The result, now available on HBO Max, is everything a die-hard fan could want: proof that President Josiah Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen), a Nobel economist who served two terms in an alternate reality America ago. has many years, is still somehow with us, with his loyal collaborators. They live in an enviable world in which the people have elected one of the smartest men in the land to rule them, instead of one of the dumbest. In this world, every word spoken is categorical, crisp, and true.
So many words, words after words, the effluence of dialogue being the draw, as well as one of its drawbacks. What seemed so lyrical then borders on ridiculous and squeaky now, unless, of course, you’ve invested too much in The West Wings idealized Washington, where centric principles almost always triumph over politics. It’s a pipe dream that most viewers put aside a long time ago. Other fans are hanging on to it, watching episodes of the West Wing in endless Netflix loops, not only as a devious way to escape the hideousness of 2020, but as a privileged form of zoning a state. of denial detached at the worst time to detach. .
The special is Sorkin and the company’s way of insisting on their continued influence in what is essentially the Americas’ electoral calculation moment: Will enough people vote this year? In significant numbers? Free to those who prevent them from exercising their rights? West Wing feels his presence is somehow required. And what better cause to align than When We All Vote, launched and co-chaired in 2018 by former first lady Michelle Obama as a non-partisan (mmm-kay) effort to get out the vote?
The West Wing is always so quick on its toes that its first decision is to make actor Bradley Whitford stand out from the naysayers with an ironic and self-effacing intro. We understand that some people don’t appreciate the benefits of unsolicited advice from actors we know, Whitford says. We believe, at a time like this, that the risk of sounding odious is too small a reason to remain silent if we can get even one new voter to vote.
It’s hard to imagine the lost souls in the Venn diagram offered here, whether there are bands of unregistered Americans among HBO Max subscribers. and West Wing fans who have not yet registered to vote or who are not already among the estimated 15 million people who have already voted.
We’re torturing ourselves with the implausible West Wing idealism once again anyway. Everyone is older there, but frozen at first: Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Whitford) still exerts passive-aggressive dominance over his seemingly willing assistant, Donna Moss (Janel Moloney); Press secretary CJ Cregg (Allison Janney) always blows with the best lines, always talking, never speaking, but foiled this time around in a long inter-office feud with Charlie Young (Dul Hill ), the personal assistant to the president.
The late John Spencer, who played Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, has been respectfully replaced by Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), a wise move given the shows’ prolonged failure to place people of color in senior jobs, with the exception of Nancy McNally. , the National Security Advisor, played by Anna Deavere Smith (who is also returning for this special).
Sullen communications director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) goes head-to-head for a game of chess with the President in the Oval Office, while in another office the President hosts another game of chess with the Deputy Director communications Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), all of which serves as the main metaphor for episodes of the current crisis: a standoff with China over a missile test by Taiwan, a country that can only envy US independence .
In this case, it is also the day before the New Hampshire primary, in which the 42 inhabitants of the hamlet of Hartsfields Landing will vote one minute after midnight, traditionally producing the results of the first elections in a poetic expression of the democracy. It’s the kind of blunt symmetry that has always been Sorkins’ calling card.
For its considerable effort, there is little about A West Wing Special to benefit when we all vote that deserves criticism. The setting is rather pretty stripped down, but super sentimental; the scenes were produced under pandemic conditions with safety protocols for the crew and actors. A viewer can’t help but realize that the West Wing, fictional or not, can become a hot spot, especially in the Sorkins universe, where talking while walking close and confidential has become its own kind of intimate choreography. .
The episode is presented exactly as it first aired in February 2002, until bringing the same extras to play journalists and Secret Service details, filled with an irritating continuity issue that has bothered him Fans Watchers for 18 Years: Why Bartlet, the Unopposed Holder, on the New Hampshire Primary Voting? Or did we kind of carry the rest of Season 3 over to Election Day? If so, why does everyone keep saying primary? (Never mind.)
The best parts are the interstitial pauses, which take an extra 20 minutes, which feature Sorkinesque banter among the cast members in the form of vote messages. In one, Whitford is joined by deaf actress and lawyer Marlee Matlin to explain how voter fraud is, in fact, very rare. What better way to clear up something than with sign language? Whitford said.
There are also PSAs from other notable attendees, the ubiquitous Lin-Manuel Miranda advising on how to be patient while awaiting official election results; Almost as ubiquitous Bill Clinton explains how the Supreme Court gutted the voting rights law in 2013.
It’s strange how the thing we could desire the most (to live again under the reassuring grip of the West Wings imagination) is also the last thing America needs right now. Bartlet, if he existed, would probably agree and record his own PSA: he would ask us to let go, get real, and move on. (And vote.)
A special west wing offer that benefits when we all vote (64 minutes) is available to stream on HBO Max.
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