The fifth season of the American political drama television series The West Wing aired in the United States on NBC from September 24, 2003, to May 19, 2004, and consisted of 22 episodes. This was the first season with executive producer John Wells as showrunner after series creator Aaron Sorkin departed the series at the end of the previous season.
The fifth season had star billing for nine major roles. All nine of these were filled by returning main cast members from the fourth season. The cast was credited in alphabetical order except for Martin Sheen, who was listed last. Stockard Channing is only credited for the episodes in which she appears.
The fifth season opens with US forces rescuing Zoey Bartlet from her abductors. Bartlet takes the presidency back from acting president Walken, but is forced back into a level of powerlessness. He comes to terms with his actions that led to his daughter's kidnapping, a new Republican Speaker of the House (Walken has had to resign in order to assume the presidency) who forces Bartlet into several decisions he does not want to make, including the nomination of an unimpressive Democrat, "Bingo Bob" Russell, for vice president. The conflict with the new Speaker comes to a head in "Shutdown", when the Speaker tries to force Bartlet into cutting federal spending more than had been agreed to and Bartlet refuses to sign the budget, forcing the federal government into a shutdown. Bartlet regains some of his power, cutting a deal to get a liberal Chief Justice of the United States, and season five ends with a bombing in Gaza leading Bartlet to push for Israeli peace talks and Josh to be closer to Donna after she is critically wounded. The fifth season begins toward the end of Bartlet's first year of his second term (fifth year overall) in office. By the end of the season, over a year has elapsed.
Following a harrowing chapter in the nation's history, the White House celebrates the Fourth of July, but most of the staff is not in a cheerful mood. C.J. is moved by the resignation letter of a senior State Department diplomat who could not stomach the Shareef assassination. Bartlet endures the painful process of nominating a candidate for Vice President. His first choice, Secretary of State Lewis Berryhill, cannot be approved and he and his staff are unimpressed with the compromise candidate they end up with, reflecting on how recent events have emboldened the Republicans. Meanwhile, the reclusive First Lady tends to personal matters and expresses anger towards her husband and Leo, Amy champions Abbey's violence prevention provisions for an upcoming bill, the President drops in on a citizenship swearing-in ceremony, and Donna is appalled by a cocky new intern, Ryan (Jesse Bradford).
On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has an approval rating of 62% with an average score of 7.8 out of 10 based on 13 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Executive producer John Wells admirably attempts to maintain the spirit of Aaron Sorkin's vision after succeeding him, but The West Wing's fifth season is a sloppy changing of the guard that bears the Bartlet administration's agenda but possesses not of its finesse or flair."
Resuming from last season's cliffhanger, the world watches the desperate search for the President's (Martin Sheen) abducted daughter while rival administrations form an uneasy alliance as they weigh options that might include a preemptive military strike at terrorist targets -- a move that could doom the victim. After President Bartlet invoked the 25th Amendment, House Speaker Walken (John Goodman) addresses the nation after the news breaks about Bartlet's assassination of a Qumari terrorist leader last year, more anti-American violence occurs overseas and the weary President gathers his family at the White House -- but faces losing their respect after news reports of the Qumari incident.
As a White House Fourth of July ceremony nears following a harrowing chapter in the nation's history, Bartlet (Martin Sheen) endures the painful process of nominating a proper candidate for vice president -- but his first choice is his secretary of state (William Devane) who faces a nasty uphill fight for approval. Elsewhere, Amy (Mary-Louise Parker) champions the reclusive First Lady's (Stockard Channing) violence prevention provisions for an upcoming bill while Abby withdraws from her husband after the Qumari assassination is exposed. In addition, a frustrated Josh (Bradley Whitford) reacts when is confronted by Amy and Donna (Janel Moloney) is appalled by the new intern Ryan (Jesse Bradford).
A renowned North Korean pianist is greeted in the White House for a solo performance but the formalities hit a sour note when he slips a message to the President (Martin Sheen) stating that he wants to defect -- and despite CJ's (Allison Janney) passionate argument, others counsel Bartlet that doing so would endanger crucial ongoing negotiations with the nation. Also on the front burner, is the backstage campaign to get the President's choice for Vice President (Gary Cole) unanimously approved by both houses of Congress -- but there's one holdout whose nay vote could embarrass everyone. In addition, Toby (Richard Schiff) and Will (Joshua Malina) get playful while composing a speech and Donna (Janel Moloney) takes her Midwestern aunt and uncle for a tour.
