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''The West Wing''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 5, 2005

Sometimes I think every review I write should have a note about the viewing conditions. You know, ''This prime-time show was watched between 7:30 and 8 a.m. on a Tuesday when I had the house all to myself, with a second part viewed piecemeal late that evening when I wished I could be asleep instead. I then watched the end of the second part at my office, where I couldn't hear all the lines because I have to keep the volume somewhat low and other people were talking, but it at least went quickly since my preview copy didn't have commercials.''

Shows are designed for certain times of day, after all, and my job means I don't always get to see them that way. But the bottom line on any show should be that it's good no matter when you watch it, and bad no matter how much you wish it wasn't.

So let the record show first of all that I watched last night's ''West Wing'' this morning, And let it show second that I kept saying to myself, ''Gosh, how good is this?''

The Santos storyline clicked, and ended with a moment that -- though naive in many ways -- said yes, this is a guy who could be president, and maybe a good one. At the very least, he could be Bartlet. And that wasn't all that was going on. The wedding-prep stuff was kind of amusing, and the Toby-Josh scenes were really good. ''West Wing'' has been uneven this year -- as I said before, the debate episode was a dud -- but this was one of those times when it stepped up. It kind of makes me hate that next week's episode is the wedding, because that feels like a momentum-killer. But I was glad to have that hour with it this morning.

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