West Wing Season One

August 8, 2009

I’ve had a few nights of little sleep and somehow managed to get through all 22 episodes of Season One of the West Wing in under a week!  This wasn’t deliberate, I thought the boxed set would last me a lot longer than this and hopefully it still will.  But I thought I would give some thoughts on this initial exposure to the West Wing phenomenon.

  1. it’s good.
  2. it’s amazingly tight.
  3. a little claustrophobic.
  4. they walk about a lot.


West Wing obviously has high production values (and cost) which make a difference right from the start.  The set looks like a real working office with the right amount of mess, extras in the background, things changing from day to day, etc.  The lighting and camera work is great – especially the walking about a lot stedycam stuff.

One of the things that I had heard about in praise of the West Wing was how good the writing is and it really is.  There is just the right balance of quirky one liners, complex jargon and straight plot moving to keep you interested.  The technique of having the characters walk about a lot is a good way of fitting in dialog and making it dynamic and interesting.  This also shows how good the actors are as some of these shots are fairly extended and require not only tight scripting but physical timing as well to get to the right place by the time your lines run out.

On the down side – I have no idea what a lot of the characters are actually supposed to be doing in the White House, there isn’t any explanation of their roles or even the hierarchy.  There is no back story to the characters, who they are, how they know each other, what their motivations are (although I’ve started season 2 and some of this is expanded in the first couple of episodes).  But that in itself is interesting because as a viewer you are introduced to a group of people with a group dynamic rather than a bunch of individuals with their individual stories.

So far so good, and it must be gripping because I just keep putting on the next episode as soon as one stops.  I really must slow down.