The West Wing: Season 1 (1999 - 2000)

SEASON:

Season 1
The West Wing

Critics Consensus

The West Wing is a gripping fantasy of lawmakers and government operatives looking to make a difference, presenting an idealized vision of politicking that audiences can strive toward.

95%

TOMATOMETER

Critic Ratings: 20

93%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 172

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Episodes

Air date: Sep 22, 1999

The inaugural episode of The West Wing finds the staff concerned with Cuban refugees, and the fact that President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) has injured himself riding a bicycle. Rumors are swirling that Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) will be fired due to heated remarks he made during a television appearance that angered the religious right. Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) is quite concerned about the political ramifications when he discovers that the woman he slept with the night before is a high-priced call girl.

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Air date: Sep 29, 1999

Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) keeps a dispute between President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and Vice President John Hoynes (Tim Matheson) from becoming a run-away story in the media, while Sam Seaborn continues to see a high-priced call girl (Lisa Edelstein) despite the warnings of nearly everyone on the president's staff. Political consultant Mandy Hampton (Moira Kelly) is unable to convince her senator client to act in his best political interests. Meanwhile, Bartlett selects Captain Morris Tolliver (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) as his new personal physician.

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Air date: Oct 6, 1999

President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is furious about a plane carrying his personal physician being downed in the Middle East. After initially requesting a retaliatory attack that would kill a great many people, Bartlet's military advisors try to convince him to take a more cautionary maneuver. Journalist Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield) questions Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) about Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) having a relationship with a high-priced call girl. Having heard nothing about it, she confronts Sam about the issue and berates him for keeping her uninformed about such a dangerous political situation. Josh Lymon (Bradley Whitford) hires Charlie Young (Dulé Hill) to be the personal aide to the president.

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Air date: Oct 13, 1999

The staff must spend some political capital as the president is five votes short on a gun-control bill being voted on in the House. They must bargain with members of Congress, as well as Vice President John Hoynes (Tim Matheson), in order to get the needed "yea" votes. Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) appears to have an ethical problem after a stock he invested in becomes lucrative. On the home front, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) gets into a marriage-ending argument with his wife who is upset about the amount of time he spends working.

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Air date: Oct 20, 1999

Leo McGarry instructs the staff to take meetings with groups that have idiosyncratic requests of the government like pro-UFO lobbyists and another group that wants the government to build a road to be used exclusively by wolves. Toby (Richard Schiff) and the president (Martin Sheen) argue relentlessly about the president's plans for an upcoming California trip before confronting each other about Bartlet's original desire to hire a different Communications Director. Josh Lymon (Bradley Whitford ) is unnerved to discover that in case of nuclear attack he is one of the few White House workers who will have access to the safest shelters. All the while, Bartlet is cooking a pot of chili and planning a party for his soon-to-be Georgetown freshman daughter Zoey (Elisabeth Moss).

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Air date: Nov 3, 1999

Toby (Richard Schiff) and Mandy (Moira Kelly) combine together to pass a commerce bill that would alter the way the country's census is taken. They must persuade Mr. Willis (Al Fann), a congressman who holds his seat because his wife (who had been elected to the position) died. Having trouble understanding the complexities of the census issue, C.J. (Allison Janney) gets a crash course from Sam (Rob Lowe). President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) has a stern discussion with Leo McGarry (John Spencer) about Leo's failing marriage. Josh (Bradley Whitford) and Sam get into a sticky spot while out on the town with Zoey (Elisabeth Moss).

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Air date: Nov 10, 1999

While a gala state dinner for the leader of Indonesia is prepared for and transpires, the president (Martin Sheen) and his staff must deal with numerous sensitive situations. Federal agents are involved in an armed standoff with a group of extremists who are holding hostages, a powerful hurricane is coming down on a Naval vessel, and Teamsters are threatening to strike. Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield) flirts with Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney), Sam (Rob Lowe) spots his call-girl girlfriend at the dinner on the arm of a politician, and Josh, Toby, and C.J. attempt to get a request granted from an Indonesian official. This episode marks the first appearance of Stockard Channing as First Lady Abigail Bartlet.

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Air date: Nov 17, 1999

Word leaks out that Bartlet and the Vice President (Martin Sheen, Tim Matheson) clashed at a cabinet meeting; Mallory (Allison Smith) invites Sam (Rob Lowe) to the opera; Leo tries to prove a point to his daughter. Danny: Timothy Busfield.

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Air date: Nov 24, 1999

After Justice Joseph Crouch (Mason Adams) steps down from the Supreme Court, President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) questions his first choice to replace him, Peyton Cabot Harrison III (Ken Howard), when an old brief reveals he does not share the administration's position on privacy rights. Bartlett turns to controversial minority candidate Judge Roberto Mendoza (Edward James Olmos). As if this were not enough for the staff to deal with, a publicity-hound Congressman claims that one-third of the White House staff is on drugs, forcing the senior staff to consider instituting drug tests.

