Flicking Through Netflix: The West Wing (First Impressions)

Apparently I like political dramas. This is particularly strange given the fact that I hate actual politics. But I do love shows like House of Cards and Designated Survivor, where I find the politics fascinating despite my distaste for the subject in the real world. Still, good characters go a long way into making me interested in a story. This, along with a very strong recommendation from my mother, made me check out The West Wing, a popular political show from the early 2000s. I went into it a little wary, especially given the current state of the world. But I did want to give it a shot. However, not having seen the complete first season yet, I do want to just give my first impressions. So, these are my initial thoughts on The West Wing.

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The West Wing follows the political careers of the staff of President Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen. President Bartlet is a heavily religious democrat and tries to aim his policies towards following those ideals. The series start after Bartlet has been the President for about a year. The staff is just getting into the swing of things, tackling challenges and trying to balance their social lives.

I didn’t expect the tone of this show to be so lighthearted. After those heavy hitters from before which make the presidency look like a constant war with several different people, this show makes it seem downright wacky. That’s not to say it’s only comedy based. There’s definitely some really good drama thrown in. Instead, I would describe this show as a Political Comedy with some drama elements. I don’t mind, really. I do like comedies if they’re done right. I just think the show is sometimes a bit to whimsical in regards to it’s music. The intro music sounds like I’m stepping into Disney’s Hall of Presidents. The ending music sounds like the soundtrack to a 90s kid’s fantasy film. The music is more than a little jarring, especially when we’re talking about the dramatic moments of the show.

Still, this show lives solely on its fantastic characters. The supporting staff for the president is really well rounded. Everyone has an actual personality. The press secretary, CJ (Allison Janney), is a snarky, sarcastic woman who often acts as the “straight man” for the antics of the others. Joshua (Bradley Whitford) is probably the most hilarious as he tries to solve every problem but often finds himself biting of more than he can chew. Sam (Rob Lowe) is a neurotic lawyer who gets a lot of laughs based on his pickiness and inability to let things go. My favorite character is probably President Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen. He just has a commanding presence from his very first scene. Whenever he starts feeling overwhelmed by his presidency, you can feel every ounce of the weight on his shoulders through a simple look. Martin Sheen is just perfect for this role and he brings a lot of class as the President. I would vote for him in a heartbeat.

If I had one complaint about the show, it would be that there are certain times where actions don’t seem to have any consequences. I’ll give you two great examples. First, a relatively new employee named Mandy (I think, as I always forget her name) advises the President to send a negotiator to a hostage situation. The negotiator is shot and is in critical condition and Mandy is heavily effected by it… Until the next episode where all consequences of the decision she helped make are completely forgotten. In the same episode, the President accidentally sends some ships into the path of an oncoming hurricane. The episode ends as the President talks to one of the men on board. They’re taking on water, the ship’s engine is on fire, there are people who are injured. We have no idea if the ship will survive. The President looks heavily concerned as it fades to black… NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN (at least in the episodes I’ve seen). Like, what the flying hell? What happened? Did the ship survive? Apparently the writers think WHO CARES? Well, I DO. This is the Presidency we’re talking about. ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. The audience wants to see the RESULT of these actions. We’re adults, people! Just tell us what happened!

Despite a weird reliance on whimsical music and the odd tendency to never follow up on important plot lines, this is still a good show. The political stuff is pretty interesting and I’ve been learning a lot about the office of the POTUS. What makes this show great is it’s characters. I didn’t do them all justice. And I only mentioned the ones that I like the most thus far. There are quite a few others. I highly recommend this show to anyone who likes quirky characters in interesting situations. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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