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on June 14, 2007
After the great first four seasons, season five of the West Wing is, quite frankly, terrible. Aaron Sorkin, the architect of the four first seasons and creator of the show, was fired mid-story arc by NBC and probably had a hard time watching this season, as many familiar characteristics were stripped away. Donna has suddenly gone from being a bright-eyed optimist to a jaded Washington insider, constantly speaking in a bizarre low voice. Toby is no longer quirky, but simply mean and uninteresting. The assasination of Abdul Sharif, a story arc that had existed for over a season, is ended unceremoniously in a matter of a few minutes, shoved into the end of an episode and never spoken of again. Josh's character, once funny and energetic, is reduced to screaming at the capital building, a scene, intending to be a dramatic, more likely to produce laughter than further unerstanding of his character. Will Bailey, a great replacement for Sam in season four, takes a job with the new vice president, and loses his sharp wit along the way. Despite no longer working for the president, Will is still often at meetings determining presidential policy(?).

And all of a sudden, everyone's having sex. It turns out C.J. and the Vice President were once together, an absolutely absurd story line that is difficult to believe to say the least.Then, C.J. encourages Donna to "broaden her horizons" beyond Josh, and as a result, she sleeps with a guy before getting blown up while on a fact-finding mission to the Gaza strip.(Don't ask... just don't ask.)

The fast-paced dialogue that was a trademark of the show through its first four seasons disappears. Meetings in Leo's office or the Roosevelt Room that were once fast-paced now consist of short, bland dialogue, lacking real meaning. There were a couple of episodes that I simply couldn't get through.

And then there's the president. A man who was once, as he described himself, "full of mirth", has changed. His character is as dull as a pencil after the SATs. His part becomes bland and predictable, except for the truly bizarre storyline in which he shuts down the federal governement for five days, a decision that left even hardcore fans scratching their heads.

To sum this seaons up, I would say that this is definitely not a season where every episode deserves watching. Of the seven seasons, season 5 is by far the worst- I would reccomend it to those who are looking to have a compelte collection of West Wing episodes, not someone looking to be entertained.
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on August 31, 2007
We're super "West Wing" fans, but have to admit that Season 5 was missing a lot of the humor of the first 4 seasons. Still, it had some great moments, such as the selection of two judges for the Supreme Court. Aaron Sorkin's brilliant writing was sorely missed during this particular season, but keep watching. During seasons 6 & 7, someone found humor once again. Not as great as the Sorkin years, but still definitely worth watching.
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on May 6, 2016
Continuing my WEST WING Binge to distract me from the 2016 political circus, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching these episodes again for the first time since they were originally aired. Although I do not always agree with their politics (often I do), I enjoy the process. I am always encouraged to see this fictitious group of hard working, big hearted people doing whatever they can to make this a better world. The casting is great from the regulars to the extras...there are those you love and those you love to hate, but all are well cast and well directed. The show sheds light on the good days, the bad days, and the rare mundane days -- there is a bit of dramatic license in some of the story lines, but it is a balanced "what if this happened..." that keeps the momentum going. Oh, that we could see this in today's politics~~
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on July 26, 2015
I spend all of my time on the treadmill at home watching DVDs. I am now on this season of WW. I wish I had watched it when it was on! Great cast, and very plausible scenarios. I wish Jed Bartlet was really in office.
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on February 3, 2006
I discovered the West Wing late in 2003, just as the first season became available on DVD. As a person who looked upon TV with some disdain (having not really watched any significant amount of television since I was a kid), the show demonstrated to me that TV really could be something worth watching. I eagerly ate up every available episode on Bravo and bought the DVDs as they came out.

Imagine my pain when I learned of the departure of Sorkin and Schlamme. Season 4 ended on a cliffhanger like no other in all of television, on several levels. Here I was, a person who didn't really even like TV, actually mourning the fact that the situation would never see a "proper" resolution as Sorkin would have imagined it.

In fact, my worst fears were true. The first three or so episodes of season 5 are without a doubt the worst episodes of this series ever made. The climax at the end of season 4 is resolved clumsily, in true "deus ex machina" form. It was almost heartbreaking. However, the show did pick up again, though never achieving its former glory, and there are definitely some worthwhile moments in season 5. Season 6 started out terrific, and I really had hopes for the show's future. But I think interest petered out with the transformation of the show into "The Campaign Trail." Alan Alda notwithstanding, I suppose the show's recently announced finality was inevitable all along.

I'll be buying this DVD set, however, and not just for the sake of completeness. West Wing is much like pizza and sex: even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. In fact, it's better than pretty good. It's still just about the best thing on TV, and the smartest. With the possible exception of those first three Season 5 episodes (which are personally painful for me to watch), the show is still dazzles with its terrific cast.

