Jed Bartlet doesn’t have a medical degree, but he’s the most effective healer to ever reside in the White House, even if he was a fictional one.
On Thursday, HBO Max will offer the “West Wing” reunion, a re-enactment of a 2002 episode in which Martin Sheen’s president stays cool, calm and crafty during an international showdown with China.
The episode, “Hartsfield’s Landing,” is a decent choice, but it’s not as appropriate as other options. Here are eight personal favorites, all available on Netflix, tailor-made to soothe what’s troubling you.
If you want to salute veterans, watch “In Excelsis Deo” (1999). White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) goes the extra mile to honor a Korean War vet who dies on a National Mall bench. It’s the first of many “very special” Christmas episodes in which writer Aaron Sorkin would stuff a little extra sentimentality in the stocking.
If you’re seething about racism, watch “Celestial Navigation” (2000). Two incidents — the unjust arrest of a Latino Supreme Court nominee and a Black cabinet member losing her cool during a congressional hearing — remind the predominantly white Bartlet administration that inequality can shake even the elite. Diversity was never one of the show’s strong points, but episodes like this one almost made up for the oversight.
If you’re feeling unmotivated, watch “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet” (2000). The president and his staff commit to stop worrying so much about re-election and start taking chances. A senior White House reporter (Timothy Busfield) and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (John Amos) offer rah-rah speeches about their respective fields in a couple of goosebump monologues.
If you need to be reminded of the power of friendship, watch “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen” (2000). A shooting spree has the staff reflecting on how they came together and learned to lean on each other. The flashback scene in which candidate Bartlet sets aside his campaign to comfort grieving staffer Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) will make you want to reach out to your college bestie for a virtual hug.
If you’re feeling traumatized, watch “Noel” (2000). Whitford would win an Emmy for exploring his character’s PTSD and getting guidance out of the darkness. Adam Arkin plays Lyman’s no-nonsense psychologist.
If you’re dealing with grief, watch “Two Cathedrals” (2001). Bartlet is so devastated by the death of his beloved secretary that he curses out God after her funeral. But he eventually turns his rage into resolve, marching defiantly to the most important news conference of his life to the strains of Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms.”
If you need some Chandler Bing, watch “Life on Mars” (2003). While the much-anticipated “Friends” reunion remains on hold, check out Matthew Perry’s guest appearance as a new deputy counsel unraveling a mystery that leads to the vice president’s resignation. Could it be any more enticing?
If you’re nervous about the Supreme Court, watch “The Supremes” (2004). The premise — that a Democratic president would appoint a conservative judge in exchange for a liberal chief justice (Glenn Close) — might seem like science fiction these days, but don’t give up hope. If Bartlet can come back, so can we.