West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season (DVD)
Experience the inner workings of the White House in this innovative, multi-award-winning drama series. Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now) stars as President Josiah Bartlet. After nearly eight years, President Bartlet's time in the White House has come to an end, and two formidable men vie for the Presidency: Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda), a Republican senator from California, and Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits), a three-term Houston Democratic congressman. After suffering a heart attack, former Advisor to the President Leo McGarry (John Spencer) resolutely serves as Santos' vice presidential running mate, ably assisted by Annabeth Schott (Kristin Chenoweth). Former Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) keeps his highly regarded political mind in overdrive as Santos' campaign manager. The final season also stars Stockard Channing, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, Mary McCormack, Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff. Recurring guest star Lily Tomlin continues as Bartlet's quirky secretary.
Get out your hankies for the moving final season of The West Wing. It's not just because it's the last season, and the last time we know we'll hear that thrilling theme music. It's not just because it's the end of the line for the administration of President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet (Martin Sheen), an inspiring, beloved fictional leader of the free world in a time of great cynicism about real-life politicians. It's also because of the sudden, untimely death of costar John Spencer, who played chief of staff Leo McGarry, who, like his character, was a recovering alcoholic and died of a heart attack in December 2005. Spencer's death was worked into the season's story line, and it's both exhilarating to see some of Spencer's finest work in the early episodes here, and heartbreaking to see the impact of his death on the cast. At one point, Martin Sheen delivers a moving on-air tribute: "Johnny, it seems we hardly knew you." Other highlights of the season include the fleshing out of presidential candidates Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits, both respectable, admirable and worthy opponents. And in abundance are the things viewers had come to love about the show: the witty dialogue and spot-on delivery, especially by actors Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, and the crack Allison Janney and the long tracking and circular shots of characters in their element (subsequently found on creator Aaron Sorkin's follow-up series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). If the story lines aren't as topnotch as some in earlier years, it hardly matters, as this is the season that wraps up the entire story arc. The gimmicks, like the live debate between Smits and Alda's characters, don't hold a candle to the true soul-searching and idealism found in every single episode. The set includes all 22 episodes, a glossy guide to each episode, and "Live from the Director's Chair," a mini-doc about filming the live debate episode. Hail to the chief! --A.T. Hurley