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the west wing, gilmore girls by Yee-Fan Sun
| 1 2 3

This whole TV show on DVD thing: it's killing me. Back in the days when watching TV meant tuning in at a certain time on a certain night on a certain channel, I just plain didn't watch all that many shows. I'm the sort of person who wants to watch what I want when I want it, and waiting around for a week or more to find out what happens next tends to drive me nuts. With just about every show that's ever been created now making its way to DVD, I'm now discovering characters and stories that I was just plain too impatient to pay attention to before. The only problem? It's sucking up hours and hours of my time each night -- and it's hard to pull myself away long enough to rent a movie, which used to be my preferred method to laze away an evening, and was far more time-efficient. Excuses, excuses. The fact is, I'm beginning to realize that I just really like TV -- when it's good TV, that is.

Here are two shows that I've never really watched regularly on TV -- one because I wasn't originally wowed by the premise, the other because it aired at the same time as my beloved Buffy. Now available on DVD, both shows have won me over with their mix of zingy dialogue and genuine optimism…

o o o

the west wing
buy The First Season | The Second Season | Seasons 1+2

I never really got into the much-lauded political drama The West Wing on television. Sure, I'd catch an isolated episode here and there, but jumping midway into some storyline, I never found myself sucked in. I liked the witty dialogue and the smart characters and the fast pace, but that whole politics thing? No thanks, I thought -- politics tends to either piss me off, confuse me or bore me, none of which are states I particularly like my entertainment to induce. So I admired The West Wing for its smart writing but figured it just wasn't my cup of tea. Until my brother insisted I had to watch the show on DVD, and loaned me the first two seasons. That first night I popped a disc into my DVD player, I found my eyes eagerly glued to the screen for five episodes straight. It was official: I was addicted.

Like most of the best TV shows, I soon realized, The West Wing transcends genre. The political issues can actually be pretty fascinating, even for a political-idiot like myself, but it's the development of the characters that makes it hard to stop watching after just one episode. In The West Wing's world, the President of the United States is an idealistic Nobel-prize winning economist from New Hampshire named Jed Bartlet [Martin Sheen], a good man with the potential to be a great president. As President Bartlet begins his term in office, he has the benefit of a keen mind, ample charisma, strong moral values, true passion, and a real sense of vision -- as well as a devoted and talented staff working day in and day out (and well into the wee hours of the night) to ensure that the President can get his job done right. Inhabiting the offices of the West Wing are Chief of Staff Leo McGarry [John Spencer], Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman [Bradley Whitford], Communications Director Toby Ziegler [Richard Schiff], Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn [Rob Lowe], and Press Secretary C.J. Cregg [Alison Janney]. Battling the ever-inquisitive press, right-wing nutjobs, uncooperative Congressmen and a hostile Vice President intent solely on advancing his own political ambitions, these men and women work behind the scenes to keep the country running smoothly, even as they juggle an incessant barrage of political crises.

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