Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

HBO Max's West Wing reunion special release date is either genius or a really bad choice

Martin Sheen filming HBO Max’s The West Wing reunion special
Martin Sheen filming HBO Max’s The West Wing reunion special
Photo: HBO Max/Eddy Chen

For many reasons, we wish we could just skip to 2021, when election season will be behind us and—hopefully—we’ll know who will be sworn in on Inauguration Day. (Though, we’d like to take this moment to remind everyone that we’re likely looking at Election Month instead of Election Day and to not let any right-wing politicians or relatives convince you otherwise, given the increase in abstentee voting due to the pandemic.) But sadly we’re stuck in this hell that is 2020 and we still have the homestretch of the presidential race ahead of us.

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One big night on the calendar is Oct. 15, the day of the second of three televised debates between Trump and Biden. That Thursday evening will have political junkies across the country glued to their propaganda channel of choice, and those hoping to ignore the event wondering why Big Brother didn’t record. The debate will be preceded by hours of pundits attempting to predict the future and followed by hours of those same pundits analyzing every stumble and outburst. For anyone into the spectacle, that night is full of content. Even more so because HBO Max has now announced Oct. 15 is also the day its The West Wing reunion event, A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote, will debut on the streaming platform.

There will, of course, be those who prefer to pretend the election doesn’t exist and instead live in a fictional world where Bartlet is still monologuing about national parks or something. And there are also plenty of people who may have no interest in revisiting West Wing. But we’d have to guess the overlap between those wanting to watch the debates and those wanting to watch the West Wing special will be significant. So will the night of politics amplify the special’s premiere, or will the debates dilute the impact of the reunion and spread it out over the weekend? And since it’s streaming, does it really matter?

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We don’t have the answers (apparently the motto of 2020) but here’s what we do know about the special thanks to a new press release that came along with the photo of Martin Sheen as Bartlet that you see above.

  • A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote For the first time in 17 years, Sheen, Rob Lowe, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, and Bradley Whitford will come together with creator Aaron Sorkin and executive producer/director Thomas Schlamme for a special theatrical stage presentation of the season-three episode “Hartsfield’s Landing.”
  • The A.V. Club was first to report that Sterling K. Brown will be a part of the special. There is no word on what role Brown will play in the reading—or if he’ll just be introducing a segment—but there is at least one major role to be filled: Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, who was played by John Spencer until his death in 2005. While much of “Hartsfield’s Landing” deals with Donna (Moloney) and Josh (Whitford) trying to solidify New Hampshire primary votes and President Bartlet (Sheen) playing chess games with Sam (Lowe) and Toby (Schiff), Leo is at the President’s side in the Situation Room for war games the administration is trying to tamp down in the Taiwan Strait.
  • Other West Wing alum (like Emily Procter, who guest-starred as Ainsely Hayes in seasons two, three, and seven of the series) will also participate in the event—as will When We All Vote co-chair Michelle Obama, President Bill Clinton, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who will appear during act breaks.
  • There will be a performance by composer W.G. Snuffy Walden, who will play the score for The West Wing theme song on his guitar. Folk-rock band The Avett Brothers will also close out the special.
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Remember to make your voting plan ASAP. And while you’re at it, fill out your census form.

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A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

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