THE WEST WING:
As I stated in my review of season one, THE WEST WING is truly one of the most compelling dramas to ever air on network television. Solidly written and acted, THE WEST WING truly redefined the catch phase "must see TV" with its weekly dose of thought provoking and politically charged entertainment, which just happened to take place inside the walls of The White House. Earning nine Emmy Awards in its freshman year (not to mention an additional seven for season two), the creative team behind THE WEST WING proved they still had a few tricks up their sleeves at seasonís end- with that episode leaving audiences with one doozie of a cliffhanger.
As expected, season two doesnít miss a beat; picking up exactly where season one left off- and showing the aftermath of the cliffhanger. Not to mention, how is effected the residents and staff of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The ramifications of the cliffhanger are felt across the second season, plus the sophomore year of THE WEST WING finds the White House dealing with the repercussions of a revealed secret, which threaten the sitting Presidentís chances for reelection. The excellent cast of THE WEST WING features Martin Sheen as President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet, 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, Dulť Hill as Presidential Aide Charlie Young, Janel Moloney as Josh Lymanís assistant Donna Moss and Stockard Channing as the First Lady, Dr. Abbey Bartlet, M.D..
THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON ($60) comes to DVD in a four-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired in the showís sophomore year: In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen: Part I, In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen: Part II, The Midterms, In This White House, And It's Surely To Their Credit, The Lame Duck Congress, The Portland Trip, Shibboleth, Galileo, NoŽl, The Leadership Breakfast, The Drop In, Bartlet's Third State Of The Union, The War At Home, Ellie, Somebody's Going To Emergency, Somebody's Going To Jail, The Stackhouse Filibuster, 17 People, Bad Moon Rising, The Fall's Gonna Kill You and 18th And Potomac, Two Cathedrals.
Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The series actually looks better in the wide screen dimensions intended for high definition broadcast, than it did the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, in which the first season was produced. Image sharpness and detail are quite good, with only the occasional shot that comes across as mildly soft. Colors appear solid and provide a good level of saturation. Blacks appear accurate, whites are clean and contrast is better than expected for a television production. The film elements display very few blemishes and little appreciable grain. Even with four episodes encoded onto a side of a disc, digital compression artifacts remain well camouflaged.
All the episodes that comprise THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON are presented on DVD with Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtracks, all of which decode to standard surround. Again, as with season one, THE WEST WING is a dialogue driven show and I doubt that 5.1 channel encoding would have brought any significant improvements to the quality of the sound. Most of the sound emanates from the forward soundstage, the center channel in particular, with the rears providing only very mild reinforcement. Fidelity is quite good, with the scores having an excellent sense of musical presence. Voices sound quite natural and the dialogue is always completely understandable. No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included.
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 Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney are provided on the following four episodes: In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen: Part I, In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen: Part II, NoŽl and 18th And Potomac. On side "A" of disc four one will find the remaining supplemental programming. Constructing Two Cathedrals is a seventeen-minute look at that season two finale. Access Granted is an interactive look at The White House that features a fourteen-minute video tour. Gag Order includes a little more than a minutes worth of goofs and flubs from season two. Deleted Scenes delivers ten minutes of materials that were cut out of season two.
THE WEST WING represents network television at its best- a compelling, thought provoking show that really entertains the pants off you. As for THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, Warner has done their usual bang up job with the DVD- offer high quality presentations and some nice supplemental content. Fans of this terrific series will definitely want to add THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON to their collections. Highly recommended.
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