The experience of watching it was interesting. It was like getting back on a roller coaster for the first time in a couple of years. They've changed the ride somewhat, but all the important elements are there again. You know it's going to be different, but it's still going to be a wildly fun ride.
Subtle hints are there. I don't have a strong eye for art... I can't tell you what makes something good, or what exactly is distinctive about it. I just know what I like, and what's familiar. The pilot feels like something Tommy Schlamme directed. (Of course, it is.) The title cards use the exact same font and layout as West Wing did. Brad Whitford and Timothy Busfield are old familiar faces, and Matthew Perry is a new familiar one. Frequent Sorkin associate Felicity Huffman makes an appearance too. Aaron's usual quick-paced and witty dialog is a given. The relationship between Perry and Whitford's characters has that same characteristic warmth we've seen before. We like these characters, and we like them together.
It feels like West Wing, it feels great, but it's going to be different. Judd Hirsch comes in for an inning to set up the series and nails it. (Also, his diatribe is a dead-accurate assessment of the current state of network television.) The rest of the regular cast is different, but all show promise. I'm glad to have Aaron and Tommy back on the air, and I really, really look forward to where this series is going to go. I'm absolutely secure in my faith that it will continue to pwn.
If you're not watching... God, I don't even want to know you...