Aaron Sorkin’s commanding political drama is widely held as one of the greatest TV shows of all time — and it’s not difficult to see why. Looking back, the 22-episode first season offers a hugely enjoyable example of the show at its very best, as we’re taken inside the White House and introduced to the senior staff members of the benevolent Bartlet Administration.
The West Wing is unashamedly idealistic and it may be too ‘preachy’ for some viewers, but it’s also extremely witty and unusually intelligent. What sets the show apart, however, is the dazzling quality of Sorkin’s dialogue, which is often delivered as the characters walk between offices — a technique that he and director Thomas Schlamme pioneered on their previous show, Sports Night — by a very impressive ensemble. Martin Sheen is impossibly personable as Democratic President Jed Bartlet, but each member of the cast is so great that you’ll have a tough time trying to pick a favourite.
That said, John Spencer is outstanding as the President’s trusted Chief Of Staff, and Richard Schiff deserves a special mention as Tony Ziegler, the highly irascible yet utterly loveble Director Of Communications. Episode-wise, the highlight of season one is Let Bartlet Be Bartlet, which contains one of the show’s funniest opening sequences and a genuinely rousing climax.