Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Show Worthy of its Wins

The West Wing (1999-2006)

I am one of those people, who, when watching a new TV show, needs to be hooked by the first three or four episodes or else I'll give it up. With The West Wing, I was hooked within the first few minutes and it's become one of my favorite shows, even though politics bore me. It has to be probably one of the best series that was ever on TV. Sure, some things did go over my head, but the acting is brilliant, the writing is brilliant, the cast is brilliant, and the show is very intriguing. There are no vampire slayers or crimes or terrorist activity with only 24 hours to stop it, but there's just something about this show that keeps you wanting more. 

Here's how I would rank the seasons:

Season 2 - I rank the second season as my favorite because a lot of my favorite episodes are from this season. We find out that the POTUS is dealing with MS and he does plan to run for a second term.

Season 3 - Another top-notch season where CJ has a stalker (as well as a love interest - not the same person, though!) I was curious how they were going to deal with this season since it started in the fall of 2001, so I was wondering how and if they were going to address 9/11. They did, but it was a special episode they did (the season premiere) where they dealt with a crisis and about racial profiling. 9/11 is never specifically mentioned and this episode had nothing to do with the rest of the season, it was just something they put in. This season dealt with Bartlet’s campaign. They need to work extra hard because he has MS and they’re afraid the American public won’t vote for him, but of course we know they will!

Season 1 -As you can tell, I prefered the earlier seasons to the later ones. While all the seasons were great, it was the first half of the series that really shined. Besides, I have to give props to the first season because it made me fall in love with the series and kept me Netflixing the next season (and the next and the next...)

Season 4 - This season deals with Bartlet's campaign for his second term in office (which he wins, of course). It also marks Rob Lowe's last season as Sam Seaborn and he is replaced by a campaign manager named Will Bailey. (And Winnie Cooper works for him, lol). The season finale is one of the most nail-biting with the kidnapping of the POTUS's youngest daughter, Zoey.

Season 7 - The final season follows the presidential campaign race between Democrat Matt Santos and Republican Arold Vinick (played respectively by Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda). It's really interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes of a presidential candiate and their quest to become POTUS. While we saw snapshots of Bartlet's campaign in flashbacks of earlier episodes, here we get the genuine feeling and you're with them throughout the entire campaign. This season is also a bittersweet one with John Spencer passing away in the middle of the season, the character of Leo McGarry (who also happens to be Santos' running mate), also passes away, thus the scene of Leo's funeral is really sad to watch. There's one episode of the debate between Santos and Vinick that aired live so you really get the authentic feeling of a real debate. I think that was the first "real" presidential debate where I watched the entire thing! And best of all? Josh and Donna finally get together. I mean, damn, it took them long enough!

Season 5
Season 6
I like these seasons about the same, so I tied them. While I certainly don't detest them, I just didn't care for them as the other seasons. Probably one of the major reasons they didn't do anything for me was because Aaron Sorkin left when the fifth season started. A couple of the highlights of the fifth season include guest apperances by John Goodman, who takes over as POTUS when Bartet has to step down during his daughter's kidnapping, and Jason Isaacs as a photo journalist who befriends Donna in the Middle East (and also makes Josh very jealous, ha!) Season five also deals with them having to elect a new VP because the previous one had to step down.

In season six we are introduced to Santos and Vinick, as well as other new characters like Kate Harper and Annabeth Schott. C.J. is promoted from Press Secretary to Chief of Staff. Josh decides to run Santo's campaign. Even though I ranked these seasons last, they're still as top-notch as the other seasons.

Ten favorite episodes (in chronological order):

1. 1.1. Pilot (aired 9/22/99)- We are introduced to the characters: the POTUS; Chief of Staff Leo McGarry; Press Secretary CJ Cregg; White House Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn; White House Director of Communications Toby Ziegler; Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman; the President's aide, Charlie Young; and Josh Lyman's assistant, Donna Moss, among other characters. Like I said earlier, the pilot of every TV show is always very crucial - it lets me know if I want to continue watching this show or not. By the end of this episode, I was hooked on the series! My favorite scene is when Sam is giving a tour of the White House to a group of young students and tells them the chairs in the Roosevelt Room were made out of lumber from a pirate ship captured in the Spanish-American War. This does not make the teacher, who also happens to be Leo's daughter, very happy. Hee! I heart Sam. I so missed him when he left.

2. 1.10 In Excelsis Deo (aired 12/15/99) - This is the first holiday episode of The West Wing. Through a coat that Toby once donated to charity, he finds out that a forgotten Korean War vet has died, homeless on the streets wearing the donated coat. (Toby is notified because his card was in the coat's pocket). He attends the funeral, which is very moving and if memory serves right, made me cry!

