The West Wing: Season 1

Andy Ross:

Toby and Sam are absolutely opposites in so many ways.  Toby- New York, dad was a gangster/murderer, pessimist, been around the block.  Sam, California, Ivy League, sunshiny optimist, new to this level of politics.  There’s tons of conflict in the way they see the world, but tons of overlap in the way they see how the US and President Bartlett should lead the world.  And the way they come together despite those issues is the core of what the Bartlett White House is supposed to be about.

The thing I love most about the Pilot is that they show these 5 main staffers in the White House.  And they all seem to be in their own different worlds to some extent.  Sam is mixed up in his own mess with the call girl, while Josh is afraid he’ll lose his job.  And we see so much conflict in the way Toby and CJ seem to be treating Josh, because they realize Josh is in the wrong.  But then when they have their meeting with the figures from the religious right, and the anti-Semitic joke is made, the team comes together in a heartbeat.  Toby immediately takes up for Josh because he’s now the victim.  I love that moment, when Toby realizes Mary Marsh has crossed the line, it’s such a big brother move to step in and remind her that Josh was wrong, but he’s still got his back.

Is there a better first line of dialogue for a character in all of broadcast TV than, “I am the Lord your God!  Thou shalt have no gods before me!”?  Talk about an entrance?  It’s really an amazing scene, because in that 2 minutes, we see both the Uncle Fuzzy, absent-minded professor Bartlett talking about his granddaughters, and we see the authoritative, Nobel-quality intellect, and righteous anger that epitomizes Jed Bartlett.  We see his religious knowledge, and we see his political astuteness.  And we see his love, and his high expectations, for his staff.  These are the themes that the carry the whole series, to some extent.  Season 1 is so much about how he and his staff come together and battle.  Season 2 is mostly about the MS secret and how Bartlett views his personal religion in terms of his duties as president.  But then Season 3 carries that to a new extreme, and what “sins” Bartlett is willing to commit personally to stop terrorism, and season 4 deals with both the “two Bartletts”, how intelligent can a president really be and be electable, and then ends with his daughter in crisis.  So, really in the first 2 minutes with Josiah Bartlett, we’re introduced to every single theme the show will focus on.  Stunning.

Let me just add some other notes that we should discuss about Season 1:

-The uniqueness of Charlie’s character in all of dramatic TV.  And the call back from the last episode of Season 1 “What Kind of Day has It Been” to when Charlie was first hired, when he says to Josh, “You’re right, it doesn’t go away.”

-I just love agent Gina Tuscano.  Quick note: That actress spent a few seasons on ER, then joined the cast for the first season of THE WEST WING, then jumped to play a main character on a show on CBS called CSI.  Has anybody ever had as good a 4-5 year run doing three different shows like Jorja Fox had in 1998-2000?

-The failure of the Mandy character.  It’s really the only thing in the first 4 seasons that didn’t work, and I’m not really sure why.  But it seems worth mentioning.

-The excellent and unique relationship between Abby and Jed Bartlett.  How much does it change the dynamic of how we see him, when Abby stands up to him (even in the Oval Office) with nearly equal confidence, intelligence, and passion.  Man, that changes everything.

-Isn’t it amazing how early Sorkin sets up the MS plotline?   I really believe the patience he shows in that storyline, waiting probably 30-40 episodes to really deal with it, after the audience know it exists.  But it doesn’t feel prolonged or like they forgot about it, as it did with some things in other shows, like say LOST.

HBragg:

Points I was saying “Yes, yes, yes!”

Toby

Charlie

MANDY (that whore)

Jen:

My thoughts coming soon, but comment away!

Before I post more intellectual thoughts, can I just say: Rob Lowe? Sweet liiiiiimmmme…..he is good lookin’!

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