For years now, Aaron Sorkin and the cast of his 26-time Emmy-winning, impeccably written, politically minded creation have been inundated with the same question: What's next?
As in, would we ever again get to peek inside the most aspirational of White Houses, into a place that gave people hope a world of politics could exist that coupled the requisite dirty dealings and one-upmanship with bipartisan cooperation and the ever-present desire to actually do good.
"It's nice to think about," Allison Janney told Jimmy Kimmel in January of slipping back into C.J. Cregg's suits for another term in The West Wing cabinet. "I think everybody wants to think about it now because, you know, it was a Camelot administration on The West Wing. It was the way you hope that people in government [would be]."
It was rousing, motivational; it showcased the best of people; it taught us that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. And for many—against the backdrop of the current divisive climate—revisiting all seven seasons on Netflix feels as heartwarming as the first time we saw President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) give Charlie (Dulé Hill) his family's knife set. So, really, Aaron, can a fan get a reboot up in here?
Finally, in late August, he answered our pleas.
The West Wing is returning...for one night only Oct. 15, with Sheen, Janney, Hill, Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney reprising their roles for A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote, a staged version of season three's "Hartsfield Landing" episode. The HBO Max project was created to support Michelle Obama's nonpartisan get out the vote initiative.
And while Sorkin was very clear during the cast's appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Oct. 9 that this is not a reunion ("Reunion shows have a certain stigma attached to them, that you feel like it's going to be A Very Brady Christmas"), but it's not nothing. So, game on! Let's drink from the keg of glory and enjoy the finest muffins and bagels in all the land!
Also, the fact that Sorkin tapped Sterling K. Brown to step foot into Leo McGarry's presumably hand-cut Italian leather shoes—filling in for the late John Spencer who passed during the series' final season in 2005—means there's still a sliver of hope for the next-chapter plot that Sorkin floated in 2017. One that elected Brown as a commander in chief facing "some kind of jam, an emergency, a very delicate situation involving the threat of war or something" that only former President Bartlet could solve.
We're here for anything that brings the gang back together and we are more than ready to embrace our (fictional) American heroes as they reach for the stars. So let's celebrate the new release by grabbing some New England crab cakes, firing up "The Jackal" and studying up on our favorite West Wing trivia. Ginger, get the popcorn!
(Originally published Sept. 22, 2020, at 2 p.m. PT)