I’ll do a full review of The West Wing – one of my top five favourite shows ever – at some point in the future, but for fans of Aaron Sorkin’s romanticised view of the inner workings of American politics last autumn brought a bite-sized reminder of what we have been missing since the show went off the air in 2006 after seven seasons and 155 episodes – and with an incoming president from an ethnic background, presaging the rise of Barack Obama two years later.
The four-minute ‘minisode’, released on YouTube in September 2012, was the idea of Mary McCormack, who played Deputy National Security Adviser Kate Harper on the show. Her sister, Bridget McCormack, who was running for election to the Michigan Supreme Court, told her about the issue of state ballots which include both partisan and non-partisan sections, with the latter often being left blank by unaware voters.
A few conversations later, most of the series’ principal cast were flying to Ann Arbor to reprise their roles for free and effectively provide a public service announcement – mentioning McCormack’s candidature in passing – fittingly, for the kind of low-profile constitutional issue the series itself regularly championed.
As Bridget McCormack said:
It sort of snowballed and all of sudden Martin Sheen signed up and I was like ‘Whoa!”
More of us should participate [in the vote]. That’s really the only goal – it’s a real public education goal.
With the obvious exception of Rob Lowe and later cast additions such as Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda, the core principals from the first five years are all present. Kathryn Joosten, who played the president’s secretary Delores Landingham in the first two seasons, sadly passed away a couple of months before the ad was shot.
The minisode itself is lovingly shot, with dialogue written in the show’s familiar rapid-fire cadence and characters performing a ‘walk-and-talk’, one of the series’ signature shooting styles, as they discuss the crisis of people not voting on non-partisan judicial ballots. In particular, watch out for Martin Sheen’s tongue-in-cheek reference to Apocalypse Now, the double Oscar-winning film in which he starred.
Bridget McCormack was subsequently elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in November 2012.