I finally got around to watching The West Wing reunion special and even though I was an ardent fan of the original show, I came away feeling a little frustrated. Let’s get this out of the way first: it was amazing seeing the super talented cast slip back into these roles so easily— Martin Sheen was born to play Jed Bartlet, Allison Janney is still wonderful as CJ Cregg, and Richard Schiff is perfect as grouchy White House conscience Toby Ziegler. Sterling K. Brown had the unenviable task of playing Leo McGarry in place of the late John Spencer, and he pulled it off beautifully. Also: Does Rob Lowe age, ever? Same question for Janel Moloney, tbh.
But if the goal of this special performance was to encourage young people to vote, I’m afraid it may have missed the mark. The cut-ins with “why you should vote” messages from special guests like President Bill Clinton, cast member Elisabeth Moss, and Lin-Manuel Miranda ranged from preachy to awkward. Showing an encore performance of an episode of TV that first aired almost 20 years ago on a relatively new paid channel like HBO Max doesn’t seem like the best way to reach young or first-time voters. The audience was likely made up of olds like me who loved the original show, and let’s face it: most people tuning to an Aaron Sorkin political drama have already decided who they’re voting for.
I hope we’ll see a release of The West Wing reunion show to a broader audience. Let Bartlet be Bartlet!
This week’s trailer lineup includes Uncle Frank, The Empty Man, Season 2 of His Dark Materials, the Werner Herzog documentary Fireball and a new peek at The Mandalorian.
Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds
A documentary about meteorites and how they’ve affected human civilization— sure, why not? Directed by Werner Herzog and volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, Fireball includes interviews with scientists, religious leaders, and scenes from apocalyptic feature films like Deep Impact (interesting choice, but I trust Werzog knows what he’s doing). Fireball arrives on Apple TV Plus November 13th.
A gay man ostracized by his family in the Deep South in the 1970s returns home with his adoring niece and devoted partner to mourn the death of his father. It boasts an all-star cast, and is directed by Alan Ball, American Beauty writer and creator of Six Feet Under. Yes, that’s Paul Bettany as Frank; I didn’t recognize him at first watch. Margo Martindale, Judy Greer, Stephen Root, Steve Zahn, Sophia Lillis, and Peter Macdissi star. Uncle Frank debuts on Amazon Prime video November 25th.
The Empty Man
A group of teenagers unwittingly unleashes some kind of evil force by chanting his name— stop me if you’ve heard this before (also you could make a drinking game of how often the words “the empty man” are whispered in scary voices throughout the trailer). James Badge Dale stars in this adaptation of The Empty Man comic series. The Empty Man will be in theaters (yes, really) October 23rd.
His Dark Materials Season 2
This is the second season of the series adapted from Philip Pullman’s young adult fantasy series about orphan Lyra Belaqua and her daemon Pan who face off against a powerful religious group in an alternate universe. Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda star. It hits HBO Max November 16th.
This second teaser trailer opens with
Gus Fring Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) saying “You have something I want,” and ramps up from there: TIE fighters! Jet packs! Stormtroopers! Baby Yoda! The second season of the wildly popular show premieres on Disney Plus October 30th.