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Air date: Dec 15, 1999

As the holiday season approaches, Toby (Richard Schiff) attempts to arrange a suitable burial for a homeless Korean War veteran who died in the cold. Sam (Rob Lowe) and Josh (Bradley Whitford) attempt to extract information that would be embarrassing to political rivals from Sam's high-priced call girl friend (Lisa Edelstein) after said opponents began a political battle against Leo (John Spencer). C.J. (Allison Janey) must deal with an infamous hate crime, and with the continued romantic advances of reporter Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield). The president (Martin Sheen) attempts to finish up his Christmas shopping.

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The West Wing: Season 1 Photos

Tv Season Info

Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe, as the U.S. President and his deputy communications director, play politics in this innovative Washington, D.C., drama series from award-winning producers John Wells, Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme.

Critic Reviews for The West Wing Season 1

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (11)

Just when you think that you've gotten into a rhythm with the show, Sorkin pulls a fast one

Sep 25, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

That's a lot of names and faces, but by the time the first hour of "The West Wing" is over, you'll know them all. Sorkin wastes no time in letting them, or the show, make a strong first impression.

Jan 18, 2018 | Full Review…

Nothing walk-and-talked quite like it.

Apr 30, 2018 | Full Review…

it is as much about the world we live in now as it is about the world as it was then. In fact, it might be even more relevant today than it was 10 years ago.

Apr 23, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

West Wing is not a dramatic powerhouse as it gets off the ground tonight but, indeed, it does get off the ground.

Jan 5, 2018 | Full Review…

The premiere's energy and humor play well until its last few minutes and that oh-too-glib capper from a president who is withheld for the Big Ending, when even limping on a sprained ankle he appears to walk taller than other earthlings.

Jan 5, 2018 | Full Review…

I'm 22 episodes in, I fancy and am in love with pretty much all of the cast at this point, have felt weepy on average once an episode and sobbed my way through one truly masterful episode...

Nov 6, 2020 | Full Review…

...the Bible of television drama writing.

Dec 20, 2018 | Full Review…

It's conducted with power and confidence, ensuring it's engrained in your memory for a long time to come.

Sep 25, 2018 | Full Review…

The West Wing is not your typical pilot. It does all the things a good pilot should do, but it does them with such confidence and style that you would think the show had already been running for at least half a season.

Sep 25, 2018 | Full Review…

Despite feeling confused, politically-ignorant and, quite frankly, knackered, this reviewer suddenly can't wait to see more.

Sep 25, 2018 | Full Review…

The dialogue is so rushed, the characters so developed and rich, and the plot so intricate that even the most seasoned political aficionado may have difficulty keeping up.

Jun 27, 2018 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The West Wing: Season 1

