The West Wing: Season 2
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West Wing: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
It's never politics as usual inside this Oval Office. The President and his staff have been targeted for disruption by rival politicians, soon after being targeted by would-be assassins. Yet the determined colleagues continue to serve the U.S. and its President as the administration heads through midterm elections and into a crisis that leads to allegations of criminal conduct. The West Wing's second season won the Best Drama Series Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.]]>
The second season of The West Wing takes up literally where the first season left off and, after a few moments of patriotic sentimentalism, maintains the series' astonishingly high standards in depicting the everyday life of the White House staff of a Democratic administration. The two-part opener covers the immediate aftermath of the assassination attempt on President Bartlet (Martin Sheen), switching between the anxious wait on the injured and flashbacks to Bartlet's campaign for the Presidency. Other peaks in a series exceedingly short on lows include "Noel," the episode in which Alan Arkin's psychiatrist forces Josh Lynam to confront his post-traumatic stress disorder and the episodes in which President Bartlet, following a tragic car accident, rails angrily against God in Latin.
Other new aspects include the introduction of Ainsley Hayes, a young Republican counsel hired after she beats communications deputy Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) in a TV debate ("Sam's getting his ass kicked by a girl!" crow his colleagues), as well as the revelation that the President has been suffering from multiple sclerosis. Tensions grow between him and the First Lady (Stockard Channing) as she realizes, in the episode "Third State of the Union," that he intends to run for a second term in office. It becomes clear to Bartlet that he must go public with his MS, and his staff is forced to come to terms with this, as well as deal with the usual plethora of domestic and international incidents, which apparently preclude any of them from having any sort of private lives. These include crises in Haiti and Columbia, an obstinate filibuster, and a Surgeon General's excessively frank remarks about the drug situation. Thankfully, the splendid Lord John Marbury (Roger Rees) is on hand to make chief of staff Leo McGarry's life more of a misery in "The Drop-In."
These episodes, though occasionally marred by a sentimental soundtrack and an earnest and wishfully high regard for the Presidential office, are master classes in drama and dialogue, ranging from the wittily staccato to the magnificently grave, capturing authentically the hectic pace of political intrigue and the often vain efforts of decent, brilliant people to do the right thing. The West Wing is one of the all-time great TV dramas. --David Stubbs
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In this year of 2011, I couldn't agree more. Yet, every once in a very great while, there comes along a show which is really worth watching. The West Wing (TWW) was such a show. The members of the White House staff are portrayed as smart, energetic, and principled, which is of course at variance to government in general. Jon Stewart once described The West Wing as "Total ******* bull****." In a sense, he was right. These characters aren't really true to life, particularly when it comes to the issue of integrity. But we wish that's how our government operated. And that's why TWW was, for me, appointment television.
Noel has particular interest to me as a therapist. It is well-written, the hallmark of Aaron Sorkin's work, with excellent character development. The stages that the character Josh Lyman goes through with metamorphoses in his issue of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder are very true to life. All of the symptoms he shows are textbook, and they were very well acted. Add to that his reliving of his shooting with Yo Yo Ma's rendition of the first movement of Bach's 1st Cello Suite as a backdrop, made for a stunning presentation.
I recommend this second season or any other season highly. The direction, script, characters, acting, drama are absolutely stirring. Once you see a couple of these stories you may develop an inability to recall any other show or program that was nearly as good during your TV watching lifetime.
This is a story of our government and how our government should operate, with characters that have ideals instead of agendas, whom you can trust, and trust not to play dirty tricks. I wish everyone in the current West Wing could be made to watch this over and over again!
The episodes of hiring the young republican counsel, Mrs. Lanningham, and the treatment of PTSD are funny, dramatic, tragic, and powerful. This is not just a cut above American Idol or survival shows (which could whip The West Wing viewer into a hypnotic trance), it is a cut above the very best of the best in TV history.
You will watch these episodes over and over again. You will feel like you own a set of classics when you purchase this season or any other, and you will no longer feel the need to apologize to European viewers for our commercial interruptions.
Too bad there aren't six stars! It's just that good.