3. 2.5 And It's Surely to Their Credit (aired 11/01/00) - Now my #1 WW ship is Josh/Donna, no doubt, but there was another ship I would have happily boarded, but alas, it never did sail. Oh, well, I knew it wouldn't happen with a Democrat and a Republican. Ainsley Hayes, a Republican, is the new associate White House counsel much to the chagrin of the others. Her first day is pure hell: her boss is hostile towards her, her co-workers do not welcome her with open arms, and worst of all, she is humiliated by two other staffers when they leave dead flowers on her desk (which happens to be in the boondocks of the White House) and a note with "bitch" written on it. Even though Sam and Ainsley, don't see eye to eye on politics, he is furious and demands to know who did it. Ainsley won't tell him, but it's not hard for him to figure it out and he rips those guys a new one. It is awesome! He slams the door to their office as he enters and says, "You know what, guys? When I write something, I sign my name." Hee! Go Sam! He grabs a sheet of papers and writes "You're fired" and signs his name. That episode made me such a Sam/Ainsley shipper. Alas, nothing ever came of it.

4. 2.10 Noel (aired 12/14/00) - Like their first Christmas episode, this one does not disappoint as well. In the first season, the last episode left us with a cliffhanger of an attempted assisination of the POTUS and Josh got shot. He hasn't gotten over it and Leo makes him see a doctor who specializes in analyzing trauma victims. I believed this won Bradley Whitford the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a drama series. On a lighter side, the POTUS wants to personally sign all of his Christmas cards (lol, I don't think he realizes how many he would have to sign!) The episode ends with a special concert by Yo-Yo Ma.

5. 2.22 Two Catherdrals (aired 5/16/01) - After I saw this episode, it immeditely became my favorite episode of TWW ever, but it was only the last episode of season 2. Even after seeing all of the other episodes of The West Wing, this one still remains my favorite. In the previous episode, the President's secretary, Mrs. Landingham, had died in a car accident, so he is struggling with that along with the decision of running again for a second term even though it has just come out in the media that he has MS. This episode flashes back to when Jed was in college and this is where he first meets Mrs. Landingham who worked as a young secretary for his father (and how she got the job of being the secretary to the POTUS!) There's this great scene near the end where Bartlet is in the Oval Office, talking with the ghost of Mrs. Landingham. They have one last chat before he is on his way to a press conference to announce running for a second term, even though he has MS. The Dire Straits song, Brothers in Arms is playing and it fits the scene so perfectly. The West Wing didn't use songs in their episodes that often and for that reason, placing a song in an episode makes it all the more significant. Anyway, AWESOME episode. I believe this episode is the reason why TWW won four deserved Best Show Emmys in a row.

6. 3.17 The U.S. Poet Laureate (aired 3/27/02) - This episode made me LOL because Josh discovers he has his own fan-based website - He becomes obsessed with it, reading all the comments that range from women thinking he is the sexiest man alive to posts about what a moron he is. Obviously, the former comments don't piss him off as much! Lauren Dern guest stars as the U.S. Poet Laureate

7. 3.22 Posse Comitatus (aired 5/22/02) - This was the season finale for the third season and TWW has proven to have some great season endings. Bartlet faces a terrorist threat after he discovers that a high-ranking Middle Eastern official has been supporting terrorism. CJ, who has been stalked this season, has been falling for her Secret Service bodyguard. Of course their would-be relationship is limited by the boundaries of their professional relationship. And, alas, the fact that he gets shot and killed. The use of Jeff Buckley'sHallelujah makes the scene extra sad.

8. 4.23 Twenty Five (aired 5/14/03) - I told you, The West Wing has great season endings and this one for the fourth season is no exception. Chaos ensues when Bartlet's youngest daughter, Zoey, is kidnapped on the night of her graduation from Georgetown. He is forced to shut down Washington D.C. as he thinks this is the work of terrorists. Obviously, Bartlet can't continue on the duties of being POTUS when his daughter is missing, so John Goodman steps into his shoes for a few episodes. The more happier storyline is Toby's who becomes the father of twins named Huck and Molly.

9. 7.9 The Wedding (aired 12/11/05) - Bartlet's middle daughter, Ellie, gets married in the White House. Her wedding is on the same day that her father is trying to handle a situation between China and Russia over oil. There's a touchng moment between Ellie and her father right before he's going to walk her down the aisle. He tells her about a trip he took to Germany in his first term in Congress. Ellie, who was five years old then, was with them. They are on the East side of Berlin, waiting to cross over to the West said. Jed tells her that she "bolted out in the no man's land between the two guard posts." He and Abby were panicking, but Ellie calmly looked up at one of the soldiers on the wall and waved and he waved back. Awww. Then Ellie tells him that she remembers. Double awww.

10. 7.21 Institutional Memory (aired 5/7/06) - This was the second to last episode. It mostly focuses on CJ and what she's going to do with her future. She wants to leave D.C., but she is offered a job by Santos. Howerver, she is more interested in an offer made a by a billionaire who wants to start a foundation and will pretty much give her ten billion dollars to "save the world." I mean, how cool is that? Who wouldn't want to do that? CJ moves back to L.A. and she lives happily ever after with Danny Concannon. (At least, that's what I'm assuming!)

If you've never seen the show, or felt too intimidated to watch it, please do yourself a favor and Netflix it today! 

I talk about one of my favorite game shows when I was a kid: