My wife and are one episode away from completing West Wing Season 3. For those who care about the show and have some familiarity with it I will explain my 9/10 rating for this season below.
Firstly, however, let me show you one of the best scenes of the season, where President Jed Bartlett complains about the preaching at his church and has a debate with his wife about the proper interpretation of Ephesians 5. In my opinion he pretty much nails it. The only place I'd beg to differ is that I'd say it is about marriage---but he's right; it is about so much more. I think he actually manages in this short clip to expose the absolute beauty and relevance of this remarkably misused and abused passage of Scripture. Watch this fantastic scene:
Unfortunately, the clip here stops short before Leo (the Chief of Staff) walks in and Bartlett says: "Leo, how may I be subject to you today?" and Leo responds: "I'm alright, Mr. President, I have Margaret (his secretary)."
As for the rating of this season, West Wing nuts might be interested to hear why I'm giving it a rating of 9. After all, this season certainly hit some real television highs, and in relation to most TV shows every season of West Wing is a 10. But I want to reserve my 10 ratings for the absolute masterpieces, the near-flawless screen-events.
And the fact is that there are three reason why Season 3 fell short of masterpiece status.
1) There were a few episodes near the beginning which were very very flat. Boring, in fact. One of them was directed by a person who never directed an episode again, and it is a reminder that even with great writing and wonderful actors a director can really ruin something. It gives a person cause for pause before dreaming "oh yeah, I could direct a show like that." Yeah right.
2) Too many guest spots and new characters coming in and out. Now, this is a minor criticism since most, if not all, of them were great characters with winning performances. The problem is perhaps only evident when you watch the season on DVD (rather than over the course of a year), but these characters were too in and out with not enough continuity. At times you don't know who you are going to see again. But this criticism is not major, since on the other hand some of these characters are absolutely amazing (especially Oliver Babich, Ainsley Hayes, Bruno Gianelli, and CJ's bodyguard).
3) The 9/11 episode was fairly potent at the time, but in retrospect is hard to watch. But we give some grace here: It must have been hard to be the West Wing after 9/11. In fact, maybe this explains some of the early-season flops. For the most part I think the show managed to wade through these sketchy waters with grace and dignity, not glamorizing or taking advantage of the event to make a buck, but not ignoring it either.
All in all, however, an incredible season of television. If you've never seen the West Wing, you owe yourself the favour of turning off the garbage on today and renting the DVDs.
In regard to the Ephesians 5 rant above, of course it must be mentioned that the show has its fair share of less-than bang-on representations of Christianity or Scripture. But even then, most of those have a real critical value to them that Christians ought to pay attention to. In amongst those, as well, there are some other real gems. Another of them is this interview between the President and a persecuted Christian seeking asylum from China: