But, underneath all the actual important political context there is something more interesting going on ...
1) Sam (Rob Lowe) sleeps accidentally with a high-class call girl - this is an interesting start, until about four episodes in whereby this story is dropped for the opportunity to expand on another relationship Sam is having with his bosses - Leo's (John Spencer) daughter. Quite a player. But then - for no real reason, that story is dropped also - and turns out Sam is still 'hooking' up with the prozzie. Seriously, this prostitute story is suddenly brought up again in the second-to-last episode ... will it be a part of the finale ...
2) CJ (Allison Janney) - the White House Media face - fancies a guy called Danny - a man who works in the media - this is toyed with for a few episodes, until they kiss, banter, kiss a little more and - surprise surprise - their seems to be some sort o conflict between their two jobs. Didn't see that coming. Currently prior to the last episode, post-fall out, we are watching CJ and Danny try to mend their [boo hoo] broken relationship.
3) Leo had a drug and alcohol addiction. He is over it now, but it might look a tad bad for the President but it hasn't come out in a way that it has affected the White House too much so, at the moment he just harps on about it every now and then - "Whats your view of an alcoholic?", "The problem is, I don't want one drink - I wasn't ten"... now I understand alcoholism. Thank you Leo.
4) Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) begins the story as the wonder boy of the White House, who has previously dated Mandy (Played by Moira Kelly, who initially appears to be the catalyst for some crazy events - crazy rock music rather than orchestra - in the White House, but alas - as she is an incredibly annoying character - she simply seems to disappear of radar until some old 'memo' discredits the democrats and she is shoved out from the inner circle...) and then does a lot of self-analysis - he feels bad carrying a card that would save his life in the event of a nuclear attack, he reflects on the nature of his job on a TV show, etc - until a new relationship is possibly begun in the character Joey Lucas, and the banter and flirting continue over at least 4 episodes.
5) Charlie (Dule Hill) is hired very strangely to become the Presidents personal aide and ends up dating his daughter. We are then subjected to many issues involving Charlies African-American roots - Can the Presidents aide be a young black man? Can the Presidents daughter date a black man? Charlie previously worked at an elitist executive club as a waiter and was racially discriminated against - or so it is implied.
6) Toby (Richard Schiff) and President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) are simply perfect people to some extent. Toby is passionate and cynical to a big degree (passionate, cynical ... target audience ... ) and, obviously, delivers all his lines perfectly making very few - if any- mistakes. President Bartlett though brings the whole gang together - mixing all the crews liberal views together in some big melting pot and pulling out a spoon of the perfect solution. But, more importantly, everyone is very happy with his final choice anyway. He's the president after all.
So, the politics are sidelined generally for the sake of, lets see, prostitutes, relationships with bosses daughters, conflicting jobs affecting relationships, drug addiction, alcohol addiction and racism. All these threads are the only ones which continue one-episode-after-another. Only in one instance - something about a conflict in India which lasted two/three episodes - did something other than generic-programme situations come about - albeit an edgy programme that shows after the watershed, but importantly, generic.
What I reckon ...
My view is very clear by this point. I was mocked for stating to a friend that I was 'in awe of myself' - but seriously, I was spot on before I even watched the programme: It dances over the politics, but focuses on the banter and relationships, akin to any generci programme. Highlights from what I said a [facebook] conversation with friends about the programme - obviously I was telling this to friends who liked the programme who even went so far as to say that the opening credits were good... but here are a few of my primary points:
"It is trying to be a cross between a serious political drama (akin to John-Grisham-novel-based-movies or JFK or Frost/Nixon) but, without the budget and the horrendous music, it often appears like a cheap-TV-series or, dare i say it, soap. Now, serious-political-drama crossed with a soap has so much conflict. How can you take a soap seriously ... you can't."
"The music ... completely jars - not to mention the awful title sequence. Add to that the 'funny' 'quirky' attitudes they have ... 'oh, look, the president is high on pills', 'oh, how funny Sam and Toby banter about their credit on his speech', 'oh, how funny CJ and Mandy caress Leo's pearls for his wife' ... i hesitate to use the word, but big cheese is what it is."
"You DO NOT get such cheap shots for comedy in Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, Life on Mars ..."
"considering the nature of the programme, this [trashy] sit-commy style and cheesy music undermines the intentions of the programme makers".
"The case on the left [may] need to be told - but [the programme is] so arrogant about it, thus not being 'fair' about its views and invalidating its point. See Michael Moore for someone making the right point about the right issues but fudging up the delivery by twisting words - you don't need to lie about Bush, he is wanker and there is real evidence to prove it."
"Choices over 'proportional responses' and the relevance of an - and I quote Toby - an 'archane constitution', this is relevant even now and interesting even now, it is the [prostitute plots, etc]which are a bit - as I have said - cheesy and sit-commy."
So you can see the main problems - awful cheap tone, arrogance of characters, quirky-comedic-situations and the horrendous music.