I have been rambling on and on about the merits of this outstanding series to friends, family and innocent bystanders for years. I will continue to do so until the final disc of the final season has hit Amazon.com; and probably for quite some time after that. It is a show that is important, culturally relevant, and surprisingly political without becoming annoyingly partisan.
Season Six is something of a bounceback season for the show. In Season Five, the show floundered a bit. While it was still easily one of…the best things on television, the ship lots its way. Issues were explored, but no one issue really solidified itself as a strong story point. By the time Season Six came around, the show had a natural theme to run with; re-elections. As Bartlet begins to struggle with complicated issues in the Middle East, Presidential hopefuls emerge in the form of Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits. Instead of winding down and fading away, this show picked up steam as it headed toward the end of its seven season run. I, for one, am enjoying every minute of it.
While I am disappointed that this show does not have a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the Dolby Stereo track that is here is a very good one. This is a show about what goes on behind closed doors, and that means that for every loud declaration, there are four or five hushed whispers. Lucky for the viewers, these whispers are shown great care, as they are presented clearly and with each vocal nuance intact, yet still maintaining their very soft volume level. Even a foreign accent heard over a speakerphone can be clearly heard, yet still carries the appropriate level of distortion Helicopters are loud and travel appropriately around the room. Bass notes are heavy when coming form the show’s excellent score. This is a soundtrack that, while not outstanding, certainly does all that it should.
The images on these discs are presented in widescreen, just as they should be. While there were some very minimal grain problems on previous seasons, those issues seem to be corrected for this season. Images are clean and clear, yet still carry a sense of realism that pulls the show back just a bit from the glossy, Hollywood look that so many shows have these days. On the down side, the series is skewed a hair too far to the red end of the spectrum. While this is most certainly not a major issue, it does become a bit of a distraction during some of the more closely lit indoor scenes. On the whole, however, I was quite pleased with this transfer, and I hope the trend continues into the final season.
The extras are minimal, but they are of high quality. In addition to commentary tracks on three episodes, there is also a featurette that explores the journey that Allison Janney and C.J. Craegg took throughout the series’ run. This segment is populated with interviews with various members of the cast and crew, as well as clips form various seasons of the show.
Finally, there is an Easter Egg that features a conversation with John Spencer. This is an extra that is made all the more powerful with the passing of Spencer last year. Spencer’s character was not only an unreplaceable part of the show, but the actor himself was a very fine and admirable man on his own.
One of the brilliant things about this show is the fact that it can so deftly comment on real national issues while still being amazingly non-partisan and un-offensive. The word is that President Bush has made this show (about a Democratic White House) one of his favorites, making it a permanent fixture next to his usual stable of baseball games. While the intellectual prowess of the real life President could be debated, the fact that the real life White House finds this show intriguing proves to me that the program is not only entertaining, but surprisingly on target. While this season signals the beginning of the end for the Bartlett administration, the quality remains high for those of us observing from the outside.
Special Features List
- Commentary by executive producer John Wells and executive producer/director Alex Graves on King Corn and 2162 Votes
- Commentary by executive producers Lawrence O’Donnell Jr. and Christopher Misiano on In God We Trust
- C.J. Cregg: From Press Secretary to Chief of Staff, a featurette on the Emmy-winning Allison Janney’s portrayal of C.J. Cregg during her years in the Bartlet Administration
- Easter egg: A Conversation with John Spencer