Because we live in an era where politicians and their ilk openly engage in all kinds of scheming, backstabbing, and bad manners, there’s a lot of pent-up nostalgia for a time when things were good and people did the right thing.
Combine that with a childlike love for larger-than-life characters who walk and talk (down to women) and put the good of the nation before their own self-interest with Washington insiders’ love for seeing dramatized versions of themselves on screen and a pathological desire to frame politics as a heroic game, and you get The West Wing.
For the teens among us who aren’t in the Young Centrists club, The West Wing was an hour-long political drama about the staff of the White House that ran from 1999 to 2006. It was well-loved, launched or reinvigorated a bunch of careers, and, perhaps most enduringly, cemented an image of President Jed Bartlet (a fictional character, it should be stressed) as the ultimate, unimpeachable avatar of the American presidency. He even speaks Latin.
So it’s no surprise that, as Deadline reported, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt is literally begging creator Aaron Sorkin to revive the show.
“I keep saying to [Sorkin], ‘Do you want to do The West Wing again, wouldn’t it be great to do it?’ He says, ‘You know I love that show and some day I’d love to revisit it, but it’s not going to happen right now,’” Greenblatt said, according to the trade site.
I say: no. Absolutely do not do this. Let The West Wing remain dead, or at least reassuringly trapped in the amber that is Netflix.
On the surface, bringing the show back might seem like a good idea. It could offer a return to normalcy, to a time when things made sense (on TV) even as the world burned down around us (9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, uh, the George W. Bush presidency) and we weren’t constantly drowning in a sea of must-watch prestige TV.
But the West Wing-ification of politics has gone far enough. Tweeting about what Bartlett would do as Donald Trump sets his can of Diet Coke too close to the big red button for comfort does nothing. But it’s worse than just ineffectual: The West Wing made popular the big lie that politicians are people trying to do the right thing, just like us.
Politicians, even if they act nicely in public, are not your friends. They do not have your best interests at heart. They do not subscribe to notions of ethical purity. The two-party system is built as a perpetual motion machine whose only purpose is self-preservation.
And besides, now we have Game of Thrones to explain politics.