Less than five minutes into the remake of the Hartsfield Landing episode from Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, now streaming on HBO Max, as a guitar played a soulful rendition of the theme song, I started weeping. Weeping is different from crying. It’s softer, sadder, without rage, which has been a part of my everyday feelings for the last four years. I wasn’t crying at seeing the old gang, who haven’t aged at all. It wasn’t because I’m so very frightened for what happens just 500 hours from now, which I am. It was because I knew, with certainty that I wish I didn’t have, that the process of government and leadership that the West Wing puts forth as the American norm, no longer exists. And, I think it did exist, even through administrations like Bush and Cheney, who I will leave alone for this review.
You see, it’s the standard that Aaron Sorkin always sets for his characters, plot lines and presentation of debate around some of the great issues of our time. That standard, which he brought to television in the West Wing and the Newsroom, isn’t present in today’s government and I don’t know how we got here. When did I walk away from my responsibility for the oversight of my government? I will figure that out later. Back to Hartsfield Landing. Everyone is able to deliver the lines that they did all those years ago, on a simple stage, and they still have power. John Spencer is pleased with his replacement, Sterling K. Brown, whose serious nature brings a grounding to Bartlett’s lighter touch. Everyone is there; and it was great to see you all.
To be honest, I thought it was going to be a whole new episode, and it was disappointing to not have that after waiting, oh, twenty years. Let’s face it, Hartsfield Landing is not on anyone’s favorite ten episode list. BUT, I realized after a bit that it is a great choice. It’s about voting; it’s about the right to vote; it’s about the very American notion of voting and it’s central casting in our history. Sorkin knows better than me.
Best part? Not to be missed part? Lin Manuel Miranda’s segment with Donna. Stay with it for that alone. Perfect Sorkin. Perfect Miranda, and Donna at her acerbic best.
So, nothing new here. No one is going to watch and feel like this was an intro to another season that Aaron just has to write because he missed all those in the West Wing as much as we have. BUT, here is the thing. The characters, those that reside in the West Wing, should remind each and every American of what could be; it should send us running for coats, water, and snacks to stand in line to make sure that every single person who can, votes.
Watch and be reminded of the great minds and souls that belong in that White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. 500 hours my fellow Americans, until the election is over. What are you doing to make sure everyone in your sphere of influence votes? Aaron and the team did their best; it’s now up to us.