  • Jun 25, 2020
    Excellent cast. It was an idealized view of what apparently Hollywood thinks that Democrat politicians are, which is not based in reality that the last few years have clearly revealed. It seems kind of bland because of that since real life political drama is far more exciting.
  • Jun 13, 2020
    Although I am a great fan of Aaron Sorkin, and I know this was the TV series who made it famous, and despite I appreciate the accute dialogs, the episodes look so light to me, maybe because they lack of conflict in this too idealistic vision of the politics. At the moment, I have seen 5 episodes, and I don't know if I would see any more.
  • Dec 13, 2019
    Some of the best TV every written or produced. The pilot alone sets a very high bar, and by the 5th episode, you know this is gonna be awesome.
  • Feb 19, 2019
    As a Republican: Aaron Sorkin is a literary genius, and i'll watch anything this man shells out. On his worst day, he is at a lot of peoples best days.
  • Jun 11, 2018
    dramatic propaganda about far left democrats in the only universe in which their policies actually work--the land of make believe. Masturbatory propaganda one would only expect from a totalitarian regime..
  • Nov 17, 2017
    Sharp and witty, but still able to carry emotion
  • Aug 07, 2017
    It is unusual that I score something so high, especially a piece of television. But in this first season of the West Wing, Aaron Sorkin has created a truly outstanding political drama. As with any television programme, a few episodes are needed for the West Wing to find its feet; but, once it does, my God, this show delivers. Telling the tale of Democrat, Jed Bartlet's fictional White House, The West Wing is a delightfully fast-paced, intellectual (yet not pompously so) and frenetic show, tackling contemporary American politics head on, as well as establishing and developing on an interesting, likeable and compatible cast of characters. Rare is to see a television season without a duff episode, but this first season of the Emmy-winning drama jumps this hurdle with ease providing a plot that stretches over the season with delightful single episode narratives in between. The season finale is also exceptional, heart-wrenching and dramatic. The season finds its real strength, however in its cast. With the exception of Moira Kelly's Mandy Hampton (who Sorkin realised was a non-character and dropped after this season), the show's cast work very well together as an ensemble, helping to enhance the walk and talk style of the show. The whole cast are worthy of notable mentions so I must applaud them all for fear of making this review too long. The style of the show takes some getting used to, being very frenetic, yet once it is second nature it only enhances the show further, showcasing the true mania of the Bartlet administration delightfully. Sorkin's first season of The West Wing is simply fantastic; it's clever, it's funny, it's relevant. it's thoughtful and it's simply just well-written, well-directed and well-made as a whole. I can only hope that this show does not drop in quality over the next six years! Great television.
  • Feb 25, 2017
    As a fan of political fare in general, I gave "The West Wing" a try because it was so highly ranked. I am a huge fan of "24" and "Homeland" and was looking for something else politically-minded to dive into. What I found, however, is that even though this is a decent show, it isn't "must see" television by any means. For a basic plot summary, "The West Wing" (at least in this first season) is the story of a new presidential administration in the White House under President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen). The main cast of characters includes... -Leo McGarry (John Spencer), Chief of Staff -C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney), Press Secretary -Charlie Young (Dule Hill), Personal Aid To The President -Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), Deputy Chief of Staff -Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), Communications Director -Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), Deputy Communications Director -Mandy Hampton (Moira Kelly), political consultant The basic format of each episode consists of a problem (or number of problems) that must be solved in the hour time-frame. The show is probably best known for its frenetic, "walk-and-talk" format as the key players pound the White House carpet back and forth. There is also always a bit of character development in each episode, with some cast members featuring more heavily into the plot during some weeks than others (classic ensemble cast). The main positive about "The West Wing"? Each week, the show presents a scenario that could indeed happen in the real world. It then portrays the way a fictional administrative (loosely Democratic in nature during this season) would handle such a situation. This is very different from the Jack Bauer or Homeland-esque style of political drama that current viewers are a bit more accustomed to. These are stories (at least so far) about "the world before terrorism", which of course makes sense considering it premiered in 1999. Why the three-star rating then? Well, unfortunately I don't consider that formula to be "must see TV", or at least not enough for me to get excited about watching it. I really got into the first 7-10 episodes, but after that my interest really started to wane (by the end of the season it had become a chore to watch). I want to say this is because the episodes "got worse", but I don't think that was the case. I actually think it was because the format didn't change enough to keep me interested. It was "the same thing" over and over again. Simply put, it is a "case of the week" procedural that just happens to take place in the White House. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the more serial aspect of TV programs in recent years, but the fact is that I lost interest in "The West Wing" very quickly. I know that it is a well-made show created with lots of care by Aaron Sorkin, but I wonder if perhaps it is more a show for its times. I could see myself coming back for the Second Season at some point, but for now I will be moving on to other fare. I would be very interested to hear the thoughts of others about how this First Season fits into the overall context of the show. Does it stay pretty much the same all the way throughout, or do they go to more plot/character arcs in subsequent campaigns?
  • Jan 13, 2017
    As with most TV dramas, you need to give The West Wing some episodes in order to unfold what is at the heart of the show. What we witness is a group of people infuriated with the status quo, yet, by continuing to abide to current conditions, end up being those most responsible for why the status quo does not change. They find solace in small victories, in order to compensate for the larger losses they do their best to swallow. The Republican Party, mainstream press, congresspeople and ambassadors looking for raises, and even the Vice President are not too fond of President Bartlet (Martin Sheen), and they test how willing he is to compromise for the sake of keeping Democratic majority in Congress and a second term for his presidency. Throughout several months in the early stages of Bartlet's presidency, we get a glimpse at how trust within the primary set of staff is tested, despite everyone being very good and loyal friends. Fantastic performances from everyone, with the standout cast members certainly being Martin Sheen as President Bartlet and John Spencer as Leo McGarry, White House Chief of Staff whose impeccable dedication to his work is his saving grace for an objectively shaky personal life. Some episodes are more frivolous than others, and some can be downright preachy, but there still remains strong focus in the aforementioned themes. I have faith in the show continuing to improve upon itself.
  • Jan 09, 2016
    Knows where its heart is, political drama, never strays into soap territory. Occasionally Sorkin's script gets in the way of the show being properly immersive, as actors cut each other off and react to what they are saying with inhuman speed. This is easily ignored however, because in about 2 seconds the conversation has changed completely due to said inhuman speed.

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