Some shows are just better when binge-watched. Whether it's the latest BBC comedy, a PBS miniseries from the '70s, or just that cultish show prematurely scrubbed from a network, we're hooked on the stream. Staying In(stant) is your guide to the best of streaming content. Each week, we bring you a show we're obsessed with and think you'll love, too.
This Week: The West Wing, in which the president's senior staffers try to make the world a better place while keeping their neglected personal lives from going up in flames.
Where To Watch: Netflix
How I Got Hooked: When The West Wing was on prime time, I was too young to have any interest in a hefty adult drama focused on grown-up problems.
Cut to 15 years later: I've traded Sabrina The Teenage Witch for American Horror Story, Full House for Six Feet Under, but my penchant for binge-watching TV series remains unchanged. I'd just finished swallowing Sherlock whole, and I was shell-shocked. I thought I was ruined for all other television.
In my despair, I'll admit I still needed distractions, and wonder of wonders, The West Wing pops up in that nifty "Recommendations for Allison" section of my Netflix account.
In the first episode, I'm introduced to an endearing, if motley cast of characters including a gangly but brilliant PR exec (the pitch-perfect Allison Janney) and an almost-too-handsome speech writer who's all the more lovable for his honest heart (Rob Lowe). The characters' stories are so gripping, I almost forgot this show is about the people who run our country — until Lowe's innocent first date becomes fodder for a political scandal.
The Best Episode: With seven glorious seasons to choose from, it's tough to pick a favorite. But, the best ones often heavily feature Janney's overworked, underpaid, heart-of-gold press secretary. My favorite moment of season one comes in the episode, "Six Meetings Before Lunch." While the primary action comes from the aftermath of a party attended by the first daughter (portrayed by a precocious, brace-faced Elisabeth Moss), the scene that makes it memorable is at the end of the episode, when the team loosens their ties and relaxes over takeout after a marathon day. Allison Janney lip-synchs a rousing rendition of Ronny Jordan's "The Jackal" in front of the entire White House staff, and it was one of the best TV moments I've ever seen. It turns out, Janney performed the song on set ('cause, what else do you do between takes?), and was such a hit they adapted it for her character. I couldn't leave you hanging, so here it is for your viewing pleasure. If this doesn't hook you, I don't know what will.
Why You'll Love It: It doesn't matter if you can't stand politics. In fact, it might be even better if you do. The rich portraits of C.J., Sam, Toby, Jed, and Donna makes it easy to invest in the characters, regardless of their day jobs. And, what makes it eminently watchable for me is that the show's soft, gooey center is their unflagging commitment to doing their jobs — and living their lives — with integrity, whether that means following the rules or, more often, breaking them.
At its core, this show is about a family — the one we choose, not the one we're born with. And, this goofy, well-meaning, insanely high-powered, totally awkward family is mad easy to fall in love with.