THE WEST WING:
Although it was no longer the darling of critic and audiences, THE WEST WING did not go out with a whimper during its seventh and final season on the air. Season seven of THE WEST WING shifts the series focus somewhat away from the day-to-day runnings of The White House under the Bartlett administration, and instead, towards the Presidential hopefuls that are looking to succeed him. A number of the regular faces at The West Wing are already in key positions to one of Bartlett's potential successors and the season seven stories follow them on the campaign trail, as well as through and past the nail biter of an election. As the series swan song, season seven also tries to bring a sense of closure to a number of the characters and their story lines, none so much as John Spencer's Leo McGarry, who succumbs to a fatal heart attack after the actor's passing.
Set inside The White House, the excellent cast of THE WEST WING features Martin Sheen as President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet, John Spencer as Vice Presidential candidate Leo McGarry, Bradley Whitford as Deputy Chief of Staff / Santos Campaign Manager Josh Lyman, Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler, Joshua Malina as Deputy Communications Director Will Bailey, Allison Janney as White House Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg, Dulé Hill as Presidential Aide Charlie Young, Janel Moloney as Josh Lyman’s assistant Donna Moss, Stockard Channing as the First Lady, Dr. Abbey Bartlet, M.D. and Lily Tomlin as President Bartlet's Private Secretary Deborah Fiderer. Season seven also features Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits as Presidential contenders Republican Senator Arnold Vinick and Democratic Congressman Matthew Santos. Also making appearances during season seven are Teri Polo, Oliver Platt, Marlee Matlin, Janeane Garofalo, Timothy Busfield, NiCole Robinson, Renee Estevez, Mitch Pileggi, Sam Robards, Patricia Richardson, Ron Silver, Annabeth Gish, Tim Matheson, Gary Cole and Rob Lowe.
THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON ($60) comes to DVD in a six-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired in the show’s seventh year: The Ticket, The Mommy Problem, Message Of The Week, Mr. Frost, Here Today, The Al Smith Dinner, The Debate (West Coast), Undecideds, The Wedding, Running Mates, Internal Displacement, Duck And Cover, The Cold, Two Weeks Out, Welcome To Wherever You Are, Election Day Part 1, Election Day Part 2, Requiem, Transition, The Last Hurrah, Institutional Memory and Tomorrow.
Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Once again, the presentations contained on this DVD collection are very similar to the previous sets and superior to watching the show on cable rebroadcast. Image quality is really terrific for a television production, having a sharp and very nicely defined picture. Colors are fairly natural in regards to saturation and flesh tones are attractive. Contrast is better than average for a television production, as the lighting design shies away from sitcom flatness whenever possible. Grain is noticeable in places, but never seems excessive. Digital compression artifacts are usually nicely camouflaged.
All the episodes that comprise THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON are presented on DVD with Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtracks, all of which decode to standard surround. Again, as with the previous sets, THE WEST WING is very much a dialogue driven show and I doubt that 5.1 channel encoding could have made any significant changes to the dimension of the sound. Almost all of the sound remains front and center, with the outlying channels spreading the music and the surrounds adding very mild reinforcement. Fidelity is very good, with the scores having terrific musical presence. Voices are nicely recorded and are rendered with a natural timber, plus the dialogue is always easy to understand. No other language tracks are provided, but 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 couple of supplements. The Debate: Live From The Director's Chair: A Multiangle View From The Truck's The Director Calls The Live Debate Episode is an episode length program that looks at the insanity behind the scenes during the broadcast of the live debate telecast. Countdown To West Wing Live: Anatomy Of The Debate is another twenty-five minute look at the live episode from a different perspective.
THE WEST WING will always be remembered as one of the best political dramas ever produced for television. The seventh season may not have been the series finest moment, seeming at times to be more transitional year to take the show to a new administration, instead of the swan song for the current one. If you have been a fan throughout the series run, you’ll be adding THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON to your personal library as well.
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