In my continuing series of not writing a bunch of analytical and boring episode lists (there are hundred of websites around what will do that for you already, try www.tvtome.com) I’ll be as brief as possible.
Season 4 of The West Wing continues on where Season 3 left off (of course), the focus being firmly on the re-election campaign and associated events like inspiring speeches and lots of flying around in Air Force One.
Along with the campaign, repercussions of the assassination of Qumar’s foreign minister are starting to ring home as all the President’s men scramble to prevent it turning into an international incident and biting them all on the proverbial behind.
The latter half of the Season brings us the events leading up to the departure of Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), returning to his home town to fill the seat of a recently deceased candidate. The same events lead to the introduction of Will Baily (Joshua Malina) who seamlessly slots into the staff to fill the rather large shoes that Sam has left behind.
Something did strike me as funny. If this series to be believed, being left behind by the Presidential Motorcade is quite a common occurrence. You would think that the most powerful nation in the world would introduce some kind of buddy system to prevent key staff members from being stranded in Bent Armpit, Ohio but alas, apparently not.
Of course, fans of the series already know all this because they would have watched it all those years ago when Channel 9 decided to take a break from sports or reality shows to schedule The West Wing at the high rating time slot of 10:30 (note my sarcasm). With no sign of Channel 9 broadcasting Season 5 or 6 any time soon it looks like fans will have to be happy with the first 4 Seasons on DVD, for now.
In fine contrast to the dog’s breakfast that was Season 3 in Region 4, the video presentation on this season is excellent. Presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen displays the show has never looked so good. Not to say it is perfect, the dark levels are still a little too dark and those annoying compression artefacts are also present but are infrequent and not too distracting unless you’re an over critical DVD enthusiast.
The audio portion of the set remains consistent with previous efforts. Available in two languages, English and French with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix and accompanied by a quite impressive number of subtitles including usually obscure languages like Arabic and Hebrew.
The centre channel carries the dialog very well; all the spoken parts are clear and audible at all times even when threatened by background or environmental noise. The surrounds and sub woofer rarely see any action but given the subject matter it doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the material.
There are absolutely no extras at all on any of the six discs in this set.
At about $120 a season, The West Wing is riding the fine line at about the mid price range, low enough to not suffer from Star Trek syndrome (who’s going to pay $200+ for a series unless you’re a real fan) and not quite reaching the pricing nirvana of Stargate and Buffy at under $75 a season. At this price range I doubt The West Wing will gain any new fans, but existing fans will be able to buy the entire series (so far) without breaking the bank.
Overall, despite the lack of extras Season 4 offers good value and excellent quality in both video and audio departments, well worth a purchase if for nothing else but to learn what a Filibuster is.