What is like The West Wing?
March 13, 2009 8:24 PM   Subscribe

TV Filter: I love 'The West Wing, so what other TV/DVDs should I watch?

I have been watching 'The West Wing' on DVD, but only have a few seasons left, so what should I watch next?
I like the intelligence of the show, the comedy, the interesting characters, the fact they don't feel the need to over explain most things, etc
What do you recommended?
posted by eclecticlibrary to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
You should watch The Sopranos, and then you should watch Deadwood.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:28 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister are good shows about working in government.

The Deal and The Queen are also really interesting movies.

Syriana and Traffic are interesing "political thrillers".

If you're interested in reading about working in government, I would recommend Master of the Senate by Robert Caro. Or perhaps The Prince, by Machiavelli.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:29 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Sopranos, BTW. It's more sophisticated than The West Wing by an entire order of magnitude.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:30 PM on March 13, 2009

Sports Night, an early project of the creator of 'The West Wing'
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:35 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mad Men.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:42 PM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Deadwood and The Wire -- though both are a lot more R-rated than the West Wing, if that's a consideration at all. Both are really smart, pretty darn funny at times, have terrific characters, and never overexplain.

Movie-wise, you should also watch A Few Good Men and An American President, if you haven't seen those already, as they were also written by Aaron Sorkin.
posted by cider at 8:44 PM on March 13, 2009

Battlestar Galactica has been described as "The West Wing with space battles."
posted by stevis23 at 8:46 PM on March 13, 2009

Urgh, by whom? I like both shows, but wouldn't consider them even vaguely similar. I mean, they both have presidents in them, but other than that...

Sports Night is probably your best bet; early seasons of West Wing felt very much to me like Sorkin wanted to keep writing Sports Night but with higher stakes. The Wire would be another fine choice.
posted by ook at 9:08 PM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Studio 60, also by Sorkin, is hit and miss, but when it hits, it's quite nice. The pilot episode is Sorkin at his West-Wing'esque best, and makes the rest of the season worth watching.
posted by ochenk at 9:51 PM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Wire.
posted by neuron at 9:56 PM on March 13, 2009

Seconding Battlestar Galactica. A lot of people are (understandably) turned off by TV sci-fi, but BSG really is different.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 10:01 PM on March 13, 2009

I'll go out on a limb here and suggest the Canadian series "Slings & Arrows." It's not political, but it is intelligent, funny, and has interesting characters (to put it mildly).
posted by Joleta at 10:02 PM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Boston Legal
posted by LiquidKarma at 10:39 PM on March 13, 2009

It sounds like you appreciate the writing of Aaron Sorkin.
He is the brains behind the "style" of the characters and the dialogue on the West Wing.

You will see the common trend in his other TV Shows SportsNite and Studio 60.

The dialogue is fast.
The characters are intelligent.
The humor is quirky.
posted by scottabing at 10:54 PM on March 13, 2009

The Hollowmen is an Australian sitcom dealing with political machinations but is cynical just like Yes Minister and unlike the West Wing which has an idealistic streak. For more brutal politics, there's The Thick of It, House of Cards trilogy, A Very British Coup. There's also Intelligence. I'll see if I remember more.
posted by Gyan at 10:56 PM on March 13, 2009

I'll go out on a limb here and suggest the Canadian series "Slings & Arrows."

Still Canadian, much less of a limb: The Newsroom. Very smart, writerly, dialogue-driven. Set in a local TV newsroom. Much funnier than The West Wing though less political. The humour's much darker than your average sitcom, closer to Curb Your Enthusiasm than, say, NewsRadio.
posted by gompa at 12:54 AM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thirding The Wire. It's one of the best shows I've ever seen. It starts out on the streets but gets more political as it goes along.
posted by cali59 at 1:08 AM on March 14, 2009

Thirding bsg. And agreeing with evereyone else.
posted by Iteki at 1:23 AM on March 14, 2009

Echoing everyone above, particularly: Deadwood, The Wire and Mad Men.
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:37 AM on March 14, 2009

thanks everyone, the suggestions sound good, I am adding them to my list. Keep them coming if there are more
posted by eclecticlibrary at 2:04 AM on March 14, 2009

If you're at all interested in films, All The President's Men is one of the benchmarks for smart, well-written political thrillers.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:18 AM on March 14, 2009

posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:36 AM on March 14, 2009

If you haven't seen it, then I'm nthing The Wire. It is a must see.

A good political mini-series was State of Play, recently adapted into a patchy Blockbuster featuring Russell Crowe. No comedy, but certainly slick and intelligent.
posted by fire&wings at 4:52 AM on March 14, 2009

Scottabing omitted one

You will see the common trend in his other TV Shows SportsNite and Studio 60.
The dialogue is fast.
The characters are intelligent.
The humor is quirky.

