Mushy juxtaposes The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season with the importance of it's November 7 Election Day release.
Love it or hate it you can't deny that The West Wing is one of those show's that was always timely and relevant. When one considers the dog eat dog world of network TV, the fact that the show lasted not one but seven seasons is certainly something that needs to be acknowledged. Now, with the country about to have elections that will very much dictate the next two years of the current administrations policies, we face some decisions that will impact not only the United States but the world at large. As the gubernatorial elections fall on November 7th of this year, Warner Bros. has perfectly timed it to release The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season and The West Wing: The Complete Series Collection on that very day as well.
Shameless promotion around an important world event? Probably.
Should we have expected anything less from a show that has always gone the extra mile to be relevant? Not at all.
Focusing on The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season, the tone takes on an added resonance because in this season President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) passes down the presidential torch and Congressman Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) battle it out in the hopes of becoming the next Commander-In-Chief. In a day and age of political campaigns that almost always start off saying that they are going to be different than the previous ones, it seems that they almost can't help but fall into back biting, finding "skeleton in the closet" fests and all manner of other nonsense that ends up not servicing anyone but the campaign strategist whose client ultimately prevails.
This spirit is very much captured in The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season in that we are taken inside the political process albeit through the fictional lens of the camera. While I think that it's pretty clear that this show comes from a strongly left of center starting place, it endeared itself to people for so long because in world gone crazy, we could at least count on one administration (although a fictional one) to offer up another alternative. Regardless or where you fall politically, I think that few would argue that having discussions and questioning our leaders is what has made this country what it is. However flawed we may or may not be, it is our ability to check ourselves and our intentions that really marks who we are as a country.
This is precisely where The West Wing shined the brightest. While the election in the show and the upcoming election on November 7, 2006 are different, this show kept itself so in tune with the political pulse of America that even if it didn't agree with President Bush (and most of the time I would venture to offer that it didn't), it wasn't operating in some sort of fantasy world that could have rendered it at best, laughable, and at worst, irrelevant. It presented it's characters as multifaceted. The mantra seems to have been "keep them interesting, even unlikeable if you have to... but always keep viewers watching." How else to explain the six Emmy nominations including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Martin Sheen, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Allison Janney and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Alan Alda?
This set even comes with some Enhanced Features such as a "Live from the Director's Chair" featurette, which shows viewers a "multi-angle" look at a show as it's being directed. The other feature is a behind the scenes look entitled "Countdown to the West Wing." While not as packed as other releases of this show, it is a fitting, almost somber send off to one of the most interesting TV shows in recent memory. Aside from creating compelling characters that came into viewers homes week after week, I wonder if there has ever been a form of popular entertainment that engaged viewers this much in the political process?
In weird way, the release of The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season is almost bittersweet. While I think it might be a bit of a stretch to say that this show changed voting patterns, it certainly seemed to go against the election results of 2000 and 2004. As we approach the elections on November 7th, 2006, it looks like the Democrats might seize some power that they lost to Republicans in 1994. Should this happen, I think that it's ironic that a show that seemingly called for that, is no longer around to continue to offering a mirror up to the present party in power. With The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season coming out on election day, it almost feels like the final salvo, the last punch thrown of a warrior who wasn't defeated, but laid to rest.
The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season comes to DVD November 7th from Warner Home Video.