The Good

Martin Sheen and the rest of the cast all acquit themselves well.

The Bad

I didn’t like this show when Aaron Sorkin’s heavy hands were all over it, but I am not so sure that I like it any more with him gone.

The West Wing - The Complete Fifth Season seemed to be in a bit of quandary. As much as I may not have liked the creator Aaron Sorkin personally, his viewpoints and beliefs lent this show a certain credibility. It seemed almost genuinely subversive. With him gone, it’s as if the network wanted to try and escalate the dramatic aspect of the show. This is all well and good if it seems germane to the overall plot points of the show. I would say they did a good job of mirroring our state of the world. Showing issues dealing with President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) having to pick Supreme court justices, or the passing of the Democratic Administration over to a Republican Speaker of the house is both timely and relevant.

I just couldn’t help not being able to get passed the whole thing about the President’s daughter being kidnapped. I know that this probably makes for more entertaining TV (The West Wing has always been a show that seemed to border of the “dry” or even cerebral), but truthfully it felt more like an retread from 24. I just didn’t think that this show needed something like that. I didn’t see it when it aired (I heard about it even though I was very removed from the show) but it just sounded disingenuous to what The West Wing is about.

Features

Commentary Tracks

The Commentary Tracks are on 3 episodes and they feature John Wells, Alex Graves, Christopher Misiano, Jessica Yu and Deborah Cahn. The episodes that are discussed are “The Dogs of War”, “The Supremes” and “7A WF 83429”. I think that the commentary by director John Wells and writer Alex Graves was the best one. These two had an interesting job in that Aaron Sorkin had left a very big handprint on this show. To take this job knowing that they would be tarred and feathered by the show’s legions of fans was a gutsy thing to do. They made the most of it and while I may not be a fan of the show, I would think that the real fans would be very happy with what these two have done.

Unaired Scenes

The Unaired Scenes were for three episodes. In all honesty, they could probably have left these off of here. While I think the rabid fans will appreciate these, I find that Unaired Scenes actually can take away from a show. Sometimes I think this has the same effect on movies, but there it isn’t so harsh. These shows are designed for TV. They are written, shot and cut in a certain way specifically for the medium of television. Having these unaired scenes, while I certainly can’t fault the creators of this DVD for putting them on here, just seems to confuse that whole process.

In POTUS We Trust

I love Martin Sheen. I think he is a fine actor and he is certainly someone who puts his “money” where his mouth is. However, in this segment In POTUS We Trust, I think that it’s more wishful thinking on the part of the Producers, that this is how they wish the White House was run. I don’t mean to play politics but I just think this point is very valid. This show is so idealistic and, sadly, I think that this supplemental feature really underlines this in a negative way. Like I said, Martin Sheen seems like a genuinely good person, but he isn’t the President and since he isn’t in any kind of elected office, it’s very easy to watch him make comments from the peanut gallery, without having to actually do anything.

Gaza: Anatomy of An Episode

This segment examines a West Wing episode that looks at issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Regardless of how one may feel about the subject, or the screenplay that is written to dramatize these events, at it’s heart this particular show hoped to shed some light on this issue. While this might be something lofty for a TV show to tackle, at the very least I have to give The West Wing credit for trying to get the discussion going. Sometimes I think the arts can fail in it’s attempts to look at the issues of the day, but this episode (while not perfect) at least seems to put itself in the ballpark.

Video

Widescreen - This show is very clear in it’s presentation but I can’t help but wonder if it’s widescreen look might hurt it. My main reason for bringing this up is because this show has such a concentrated look, it almost can’t help but seem a bit too structured. Still, I was amazed at how clear the transfers of these DVDs are. While this show has very understated colors, it offers a drabness that it seems government has. Nothing is as flashy on the outside as it is on the inside. As a result, this show is more performance oriented than anything else.

Audio

Dolby Digital - Subtitled. While I might not be the biggest fan of this show, I will admit that I think the writing is pretty good. Sure, the actors deliver their lines in their usual melodramatic stylings, but what they have to say is well written. In fact, it isn’t surprising why so many people have gravitated to this show. It feels authentic. It seems like we are getting a glimpse inside the government. Even though the show seems steeped in reverence for administration’s of the past (Clinton anyone?), it also isn’t afraid to sometimes call both sides on the carpet.

Package

The front cover features a split picture of the show’s cast and below that a stock shot of the White House. Nothing too special here, but all the major players are present and accounted for. The back features some more shots of the cast from the show, a description of what Season Five is about, an “Extra Features” listing and technical specs. All the discs that make up this set are neatly housed inside within their own trays, and each disc has a different piece of artwork on it. There is also artwork of the cast layered throughout the inside packaging as well. This is a very economically designed box set that contains a wealth of material.

Final Word

Overall, I think fans of the show will not find as many faults with The West Wing - The Complete Fifth Season as I did. It wasn’t even so much that I found fault with this show, as I guess, Sorkin or no Sorkin, I am still not able to get passed some of the genuine problems I have with this show. I just find it too idealized. It seems like this is how people thought the West Wing was when Bill Clinton was in office. Don’t misunderstand, you aren’t getting a review from some staunch Republican. I voted for Clinton twice and lets be honest, economically, we were in a much better position then than we are now.

However, the times have changed and I think to continue to see that period through rose colored glasses doesn’t do anybody any good. The West Wing - The Complete Fifth Season is a show that a lot of people see as good TV. The thing is, sometimes I think people forget that that’s all it is.

The West Wing was released .