There's always a lot of walk-talk.
posted by yclipse at 5:12 AM on March 14, 2009

Generation Kill. The same writers as The Wire worked on the adaptation from the book. Absolutely sublime. Only 7 episodes as well, so it's not a huge investment in time.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:30 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have to chime and say that I second a lot of the recommendations above, but that I was fairly roundly disappointed by Sports Night. I couldn't even be arsed to get through the first DVD.

It had... it had a laugh track.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:56 AM on March 14, 2009

I might catch some flak for this, but for comedy & dialogue paced like West Wing: Gilmore Girls. I'm all for The Wire, too, but it's a good bit heavier than WW.
posted by knile at 6:07 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay for Charlie Wilson's War. Sharp, witty dialogue, as in the West Wing.
posted by markcmyers at 6:31 AM on March 14, 2009

I couldn't even be arsed to get through the first DVD.

You monster! No, the laugh track was just horrendous, but I was more than hooked by the writing and characters by then anyway, and at least by season 2 he'd managed to get rid of the canned laughter (which in season 1 only really cropped up very rarely anyway). Worth a try at least, I'd say. I wound up feeling it was criminal that it got axed, much as with Studio 60, which I felt was hit all the way through.
posted by opsin at 6:37 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and while here, would definitely nth The Wire, as the best thing I've ever seen (and subsequently Generation Kill, and anything else Simon's worked on), which also uses language as intelligently as Sorkin, while in a very different way.
posted by opsin at 6:41 AM on March 14, 2009

Totally different direction, but, Gilmore Girls. Funny, fast paced dialogue, great characters, not a lot of explaining.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:20 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

John Adams, the HBO mini-series. It might not have the fast-paced dialogue, but it is an intelligent political show.
posted by serunding at 8:33 AM on March 14, 2009

Oh, I agree with the Gilmore Girl recommendation too. My husband hates the Gilmore Girls because he thinks they talk too fast about nonsensical things. But when we were watching West Wing, which he loves, he would sometimes exclaim - "they just has a Gilmore Girls moment!"
posted by serunding at 8:37 AM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

3rding Gilmore Girls and Battlestar Galactica, for different reasons - GG for the snappy dialogue and smart characters, BSG for the political intrigue and ethical dilemmas. Both for real emotional stakes and general awesomeness.

Veronica Mars for more intelligent dialogue and great cast chemistry.
Six Feet Under...oh, now I'm just listing a show I like a lot. But seriously, great writing and acting.
posted by lunasol at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2009

If you liked Mark Harmon's guest appearances, try NCIS!
posted by bettafish at 1:40 PM on March 14, 2009

Yes to The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, Deadwood, Mad Men. if I had to choose one I'd choose Deadwood. There were times when I'd alternate watching episodes of the WW with episodes of Deadwood.

Stylistically they're all different than the WW. The WW is very moving in a way that is unique, every episode is a gem in itself. Mad Men is incredible but can have a distance to it; BSG really handles hard issues well but can have some really awful episodes; Deadwood and the Wire are both long form, entire season arc style, so with both of them I only understood, fell in love, was amazed by them at the end of their seasons. All this to say that all these shows have excellent writing, acting, characters, worlds, and despite what is different, give them a chance!

But wow, I miss the WW. I stopped watching when Sorkin left. What an amazing show.

Another one I thought of if you like crime is the Prime Suspect series. The most incredible acting from Helen Mirren. The first and the last ones (1&7) are my favorites.
posted by scazza at 1:53 PM on March 14, 2009

Another thing Deadwood has in common with the WW: if you stop watching the WW when Sorkin left then you don't know what happens to the characters. Deadwood got cancelled after 3 seasons and never had it's planned final 4th season, so you also don't find out what happens.
posted by scazza at 2:07 PM on March 14, 2009

I love many of the shows mentioned. I'd add on Veronica Mars as well--the dialogue is just as fast paced, the social issues stuff is handled very intelligently, and it has a really cool old-fashioned noir feeling while being set in a southern CA high school.

I'll also throw in a couple newer shows that you can get the first season of on DVD (and then watch current episodes on Hulu if you get hooked): Damages (fast paced legal thriller starring Glenn Close and Ted Danson) and Friday Night Lights (all about football in a small town, but you don't have to love football or small towns to get sucked into the drama)
posted by hydropsyche at 2:11 PM on March 14, 2009

nthing The Wire.

Battlestar Galactica asks the philosophical questions and doesn't overexplain, but it also doesn't have a whole lot of humor amidst its bleakness.
posted by andrewraff at 2:21 PM on March 14, 2009

I've revistied this thread a couple of times now, and been toying with an idea - it may be crazy, but what the hell.

Babylon 5.

Ensemble cast, drama with a hint of humour, intelligent writing, grand over-arching story.

Disclaimer: I'm a huge fan of B5, and a huge fan of The West Wing. I may not be objective on either, but they're both (IMHO) fantastic.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 3:23 PM on March 14, 2009

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