Television: Capital Ideas

A speechwriter's--sorry, scriptwriter's--D.C. series

With the monologue-heavy Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin showed himself to be as much a speechwriter as a scriptwriter, so it was only a matter of time before he wrote a political series. His ambitious new presidential drama, The West Wing (NBC, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. E.T.), like an ambitious presidency, swings wildly from the impressive to the insufferable.

Sorkin's tendency toward the dramatic is exacerbated by casting serial over-emoter Martin Sheen as Democratic President Josiah Bartlet, who makes his first appearance speaking in the voice of God. Bursting into a showdown with religious conservatives, Sheen quotes the First Commandment, then unburdens himself...

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