Here's hoping the series finale this May is a worthy conclusion and makes for some memorable television (and Rob Lowe, please call John Wells ...)
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on September 15, 2012
As I watch this now, so many years after the series ended, I get chills as the plot lines continue, constantly, to mirror the same political and social issues we're dealing with today. Middle Eastern unrest. The shutdown of the government due to political posturing. The assassination of Middle eastern terrorists. The stalemate between a Democratic president and his Republican Congress. Every episode is still relevant. Still powerful. If only we our real life leaders could be this wise and charismatic, with a staff just as erudite and lightning "quick" with both the comebacks and the pertinent facts and strategies. Sorkin's new "Newsroom" pales by comparison, but it's good to see him still fighting the good fight. "The West Wing" is one of TVs shining moments, though. And I am eternally grateful that he was bold enough to tackle Washington, warts and all, with such remarkable insight--it's good entertainment, too.
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on June 9, 2011
Aaron Sorkin is one of the great storytellers of our time. A protege of William Goldman, he didn't recently secure himself an Oscar for Best Screenplay (The Social Network, dir. David Fincher) by some happy accident.

Tommy Schlamme, Sorkin's comrade-in-arms: Schalmme pioneered a number of visual storytelling techniques, the "walk and talk" (steadicam takes of various series regulars making their way through the halls of the West Wing while delivering necessary exposition as well as furthering previous mentioned plot-points in an active manner) being the most well-known. We see it on practically every television drama these days.

Together, they designed some of the best television in recent years. The first 4 seasons of The West Wing were masterfully constructed. Sure, they had a terrific cast at their disposal, but their ability to construct pitch-perfect narratives is what truly propelled the show into the spotlight.

So when both men were forced to leave NBC and The West Wing at the tail end of the 4th season, it was to be expected that the show would drop in quality as a result.

John Wells was left in charge. Competent? Sure, but nowhere near comparable to the Sorkin/Schlamme dream-team. Wells had previously worked on the mediocre NBC drama, Third Watch, one of numerous interchangeable, homogenized shows that rehash stereotypical, underdeveloped plots and two dimensional characters in attempts to maintain ratings.

So, yes, many things fell by the wayside in the 5th season, the show being held up exclusively through the formidable talents of its stellar cast.

Generally speaking, all the main characters were often hacked into 2 dimensional parodies of their former selves, caricatures (i.e. 1)the President begins acting like a petulant child, ignoring his duties due to emotional distress 2)Josh yelling at the Capitol building in a particularly embarrassing moment for the writing staff... and many more).

Sorkin was notorious for throwing new sub-plots into the mix at the last minute, but he would plan the overarching narratives out well in advance, subtly sewing them into the ongoing storyline piecemeal so that when they finally reached their climax, the collective effect was always a profound one. Also, he mentioned that it was of primary importance to him that viewers see how the main characters lived for their work, lived in service of their goals and philosophies, that their jobs in the White House always came first irrespective of whatever was happening in their lives. No longer...

Under Wells, we began seeing very familiar relationship cliches, characters appearing out of nowhere (i.e. 1)Toby's new assistant, Marina, cute with "aw shucks" folksy smarts... you can't just fall into a position as the Executive Assistant to the White House Communications Director 2)Jesse Bradford as the obnoxious intern who oversteps his duties, with Leo simply saying, "I want him on the staff. He's Pierce's nephew." What???), characters disappearing without mention (i.e. all of a sudden Mary-Louise Parker is completely gone and shortly after, Josh is having ongoing flirtations with other women, no reasons given as to why his relationship with Parker's character, Amy Gardner, is no longer any kind of issue), absurdly casual behavior around the President (too many incidents to mention... under Sorkin, we'd see the affection they all had for Bartlett, but always in appropriate context and the President would break through established formal conventions if need be... those moments were subtle and revealed a great deal about character, but under Wells, it was always the most obvious tacky sentimental cringe-inducing moment spit out over and over again), glaring inconsistencies (so, Hoynes and CJ slept together 10 years prior to Bartlett's 2nd term... HOW? She had never met the guy prior to joining the original Bartlett for America campaign... Hoynes was a Senator and she was a Hollywood publicist living in L.A.), and damned if they didn't reduce Josh Malina's role (yeah, let's give an incredibly compelling new character that Sorkin clearly intended to be a major part of the new Bartlett Administration less and less to do).

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Some of these ideas weren't bad on a conceptual level, but they were always executed with the skill of a student rushing to complete an essay at the last minute for a class they didn't know much about. Wells, his writing staff, and the network turned Sorkin's brilliant political drama into a feckless soap opera set against a political backdrop. The saving grace of the 5th season is the collectively and consistently outstanding performance of the acting ensemble.
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on February 26, 2016
My wife and I loved West Wing when it was on-air and we now use these for those periods when there are, basically, only reruns on TV. (We are somewhat selective about what we watch, so we sometimes have "dry periods" in our choices.)

If you haven't watched West Wing, you have missed out! The acting and scripts are unbelievably good ... my wife and I find ourselves asking each other what happened to the writers for West Wing because today's shows aren't this good!
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on December 7, 2005
There is definitely a change in the West Wing for Season 5, while Aaron Sorkin and Rob Lowe are very sorely missed, it is still the same incredible cast of characters, for the most part, that continue to make this the best show on television.