Toby (Richard Schiff) convinces the President (Martin Sheen) to secretly sanction his solo effort to make history by reforming Social Security but his efforts to recruit a Republican Senator and a Democratic cohort are leaked -- forcing the administration to back-pedal while Josh (Bradley Whitford) and Leo (John Spencer) are left clueless and stewing. Meanwhile, an equally ignorant C.J. (Alison Janney) parries with a reporter who is ready to print all the backstage details. In addition, the female staffers complain to Josh about the new hire -- a mysterious, seductively dressed woman assigned to Toby.
When five crew members of an airborne Thunderchief are shot down by North Korean jets near the hostile country, Bartlet (Martin Sheen) dispatches an elite Navy SEAL team to retrieve them -- prompting Leo (John Spencer) to remember his own harrowing experience when he was downed as a pilot over North Vietnam. Leo's good friend and fellow flyer (Jeffrey DeMunn) saved his life and now is under fire for allegedly paying bribes to defense contractors to obtain military contracts. Meanwhile, C.J. (Allison Janney) accepts the challenge of dueling on live television with an opinionated and conservative talk show host (Jay Mohr); Josh (Bradley Whitford) fumes when he briefs the President about a contested tax cut for stay-at-home mothers and is undercut by the brash young Ryan (Jesse Bradford), and the Commander in Chief balks at posing for his official portrait.
On the eve of the President's (Martin Sheen) visit to a controversial trade summit in Brussels, Josh (Bradley Whitford) feels torn when he learns that free-trader Bartlet will reverse his position about sacrificing American jobs to foreign lands -- while C.J. (Allison Janney) takes out her frustrations with a new FCC ruling allowing multimedia companies increased ownership of TV stations. As the administration fights to spin the job-loss fallout, Donna (Janel Moloney) tells Josh about her dissatisfaction with her limited role on his staff. In the midst of it all, Kate Harper (Mary McCormack) steps in as the brash new Deputy National Security Advisor.
In the season finale, Gaza slayings of key U.S. officials might drag fuming President into unending cycle of violence -- In the season finale, events in the tinderbox Gaza Strip spin out of control after the murders of high-ranking U.S. officials as the angry President (Martin Sheen) weighs approrpiate military action -- even as Israel launches its own strikes and surrounds the Palestinian chairman, prompting more retaliatory terrorism. The dangers are compounded when Bartlet suddenly cannot communicate with the chairman and a strange undertow of intrigue finds a wary Josh (Bradley Whitford) meeting with a mysterious foreign operative while tending to Donna in Germany. Meanwhile, Bartlet dons a bulletproof vest and practices his sluggish fastball when he's called to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a game in Baltimore.
The West Wing was a TV show about work, like many others about hospitals or cops, with the biggest difference being that it happened to be in The White House. With Aaron Sorkin at the top of his game, Tommy Schlamme's direction (they created the walk-and-talk kind of scenes), and an incredible cast, the show talked about America, democracy, and idealism. The scripts and performances were celebrated and won many awards, as the cast was one of the best in history: Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, John Spencer (RIP), Richard Schiff, Janel Maloney, Dulé Hill, and, as the President, Martin Sheen. Let's sit in the Oval Office and rank all The West Wing seasons.
After a bad fifth season, the sixth was when The West Wing became a different animal, one where Wells and his team wanted to do a political campaign. The West Wing became two different shows, anchored by the two most charismatic actors: the political campaign with Josh (Whitford) training to make Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) the Democratic nominee, and another one in the West Wing where CJ (Janney) became the Chief of Staff.
Over the course of its run, The West Wing weathered its share of loss, both onscreen (Rob Lowe departed midway through season four; star John Spencer died during season seven) and off (Sorkin and Schlamme exited after season four).
The fourth season (2002-03) brought several exits from the West Wing family. First, Lowe decided to leave, reportedly over money and screen time. As big a blow as it was, it was nothing compared to the departure that would follow.
The West Wing is the second television series acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin brought to American audiences. The political drama premiered in 1999 and for seven seasons was a voice for progressive politics during the Bush era. Many argue that the show changed American politics forever, as it engaged a portion of Americans who, prior to the series, never gave the inner working of government any attention. 781b155fdc