Fans of “The West Wing” Will Love Their Special on HBO Max
For the first time in 17 years the cast of "The West Wing" got back together along with writer / creator Aaron Sorkin and director Tommy Schlamme to do a stage production of one of the show's episodes. It's not the first time the cast has reassembled. However, it is the first time all of the main cast members came together to perform in character. And I found it wonderful to hang out with some old friends and great performers.
No one really believed back in the late 1990's that a drama about politics would become a popular network television show. Especially one about a democratic administration shown through the lens of what some might characterize as liberal or radical Hollywood.
It certainly was a show I avoided for years. I got hooked on it quite by mistake. I was doing mornings at a radio station; and they were showing reruns on the old Bravo cable network every afternoon. I think they'd run a couple of episodes from 3:00 - 5:00 before running reruns of "Law and Order". Anyway, after my nap I'd get up and turn the show on while waiting for "Law and Order" to start. Before I knew it I was sucked in.
"The West Wing" works on so many levels. Excellent writing. Wonderful performances from the actors. And the ability of Sorkin to tell complicated stories and ask serious questions without making the show overly difficult to watch.
The reunion "A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote", now screening on HBO Max, is a staged performance of the episode "Hartsfield's Landing" from the third season. The benefit doesn't ask anyone for anything, other than to exercise their right to vote and point out why that's important.
The episode isn't a bad one to stage. There's one on one conversations between President Bartlet and Sam Seaborn, The Preisdent and Toby Ziegler, CJ and Charlie and Josh and Donna. And enough scenes where we get to see some of the show's more recognizable supporting characters like Ed and Larry, CJ's secretary Carol, and National Security Advisor Nancy McNally. Actress Emily Proctor, who had a series arc as white house lawyer Ainsley Hayes reads the stage directions.
Also appearing in the special talking about the importance of voting are cast members Elisabeth Moss who played Zoey Bartlet and Marlee Matlin who played political operative Joey Lucas.
There's no way a re-staged one hour episode can have every popular cast member in it. There's cast members like Joshua Molina, Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda who hadn't joined the cast when this episode took place. There's cast members like Stockard Channing, John Amos and Timothy Busfield who weren't in the episode. And finally those beloved cast members who have passed. Most notably John Spencer.
If you're a fan of the West Wing you'll enjoy this stripped down re-staging of one of the show's best episodes. It's some time with old friends. If you've never seen the show and it's something you think you'd like to watch, I'd recommend coming back to the special after you've watched some of the series and seen the original episode of "Hartsfield's Landing".