum I frequent recently began discussing The West Wing, and I decided it was high time I dusted off my DVD collection and began a rewatch.
So here we are at the first episode, which dumps you straight into a chaotic White House and introduces you to all the major players, as well as setting up some of the future story arcs. I love the fact that you are never treated as an idiot viewer – as I say, the dialogue fairly crackles along, being intelligent and witty.
However, there are also moments of gravitas even this early on – thanks mainly to the introduction of the President himself. Martin Sheen plays such a brilliant, eccentric turn as the President – a man who knows his Scriptures as well as his political opponents as well as his Latin. I think a lot of people watched this President and wished heartily that he was truly in charge of the White House!
Some of the characters received only short screen time, but this is more than made up for in future episodes. Even so, each of them was given their defining characteristic in this first episode – Toby is cantankerous but fiercely loyal; Leo is a driving force, thinking only of the President and the Democratic Party; CJ is worried but clever, and slightly paranoid that she is the new kid on the block. We also had our first introduction to Josh and Donna, and their somewhat dysfunctional but affectionate relationship as boss and assistant.
So, great stuff right from the get-go, but, being aware that future episodes will increase the tension, the emotion, the comedy and the drama I will award this a solid three out of five stars.