The West Wing-Season 6 (2005)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
|Year Of Production||2005|
|Running Time||913:22 (Case: 898)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (6)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||
Warner Home Video
|RPI||$119.95||Music||W.G. Snuffy Walden|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Season Six of The West Wing is the penultimate season of this acclaimed drama and one which see new life breathed back into what had looked like a sinking ship. After the departure of creator and writer Aaron Sorkin at the end of Season Four, fans could have begun to wonder just what had happened to their favourite programme when Season Five started. Too much personal drama, not enough savvy politics and a general lack of the usual sophisticated dialogue from some less than stellar writing led to some of the least memorable episodes of this multi award-winning show.
So it was a welcome relief when Season Six saw a return to what made The West Wing one of the most popular and award-winning drama series on television - politics. Throw in a few new characters to shake things up a little and focus many of the stories squarely on the looming Presidential election campaign - this time not featuring Martin Sheen's President Jed Bartlet on the ticket, and there should be plenty to keep even the jaded fan happy. New characters introduced for the first time here include presidential hopefuls Democrat Matthew Santos played by long-time television series stalwart Jimmy Smits and Republican Senator Arnold Vinick played by the always reliable and classy Alan Alda.
From the opening episodes dealing with the aftermath of the bombing in Gaza which injured Josh's assistant Donna, to the troubled Middle-East peace negotiations at Camp David, through the political manoeuvring and machinations of trying to select the Democratic Presidential candidate in the latter episodes, this is pure West Wing all the way. The dialogue might not quite be of Aaron Sorkin calibre, but its still fun, fast paced and always intelligent.
For those interested seasons One (Parts One and Two), Three, Four and Five have previously been reviewed and you can check those reviews out at your leisure for a bit of background to why this series rates as many people's favourite of all time.
As usual there are 22 episodes in Season Six. These are:
Things are definitely improving in the video department. Just like seasons four and five, the sixth season of The West Wing comes blessed with a proper 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer and really benefits from only being a couple of years old. The West Wing is also a television series that really highlights the advances in television broadcast quality since the turn of the century. It is crisp, clean, bright and blemish free and exhibits a bold depth of field that is sometimes lacking in the earlier seasons.
The transfer is presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is also 16x9 enhanced.
All the vision is sharp and detailed, though not as finely detailed as many modern feature films might be. There isn't a trace of edge enhancement anywhere and no problems with shadow detail despite the continued lack of lighting in some of the White House scenes. There is some grain, but it is well controlled and barely an issue.
The colours are excellent, with deep saturation and even and consistent shading. The various reds and blues on the many US flags around the place are rendered especially well and the skin tones are perfect.
There are no compression artefacts and video artefacts are also absent. Film artefacts are absent. All up, this is a very, very clean image with no problems to report.
There are several subtitle streams available. I sampled them extensively throughout many of the episodes and found them around 80 per cent accurate and well placed on screen.
All six discs are dual layered, and since I failed to see any layer changes, I think it is safe to assume that each disc has at least two episodes on each layer.
While the video has undergone the full 16x9 enhanced treatment, the same overhaul has not occurred with the audio. Just like the previous five seasons, Season Six contains a functional soundtrack that works well but will not stretch you home theatre setup to any great extent. Sadly there is just one soundtrack available, this being a fairly nondescript English Dolby Digital 2.0 track with the surround flag encoded in the bitstream.
There really is not a great deal to say about the audio. With this being a dialogue-heavy drama series, most of the action emanates from the centre channel. The left and right speakers are dominated by the musical score, some dialogue and other ambient effects.
The rapidly delivered dialogue is occasionally lost in the cacophony of the West Wing, but apart from a little dodgy ADR you should be able to work out what is going on most of the time.
The score is, as always, credited to W.G. Snuffy Walden. It is a score that pops up quite a bit and it has a suitably Presidential feel to it.
Despite the surround tag, the rear channels get a little bit of the score and perhaps a few sounds whenever the action moves outside.
There is no discrete subwoofer use.
|Surround Channel Use|
Sadly, just like it was with Seasons Three, Four and Five there is not a single extra contained on any of these discs.
Ok, this is where it gets ugly. In the past I have simply compared each season's Region 4 release with the equivalent release from the US, with the Region 4 box set often available well ahead of the box set in the US and similarly specified. Alas, since the free-to-air broadcast hiatus The West Wing has endured in Australia, this situation is now reversed. Making life even more miserable for the Region 4 shopper is the fact that while each of the seven seasons of The West Wing have been available in Region 1 individually for some time, they are now also available as a mega 45-disc box set (yes you read that right - 45 discs!) featuring the full series - and this is where the comparison swings in favour of the Region 1 version - comprehensively enough to label it a landslide victory in election terms.
Being self-confessed Wing Nut, as soon as I saw this complete series set I instantly placed my order. My copy of this superbly packaged box arrived a few months ago and now has pride of place in my collection as the best example of how to do a box set properly. Enclosed in an incredibly sturdy flip lid box (complete with faux Presidential Seal), this box set houses each season in a special manilla folder, much like those used to pass around documents in the real West Wing. Also included in the box is a full colour booklet outlining each episode in the series, a reproduction of the script for the Pilot episode and a special introductory message from creator Aaron Sorkin where he describes in some detail just how the series came to be (or almost not to be if I read it right).
Season Six in this box set is spread across six discs and features some bonus material of its own. There are commentary tracks for three episodes (King Corn, In God We Trust, and the season finale 2162 Votes), plus a featurette called CJ Cregg - From Press Secretary To Chief Of Staff which looks at the evolution of one of televisions most dynamic characters. The Region 4 set of Season Six on the other hand contains no extras of any description.
This lavish Region 1 set does not come cheap (I picked it up for around $230 delivered - please don't tell the wife that), but for die hard fans this is a no-brainer and a clear win to Region 1. Passing fans may still consider the local product worth the price if you can get it on special somewhere.
While it is still not as good as the first four seasons when Aaron Sorkin was penning some of the best work of his career, Season Six of The West Wing is far superior to Season Five where the drama often plummeted to overblown melodramatic levels. While all are not the most memorable, the injection of several new characters has brought a breath of fresh air through the offices of the Bartlet Administration and with the Presidential election race warming up, the stories have a real spark to them.
The video quality is uniformly excellent with a bright and vivid 16x9 enhanced transfer the main highlight.
The audio is functional and performs the task well.
The complete lack of extras is extremely disappointing.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3910, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic TH-42PX600A 42" Plasma. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|