Starring: Stockard Channing, Dule Hill, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Martin Sheen
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video: 1.78:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio: DD 2.0
Extras: Audio Commentaries (3 episodes); Deleted Scenes (3 episodes); In Potus We Trust (13 min); Gaza: Anatomy of an Episode (15 min); Political Missteps From Memorial Day (3 min).
Length: 946 minutes
This 6-disc release contains the 22 episodes of the fifth season of The West Wing. For a complete listing of each episode, check out www.tv.com. The series is in its seventh season and will not be renewed. In all, the series has four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series and in season 5, Actress Allison Janney won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. For those who haven’t had a chance to get into the series, or for others who have missed a season or two, DVD is a great new way to watch television. You don’t have to get stuck with tons of commercials, and there is no need to wait an entire week to see the second part of that cliffhanger.
The snappy writing is one of the strong points of the series, and even if politics doesn’t particularly get you excited, the characters, and yes, the drama, make it very entertaining. John Wells takes over much of the writing tasks for the departing creator of the series, Aaron Sorkin, and does a admirable job. Season four ended with an awful lot of excitement: the President’s daughter was kidnapped and the President stepped down from his position allowing the Speaker of the House to take over until the event met with a conclusion. Meanwhile, the staff is left wondering if their jobs will be in jeopardy. In the early episodes some of the highlights include the end to the Zoey abduction, a new Vice President is appointed, and a couple new characters show up: Gary Cole as the VP, Jesse Bradford as a new assistant to Josh, and Michael Hyatt as Angela Blake, a legislative advisor.
As the season progresses, we are introduced to another important new character, the Congressional Majority Leader, who continues to be a thorn in the side of the budget. Melissa Marsala appears as the lovely Rina, a new assistant to Tobey. Glenn Close makes a guest appearance as well as Philip Baker Hall, and Mary McCormack is the new security advisor to the President. Several solid episodes in the season include “The Supremes,” “Shutdown,” “The Dogs of War,” and the last two episodes that set up for the next season. In the final episodes, Donna takes a trip to Gaza and is the unfortunate victim of a terrorist attack. This paves the way for some heated activity that may lead to a pivotal meeting between the United States, Israel, and the P.L.O. One of my favorite scenes of the series takes place in the episode, “The Warfare of Genghis Khan.” Although most of the episode is about a nuclear detonation that has occurred in the Indian Ocean, a side story has a member of NASA trying to sway Josh to help plan a project to send manned mission to Mars. The pivotal sequence includes Josh pitching Donna the idea while the scene is intercut with the President meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel–it’s one of those magic moments that makes any television show much more than just entertaining.
Extras include some deleted scenes and episode commentaries as well as small featurettes. In POTUS We Trust focuses on the character of the President with interviews with many of the characters in and behind the show. Missteps is a short scene of extra footage. Even though the extras are not plentiful, the season by itself is worth the price of admission.
– Brian Bloom