Freshman Contenders: ‘The West Wing’

Show offers inside look at Oval Office

NBC’s Wednesday drama “The West Wing” has lived up to its impressive pedigree in its first season. Exec produced by Emmy Award nominee Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men,” “Sports Night”), Emmy Award winner Thomas Schlamme (“Tracey Takes On,” “Sports Night”) and John Wells (“ER”), this series has already logged numerous nominations for some of TV’s most prestigious honors, including a Golden Globe nom for drama last fall after only a handful of episodes aired.

The sophisticated hour, which offers viewers a glimpse into the inner workings of the Oval Office as seen through the eyes of its frenzied staffers, stars Rob Lowe as communications director Sam Seaborn, Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet and Moira Kelly as political consultant Madeline Hampton.

The series, from John Wells Prods. in association with Warner Bros. Television, finished as the No. 2 new drama of the season. It’s also proved a very compatible lead-in for NBC’s drama vet “Law & Order,” which experienced a ratings boost in its 10th season.

NBC also likes its audience composition, as the series ranks highly among primetime’s most affluent viewers as well as among the heaviest Internet users.

The New York Daily News last summer declared “West Wing” to be at the head of the list “of can’t-miss new series.” The critical lauding continued during the season, with Newsday saying the show “is so delicious that it’s also sad. Why isn’t more TV this gutsy? Why couldn’t it be?”

In addition to its three Golden Globe noms, “West Wing” has snagged the most nominations of any primetime series (six) for the Television Critics Assn. Awards.

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