Season is 5 is far from the best and nowhere near as good as seaons 2 and 3, but there are still some very worthwhile episodes and even those episodes that fall short of the quality of this show, it is still a pleasure to watch Leo, Josh, CJ, Toby and Jed in the West Wing.

I admit, I briefly debated purchasing season 5, but in the end I

found myself at Target today, it's first day of release, buying the second to last set they had on the shelf. My love of these wonderful characters and the show itself, beat out the disappointment I felt in some of the casting, writing and storyline decisions.

I don't watch much TV, there are very, very few shows that I HAVE to see and none that I enjoy as much as The West Wing. I'm glad I got Season 5 to add to my collection, so when the sad day comes when it is only shown in re-runs, I'll know I can just pop in a DVD to get my fix of the best shown on TV.
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on September 24, 2006
The unfortunate thing about Season 5 is that many of the most dedicated viewers of The West Wing started watching the show because they were fans of Alan Sorkin. There was an automatic knee-jerk reaction against the new regime on the show, perhaps understandably so in light of the early episodes. However, once they got settled in, the new writers managed to turn out some of the best episodes (including my personal favourite) of the entire series.

The season starts with a new "president," former speaker of the house Glenallen Walken, a blustering militaristic Republican who was brought in to help the country through the kidnapping of President Bartlett's daughter Zoey. The kidnapping cliffhanger of Season 4 was the best cliffhanger episode of the series, and if the payoff isn't quite as good, it's still gripping. John Goodman as Walken is one of the best guest stars the show has had, embodying an almost stereotypical member of the GOP, yet infusing a convincing degree of reality to the part. The series then continues with a depressing and overly drawn-out series of episodes containing a showdown between the new speaker of the House (a young and obnoxious Republican) and the White House over a budget appropriation bill. The season (and the series) almost goes off the rails for good in this storyline, wherein our favourite characters are repeatedly kicked and bullied for 4 straight episodes. Josh fares especially badly, which must have really angered the Sorkin purists, who remember that the show was originally supposed to focus on Josh, Sam, and the other junior members of the administration. Josh does redeem himself with a "publicity stunt" that ends this set of shows on a high note, but it doesn't really make up for the drudgery we've had to plod through to get to the resolution.

Fortunately, the series then picks up dramatically. There follows a series of 1-off episodes, many of which are among my favourite of the entire series. One subject dear to my own heart, as a scientist, is the episode Eppur Si Muove (named for a quote by Galileo), where Eli's supervisor's funding is cut off because he is investigating the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease, not a "respectable" disease in the eyes of some lawmakers on the Hill. It is eerily prescient of the current Bush administration's interference in research, cutting off funding for projects deemed as valueless in the "War" against terrorism. The point is made that independent research is necessary to find the big ideas - superconductivity, the structure of DNA, silicon microchips, etc. were discovered because the scientists looking at the problems were free to direct their research as they saw fit, without political interference.

Other highlights of the season include "The Supremes," my all-time favourite West Wing episode, guest starring Glenn Close as a candidate for a vacant Supreme Court seat. "Full Disclosure" has C.J. sparring with former VP Hoynes over a new tell-all book, in which he attempts to paint himself in the best light possible (to the detriment of the Bartletts and their staff). "The Warfare of Ghengis Khan" follows the joint stories of an unattributed nuclear test in the Indian Ocean and Josh sparring with NASA administrators over space exploration (another great science-based episode). "The Stormy Present" brings back John Goodman and brings in James Cromwell as former presidents attending a state funeral. And "Han" gives us a world-renowned North Korean pianist who asks for political asylum in the U.S. on the eve of a sensitive nuclear arms negotiation with Pyongyang.

The season then concludes with the "third rail" ("touch it and you die") of foreign policy - the Israel-Palistine conflict. In what is the weakest series cliffhanger to date, a congressional delegation (including Admiral Fitzwallace and Donna as observers, and Toby's wife, Congresswoman Wyatt) is attacked by terrorists. A roadside bomb hits their motorcade (apparently deliberately targetted), setting off a crisis in the Middle East. While I applaud the ability of the writers to bring clarity to the issue (including the distrust felt by the administration over the thinly veiled Yassar Arafat-esque chairman of the Palastinian Authority), there is little tension for our main characters, as we learn before the season ends who lives and dies as a result of the explosion. Thus, the "cliffhanger" part is nothing more than a political/intellegence mistep by Bartlett (and an international one, at that), hardly in the same league as Zoey's kidnapping of the season before, or the assassination attempt at the end of Season 1.

Overall, the middle is very good, the end is a little weak, and there is a 4-show set near the beginning of the season that is best forgotten. As usual, there are few extras, and so I'll include my standard plea - why can't we have political scientists comment on the show in audio commentaries? This would be the perfect opportunity to showcase the intellegence of the writing and foster debate about issues like the Arab-Israeli conflict, social security, the vetting process of appointing judges, etc. Instead, we get mild and bland commentaries on the making of the shows. What a waste of an opportunity.
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