From “Star Trek” to “Seinfeld,” these virtual events offer solace at a time of isolation and uncertainty by reuniting familiar faces — and raising big bucks in some key races across the country by requiring donations to participate.
“This seems to be a smarter, more strategic and certainly more targeted way to raise money and engage activists,” former Republican National Committee spokesman and CNN political contributor Doug Heye said.
“A West Wing Special To Benefit When We All Vote” was the first time the entire surviving cast had reunited in years for a creative effort. This event was not to raise money for a party or a candidate but to support Michelle Obama’s nonpartisan group “When We All Vote,” which aims to make sure every eligible person is registered vote and helps educate them about how to vote in all elections.
And two weeks ago, stars from various “Star Trek” franchises beamed into the same Zoom room for a “Trek the Vote” event in support of a fundraiser supporting Biden and the Democrats. Such “Star Trek” alumni as Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Wil Wheaton and Kate Mulgrew participated.
Not every cast member is on board with these events.
“To take a show like ‘Happy Days’ that represented traditional American values, good morals, a slice of Americana and to use that show and those ideals to promote two people in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that condone, encourage and foment rioting and looting is a little bizarre to me,” he said, though Biden has repeatedly condemned violence and destruction during the protests over police violence.
Politics aside, virtual reunions have offered Americans a way to escape the fear and frustration during the pandemic. In the past, such get-togethers required months of planning, coordinating schedules, finding a slot on a network and myriad of other hurdles.
With the stars quarantined like everyone else, their schedules are freed up and the advent of Zoom and other communication means meaning you don’t have to bring everyone together in a studio at the same time reunions are much easier to pull off.
Most joined Zoom calls allowing them to catch up with each other, reminisce about unusual circumstances or unique story lines. And some casts did actual table reads from scripts.
Robert Thompson, a veteran professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, noted these type of shows have guaranteed built-in interest and offer hope to political activists that the walks down memory lane will entice people to make donations a bit more easily.
“It’s a natural way to do programming under the limited circumstances that house arrest has brought about,” he observed.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Jerry Seinfeld did not take part in the “Seinfeld”-themed fundraiser.