THE WEST WING:
Although season six of THE WEST WING acknowledged that the Bartlet administration was approaching the end of the road, there were still enough shakeups behind-the-scenes at the White House to keep things interesting. During season six, the President is forced to replace his Chief of Staff; and in addition, the health of the chief executive begins to fail. While at the same time, political maneuvering begins both inside and outside the White House, as various candidates vying to be the next President of the United States step forward. On top of that, current West Wing staff members begin stepping into different positions to support a potential next President.
Set inside The White House, 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, Joshua Malina as Deputy Communications Director Will Bailey, Allison Janney as White House Press Secretary/ Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg, Dulé Hill as Presidential Aide Charlie Young, Janel Moloney as Josh Lyman’s assistant Donna Moss and Stockard Channing as the First Lady, Dr. Abbey Bartlet, M.D.. Season six adds Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits to the cast of THE WEST WING as Presidential contenders Senator Arnold Vinick and Congressman Matthew Santos.
THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON ($60) comes to DVD in a four-disc set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were aired in the show’s sixth year: NSF Thurmont, The Birnam Wood, Third-Day Story, Liftoff, The Hubbert Peak, The Dover Test, A Change Is Gonna Come, In The Room, Impact Winter, Faith Based Initiative, Opposition Research, 365 Days, King Corn, The Wake Up Call, Freedonia, Drought Conditions, A Good Day, La Palabra, Ninety Miles Away, In God We Trust, Things Fall Apart and 2162 Votes.
Warner Home Video has made all twenty-two episodes from THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. As I’ve stated before, watching THE WEST WING on DVD is superior to broadcast. The quality of the presentation is always a step above the broadcast medium, plus the tedium of commercials is removed from the viewing experience. Image sharpness and detail are first rate for a television production of this type. Colors are generally warm and fairly vibrant. Blacks are deep, whites are clean and contrast remains quite nice, with the series’ cinematography steering away from flat television lighting to a good degree. Some light grain is noticeable in place, but is never bothersome. Digital compression artifacts are usually well camouflaged.
All the episodes that comprise THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON are presented on DVD with Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtracks, all of which decode to standard surround. My preference for discrete soundtracks had gone on record, but considering that THE WEST WING is first and foremost a talky drama, the matrixed mixes are more than serviceable. As expected, the forward soundstage remains dominant, with a smattering of ambience and musical fill finding its way into the rear channels. Fidelity is solid, with the musical component being delivered with a nice amount of presence. Voices are warmly recorded and the dialogue is 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 the supplements that have been spread throughout the set. Audio commentaries have been provided for three episodes: King Corn (with John Wells and Alex Graves), In God We Trust (with Lawrence O’Donnell and Christopher Misiano) and 2162 Votes (with John Wells and Alex Graves). C.J.Cregg: From Press Secretary To Chief Of Staff is a somewhat fluffy fourteen-minute piece on the character that steps to the forefront of the political fray during season six. An Easter Egg has been hidden in the menu structure for the hunters.
THE WEST WING is a solid political drama that continues to deliver the kind of entertainment that its fans have come to expect. THE WEST WING: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON looks and sounds very good, outclassing syndication by a healthy margin. If you are a long time fan, this collection is something you’ll want to add to your personal library. Once again, the uninitiated will need to start with season one and work their way forward.
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