You wouldn’t have thought a series lifting the lid on the daily political machinations of the White House would make for particularly compelling viewing, but The West Wing is widely regarded as one of American TV’s greatest contemporary dramas and brought us the greatest president the United States never had.
The West Wing (155 episodes, 1999-2006).
President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his dedicated team of senior staff strive to create a better America from the nerve centre of the White House’s Oval Office and West Wing.
The credits sequence is straightforward enough, with each principal character introduced with a still shot and a short video clip, both in black-and-white against a backdrop of the billowing red-and-white stripes of the United States’ flag.
What elevates the intro above the mundane is W G ‘Snuffy’ Walden‘s theme tune, a gentle yet grand orchestral arrangement which is suitably presidential in sound. It deservedly won Walden an Emmy Award in 2000 for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music for The West Wing. Despite a total of 12 career Emmy nominations, it remains his only win.
The composer has also provided music for two other series from West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin: Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He has also either scored or provided the title theme for series as well-known and diverse as thirtysomething, Friday Night Lights, Roseanne, Ellen and The Wonder Years (Walden’s version of the Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends plays over the closing credits of each episode). More recently he has also provided original music for Nashville.
Other than cast changes and the background character shots, the theme remained largely unchanged throughout its seven-year run. Here’s the season three version.