I loved the first four series of The West Wing - watched them on boxset and got totally hooked.
But when it came to Season 5 - i.e. the one after Arron Sorkin left - it felt like the show was missing something. Like a certain “sparkle” had gone?
I just couldn’t get into it like I did the first four series.
I wonder whether it’s the same “problem” I found with Harry Potter and LOTR? In that the first episode(s) seem much freer… later on in the series it feels like the authors get “stuck” by the plot they set up earlier, and much of the freedom and fun goes cos the time needs to be devoted to driving the story forwards.
So is it worth sticking with West Wing? Does it ever recapture the zip and sparkle of the first few series?
It gets better, season 7 was pretty good, though I wouldn’t say it recaptured the old magic as much as created a new show. New cast members were strong additions, especially the two presidential candidates, though the treatment of the mainstays was at times cringe worthy. I’d say it is worth watching, but mainly because lackluster West Wing is still better than 90% of the stuff out there.
I agree, season 7 is quite good, and seasons 5 and 6 have some good stuff as well. The show never gets back to the quality of the first couple years, but that’s more a reflection of how good those first years are.
Occasional false notes–CJ getting indignantly shocked at things no educated adult would be shocked by–were more than balanced by the good. When Josh quits to hit the campaign trail, almost every old friend he ever had (esp. Will, Donna and Bruno) is newly in a position antagonistic to him, and he handles it both believably and well. Alan Alda portrayed a Republican candidate I would’ve voted for in a heartbeat. Charley left and eventually came back in somethng approaching a policy position. I strongly suspect Sorkin made some over-the-transom contributions after he was forced out.
President Bartlet explains very early on that a president’s chief of staff should be his best friend. He wanted someone that he could turn to privately for advice, not just someone who was up on all of the policy issues. He felt that he had that kind of rapport with CJ rather than with Josh, and I think the earlier seasons bear this out. Jed was more of a father figure to Josh; I don’t think he would have given the same weight to Josh’s opinion on really troubling issues that he would give to either Leo’s or CJ’s.
I, for one, have never understood the hate for 5-7.
I would highly encourage anybody who has seen Season 7 to rewatch it. You forget how humble the beginnings were by the end of the season. You forget Santos glad handing for votes at the waste dump and the HQ at the old sporting goods warehouse by the end of the season with the montage of traveling the country on the jumbo jet to Steve Miller Band. Amazing shots at the Democratic National Convention too.
CJ also has a far stronger personality than Josh; he takes failures too personally while CJ just keeps rolling. The Chief of Staff position required someone who could take the longview, and Josh was good at the shorter surgical purposeful fights rather than long range plans.
Josh was also second only to Toby in his high opinion of himself, and his not-unrelated knack for irritating folks on Capitol Hill. C.J. was much better on both fronts - more modest, and a better schmoozer.
Of course, after the election, Josh became President Santos’s Chief of Staff, and by then Donna had softened some of his rough edges, but I still suspect some bumpy moments with Capitol Hill lay ahead.
Stick with it. Personally I found the first bunch of episodes after Sorkin left to be particularly bad (by The West Wing’s high standards). IMO, the dialog was noticeably worse and the editing was hackish and sometimes overwrought (particularly the end of the first episode). I enjoyed the last season a lot more than 5, that’s for sure.