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Reviews Contest : The West Wing

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This Reviews Contest is a very good opportunity to share some thoughts about this awesome show : "The West Wing".

First, it's important to know that i'm french. In France we have a very different and more direct electoral system. Every citizen votes for mayors, county deputies, region deputies and of course the president (i didn't vote for the current one...). Thus "The West Wing" was for me like "Amercian Politics 101". I've watched the 7 seasons in a row in a period of 2 weeks (i find tv shows are much more powerful and meaningful this way) and in english with english subs when they were available.

"The West Wing" begins with a jump right in the action with famous and fabulous Rob Lowe (Brothers & Sisters, The Stand) learning that a certain POTUS had a bicycle accident. Others characters receive the same news and everything starts to speed up with frenzy, why ? POTUS stands for "President of the United States".

Jed Bartlet (The POTUS), oustandingly played by Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, Wall Street), is a democrat, and is depicted as a religious, fair but strong leader. But the show isn't just about him, the West Wing is the part of the White House in which his staff works everyday to keep the country afloat. The president's staff is as follows : Leo McGarry - Chief of Staff (John Spencer), Josh Lyman - Deputy Chief of Staff (Bradley Whitford), Toby Ziegler - Communications Director (Richard Schiff), CJ Cregg - Press Secretary (Allison Janney) and Sam Seaborn - Deputy Communications Director (Rob Lowe).
In this "always on the go" show, you got to keep up. Every character is an idealist carrying the emotional baggage of the last campaign and dreaming about the possibilities of the fundamentally good changes they can bring the their country. Dealing with the usual topics of US politics, education, health care, the economy, big oil arab countries, the White House staff gets soon caught up in the reality of their jobs. Josh Lyman, typical dreamer, fast thinker, smooth talker spends as much time in boring meetings with senators, congressmen and reprensentatives as writing eloquent and inspiring speeches for the POTUS alongside with Toby Ziegler. Toby, religious jewish, neurotic time bomb, cynical genius, appears as profoundly angry and snaps easily, even in the presence of Jed Bartlet. He is, though, the speaking mind of the democratic party. Sam Seaborn brings a certain freshness to it all with his charismatic, fun, yet bright and corporate ways. Finally, and she's maybe the cement of the whole staff, CJ Cregg is a tall, funny, romantic, feminist character. She's the strong link between White House policies and the american people through the press.

Many secondary characters shape the the final details of this complex team work that results in the state of America : Charlie, the president's aide ; Donna, Josh's secretary ; Miss Landigham, the president's executive secretary, Margaret, the chief of staff's secretary...

In "the West Wing", no crazy conspiracies, or ill-designed coups d'├ętat, just the day by day (or week by week as it is) process of governing what is described as the most powerful nation on earth, the beacon of democracy. Behind a very proud conscience of US's role in global economy, in international warfare, in the great search for freedom, the West Wing points at America's flaws too : the Israel-Palestine endless conflict, the need for new and cleaner energy sources, the few possibilities of a political system where even a minor decision has to go through so many channels that all that's left is the idea. Finally it's a depiction of the most powerful leader on the planet, what he faces every day, as a political and ideological guide, as commander in chief, as the president.

By interest of fairness, it would be interesting to see "the West Wing" with a republican president. The show would probably take a whole new turn and lose the "drama" aspect to become more of a critic of power. By all means this show is to be not seen but watched, with care and attention. It should be seen not just by americans but by europeans, asians, arabs, and africans as well. The West Wing, with or without the lesson-giver american point of view is a eulogy to democracy.

Charlie "zenibuka" Houlmont - october 2010

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Yes, it's a very good serie and the funny thing is that pratically all ''side-characters'' are actors of recent and actual series made their [probably] first appearance in The West Wing.

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