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The West Wing: The Complete Collection Review

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All seven years of the greatest show on earth

★★★★★

In a time when decisions made inside the White House have been cause for so much international concern, The West Wing has served as a constant comfort. That, even on our screens, an administration of such able, bright and altogether more benevolent people could exist was enough to keep hope for central government alive. But there’s far more here than an idealised version of the Democratic Party and a more liberal America. During the course of its seven seasons and 26 Emmys, The West Wing has remained one of the most intelligent serialised dramas ever to appear on American television.

Creator Aaron Sorkin (who was inspired to pen the show after finishing his script for 1995’s The American President) crafted a compelling look inside America’s beating heart that rejoiced in its subject matter, bestowing equal importance on both hot-bed political issues and completely obscure aspects of day-to-day governance. But for all its political intricacy and spotlight on Washington life, The West Wing was never intended to preach from the leftist pulpit — despite the accusations from conservative critics. Sorkin insisted his remit was entertainment over social conscience, a factor evidenced by the show’s mischievous sense of humour — a presence felt especially strongly during early seasons. The result was a marriage of compelling drama and laugh-out-loud comedy, executed by a powerhouse ensemble
cast, that routinely left all other shows foundering in its mighty wake.

The departure of Sorkin and director/producer Thomas Schlamme after Season Four caused a stumbling block for the show and led to a muddled and generally uninspired transitional year. Thankfully, though, the last two seasons witnessed a rebirth, as the writers moved away from Sorkin’s chaotic, dialogue-led style and embraced a more deliberate, story-driven format that was less playful but more dramatically poignant as a result.

Throughout its run The West Wing succeeded in raising the bar for network TV and established itself as a more sophisticated breed of programme. Despite the occasional misstep (an unfortunate 9/11 knee-jerk episode being the worst offender), it remains one of the most impressive shows ever made, and ownership of this collection should be considered nothing less than a Presidential order.

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