I miss “The West Wing.”
That’s a massive understatement. Every time I hear a bit of the show’s theme song, I start to get emotional. I long for the good ol’ days, when President Jed Bartlet was in the White House and we could — for an hour a week — feel proud to be Americans.
I know, I know. Bartlet was a fictional character played by Martin Sheen, and “The West Wing” operated in a parallel universe where pretty much everybody tried to do the right thing. Yes, it was a faux-Democratic administration. Yes, sometimes the faux Republicans were portrayed as villains, trying to get in the way of those noble ideals.
And, no, the show wasn’t perfect. When Bartlet ran for reelection, he faced a cartoonish idiot of a Republican. In the race to succeed Bartlet, however, several of the Democrats in the primaries were terrible, and the general election gave us both a Democrat and a Republican who were noble public servants trying to make America a better place.
It’s a pretty stark contrast with what we see in the news every day.
So, yeah, it’s a little bit exciting that we’ll soon see something sort of new from the show: HBO Max has announced “A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote,” which will stream before Election Day.
Series creator/writer Aaron Sorkin and executive producer/director Thomas Schlamme are teaming up with original cast members Sheen, Rob Lowe (Sam Seaborn), Dulé Hill (Charlie Young), Allison Janney (C.J. Cregg), Janel Moloney (Donna Moss), Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler) and Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman) for a “theatrical stage presentation” of the Season 3 episode “Hartsfield Landing.”
It will be filmed at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles in early October. WarnerMedia will make a donation to Michelle Obama’s nonprofit, nonpartisan group When We Vote; the former first lady will make an appearance; and viewers will be encouraged to get out and vote.
“Hartsfield Landing” was an excellent episode. It takes place on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, when a small (fictional) town votes before the rest of the state; Bartlet is dealing with both his personal demons and a crisis involving China while playing chess against Sam and Toby simultaneously; Josh is obsessing over a couple of voters; and C.J. and Charlie are locked in a battle of wills/pranks.
There will have to be some changes, obviously, to fit the staged format, and because at least one cast member — the late John Spencer (Leo McGarry) — isn’t available. (More cast announcements are coming.)
At the end of that episode, Sam expressed amazement at what the president accomplished. And Bartlet, in turn, expresses great confidence in his deputy White House communications director.
“Sam, you’re going to run for president one day,” the president says. “Don’t be scared. You can do it. I believe in you.”
In the final episode of “The West Wing,” Sam was the newly installed deputy chief of staff to newly inaugurated President Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits). And we know he had lost a congressional race in his home state of California.
It’s been 14 years since the final episode of “The West Wing,” so who knows what’s become of Sam? Maybe he’s the president — or about to be — in this better, alternate universe. Maybe he could headline a “West Wing” sequel.
That’s unlikely, for real-world reasons. Lowe is the star of “9-1-1: Lone Star,” which airs on Fox and is produced by Disney — so the logistics of starring concurrently in a WarnerMedia show seem insurmountable.
And maybe we need something different this time around. A person of color in the Oval Office? A woman? A Republican?
I don’t care, as long as a new “West Wing” brings the same ideals that served as the cornerstone of the original. America needs that again.
And, hopefully, Americans will get that in the real Oval Office, too.