The West Wing (Season 7) Review
The presidency of Josiah Bartlett is coming to an end and there’s an election to be fought. The final season of undoubtedly one of the finest television programmes of all time charts the battle between: In the red corner…
Arnold ‘Arnie’ Vinick (Alan Alda), a moderate Republican from California with thirty years of experience in the Senate.
And in the blue corner…
Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits), a congressman from Texas who’s trying to become the first non-white president of the USA.
Given that the last Republican presidential candidate featured in the West Wing was a not-so-smart, “plain spoken” governor (hmm, where on earth did they get that idea from?), it’s refreshing that the producers created a character with a bit of depth to take on the Democrats. Arnie Vinick isn’t a republican stereotype – he’s pro-choice, doesn’t want to legislate against gay marriage, etc. It’s a perfect role for Alan Alda, the M*A*S*H star I suspect most people have a soft spot for, and he doesn’t disappoint.
Given Vinick’s vast experience and broad political appeal, he’s the big favourite to win the election against a relative unknown. But Matt Santos has got a star quality and aided by wily operators like Josh Lyman, he’s determined to try cause an upset. Santos is played by Jimmy Smits, an actor you may recognise from NYPD Blue where he starred as Detective Bobby Simone for a number of seasons.
The series isn’t purely about the election battle though. Other sub-plots include a leak from the West Wing leading to a very senior aide being fired and charged with treason, and President Bartlett intervening in a standoff in Central Asia between two nuclear powers. And some romantic storylines that have been bubbling away since the beginning, such as Josh/Donna and CJ/Danny, are finally resolved.
In all honesty, the West Wing never really sparkled in the same way following the departure of creator and main writer Aaron Sorkin at the end of Season 4. But it’s still about two million times better than most other TV shows, so this DVD is still worth buying.
Watch out for Sorkin’s new show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which sees him reunited with West Wing stars Bradley Whitford, Timothy Busfield and Matthew Perry, as well as with Thomas Schlamme and Christopher Misiano, who directed and produced many episodes of the West Wing. I’ve seen the pilot and it looks pretty good.
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