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THE WEST WING:
THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

What can one say about one of the most acclaimed television dramas of all time that hasn’t already been said? Not much, to perfectly honest. Created and largely written by Aaron Sorkin, THE WEST WING is a thought provoking and highly entertaining television show- two things that many programs are, but rarely together. Now, as someone who started watching THE WEST WING somewhat late in the show’s history (after all the critical acclaim, and its nine first season Emmy Awards) I am delighted that it is being released on DVD, as it allows latecomers like myself the opportunity to catch up with any episodes they may have missed. As I side note, I should mention that I am getting to the point where I actually prefer watching television shows on DVD and skipping the original television broadcasts all together.

Taking place in the White House, THE WEST WING is certainly a politically charged drama, but I feel the show’s strength lies in its more human aspects, not to mention its fully developed characters. For those of you who may have never seen THE WEST WING, the premise of the show follows the day-to-day world of the presidential staff under fictional American President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet (Martin Sheen). In the offices of the West Wing, one will find John Spencer as White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, Bradley Whitford as Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler, Rob Lowe as Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, Allison Janney as White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, Dulé Hill as Presidential Aide Charlie Young and Janel Moloney as Josh Lyman’s assistant Donna Moss. Another familiar face around the White House is Stockard Channing as The First Lady, Dr. Abbey Bartlet, M.D..

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THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON ($60) comes to DVD in a four-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired in that first year: Pilot, Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc, A Proportional Response, Five Votes Down, The Crackpots And These Women, Mr. Willis Of Ohio, The State Dinner, Enemies, The Short List, In Excelsis Deo, Lord John Marbury, He Shall, From Time To Time, Take Out The Trash Day, Take This Sabbath Day, Celestial Navigation, 20 Hours In L.A., The White House Pro-Am, Six Meetings Before Lunch, Let Bartlet Be Bartlet, Mandatory Minimums, Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics and What Kind Of Day Has It Been?.

Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available on DVD in the proper 4:3 full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. This being a relatively new show, it is not surprising that THE WEST WING looks pretty darn good on DVD. The image appears fairly sharp and well defined, although it is not at the level of a theatrical feature. Occasionally, a shot or two will appear mildly soft, but for the most part, the picture is very pleasing. Colors appear solid, have good saturation and are rendered with natural looking flesh tones. Blacks are very accurate, whites are clean and contrast is good, although it does remain at the television level. The film elements used to master the episodes are pretty clean, with an occasional speck of dust generally being the worst of it. There is a bit of grain here and there, but nothing particularly bothersome. Even with four episodes encoded onto a side of a disc, digital compression artifacts remain nicely concealed.

All the episodes that comprise THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON are presented on DVD with a Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtracks that decodes to standard surround. Considering that THE WEST WING is first and foremost a talky drama, I doubt that 5.1 encoding would have brought any significant improvements to the sound. Most of the sound emanates from the forward soundstage, with the rear channels offering occasional and sometimes barely perceptible reinforcement. Fidelity is quite good; with the musical scores having a smooth quality and the sound effects being rendered convincingly. Dialogue is always completely understandably and the voices sound quite natural. No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included.

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Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements that have been spread throughout the set. Audio commentaries by executive producers Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme (plus additional comments by others) have been provided for the following five episodes Pilot, In Excelis Deo, Take This Sabbath Day, Celestral Navigation and What Kind Of Day Has It Been?.

On side "A" of disc four one will find the remaining supplemental programming. The Primaries runs seventeen minutes and looks at the show’s inception and creation. The Inauguration clocks in at twenty-nine minutes and touches on various topics, including how the show recreates its famous setting. Capital Beat provides eight minutes of interviews with political consultants. Sheet Music is an eight-minute program focusing on composer W.G. Snuffy Walden and his contributions to the show. Deleted Scenes includes four scenes cut from the show, totaling five minutes worth of material. Gag Order includes three minutes of goofs and flubs from season one. The West Wing Suite could be considered a music video of sorts, with its blend of music clips from the show. Off the Record is another three minutes of goofiness taken from the materials produced for the DVD.

THE WEST WING is truly one of the greatest dramas to ever be produced for the television medium. Beautifully written and acted, THE WEST WING shows how compelling television can be, that is, when it is done correctly. As for THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON DVD set, Warner has done another first rate job- giving the episodes very solid audio and video presentations, plus very worthwhile supplemental features. If you are a fan, THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is a must have. If you have never experienced the series, the DVD set is an ideal way to play catch-up. Highly recommended.

 

THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON 


The West Wing - The Complete First Season (2000)

 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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