The Good

This show pushed the power of TV to new heights. The debate episode is phenomenal.

The Bad

It's the final season and this is the best they could on the extras?

The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season is a triumphant if bittersweet end to one of the more interesting and provocative shows to ever be on TV. This season is all about change as top Presidential Candidates Arnold Vinnick (Alan Alda) and Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) do battle for the job currently held by Commander In Chief Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen). With Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) a big part of all this, the majority of the season focuses on the candidates, their issues, and the thinly disguised way this show had of making The West Wing both topical and entertaining.

That said, this show didn't spend the final episodes simply focusing on that. President Bartlet still had to deal with the small matter of running this country. He sadly has to take on such things as suicide bombers, a leak investigation, nuclear arms, and other issues that seem to play a touch too close to the bone. Meanwhile, Santos and Vinnick are going after each other on topical issues like intelligent design, border security, and other things that dominate the fictional and nonfictional small screen.

That said, as good as The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season is, the episode covering the sudden loss of Leo McGarry (John Spencer) could make even someone who had never seen this show before, tear up. Once again, this show cut the line between fiction and reality in a highly dignified way.

Features

Countdown to The West Wing Live

A very informative and interesting look at the logistics of putting a live show on the air. This isn't like recording a sitcom, there are so many factors to consider that they spent two weeks getting ready for this debate. We hear from director Alex Graves, producer John Wells and the actors as they talk about going live. The featurette is cut so that it counts the days until it's time to shoot this live segment. In addition to this, we also get to get some insight into the show's script as well as real life moderator Forrest Sawyer.

Live From the Director's Chair

This is a multiangle look at the debate as it's happening. We see the show itself but we also see director Alex Graves as he sits in the room handling all the action. This seems like a nerve racking job to say the least because there are so many variables that need to be serviced. First of all, there's making sure the camera's on the correct candidates. Secondly, there's the actors themselves who could be the biggest wildcards. Thirdly, the job of calling all the action and the cues... it is mind boggling that this thing even came off at all.

Video

Widescreen Version presented in a matted widescreen format preserving the aspect ratio of it's original television exhibition. Enhanced for Widescreen TVs. These shows look really good but, since this isn't a legal or medical procedural, they have done a solid job of keeping this show void of all camera and postproduction tricks. The image quality was much sharper than when I've watched this show on TV and, all in all, I must admit that this show's look was highly impressive.

Audio

Dolby Digital. English Dolby Surround Stereo. I had to turn the audio up on my TV a little louder than normal, but other than that I think everything was in it's proper order. I am not sure what kind of codecs they utilize to get the film to sound how it does, but everything came across even though the show itself was juggling multiple storylines. What amazes me is how easily the subject matter gets put across considering the myriad of characters, storylines, and issues that are being presented.

Package

This 6 disc set comes housed in a slipcase which features both old and new members of the show. The juxtaposition is clear and I like that it's subtle but no less overt on this copper tinged cover. The back shows some images from the show, gives us a well written description, a Special Features list, a cast list, and technical specs. The discs themselves are stored in one large piece of artwork that also has a booklet listing out the episodes, providing descriptions and other information. While I think Warner Bros. could have done more for this final season release, it certainly closes the show with honor.

Final Word

I must admit that it took me some time to come around to The West Wing. I always felt based on the way that people talked about, that the tone of the early years was very arrogant. I even tried to watch the episode that was done after 9/11 and I remember giving up on it about 20 minutes in. Then, somewhere along the line I think I got more engaged by politics and suddenly this show started making more sense to me. It wasn't that I didn't understand it before, I just care about the characters or anything else happening on the show. Well, watching The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season, I got to witness the final season of a show that I wish was still on the air. Imagine all the situations we could have seen Matthew Santos engaged in? Think of where the Josh Lyman character could've gone?

Like many things in America, this show ended just when it seemed like it had found a way to transcend itself.

The West Wing was released .