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Democrats turn to stars' reunions as they bank on nostalgia to fill campaign coffers

Stars from several fondly remembered television shows and movies have come together in recent weeks to not only offer counterprogramming during the idle days of the pandemic but also to stir support for Democrats looking to replace the current cast of the West Wing.

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Kevin Bohn
CNN — Stars from several fondly remembered television shows and movies have come together in recent weeks to not only offer counterprogramming during the idle days of the pandemic but also to stir support for Democrats looking to replace the current cast of the West Wing.

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.

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Tuesday night, you can join a virtual watch party with the cast of "Superbad" -- the hit 2007 high school comedy starring Michael Cera, Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen -- as long as you're willing to chip in to Wisconsin Democrats' efforts to flip The Badger State blue this election.

It's the latest such reunion by Wisconsin Democrats, who over the weekend brought together the cast of the hit '70s sitcom "Happy Days" for a reading of a script and last month sponsored a table read of the classic 1987 film "A Princess Bride" with director Rob Reiner and stars Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright and Carol Kane. Reiner, a staunch Democrat, also participated in a reunion and table read of the hit classic mockumentary "This is Spinal Tap" to benefit the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Last Friday, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander of "Seinfeld" fame, along with co-creator Larry David, eschewed the sitcom's famous mantra, "a show about nothing," to host "A Fundraiser About Something": support for the Texas Democratic Party. The party said the event raised $650,000, which exceeded its projected goal.

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"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.

Several cast members from the 1999-2006 hit political drama "The West Wing" have headlined fundraisers in previous years, often to support Democrats. But this month, they came together in a special way by re-enacting one of the series' most popular episodes, "Hartsfield's Landing."

"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.

Notably sitting out the "Happy Days" reunion was Scott Baio, who played Chachi in later seasons of the show. The actor supports President Donald Trump and told Fox Business last week he is not happy with the cast's effort to support the Democratic ticket.

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"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.

Not anymore.

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.

The casts of such classic shows and movies like "All My Children, "Chuck," "Dallas," "Desperate Housewives," "Frasier," "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Knots Landing," "The Nanny," "The Office," "One Day At A Time," "Parks and Recreation" and "Star Trek: Voyager," as well as the movies "Fast Times At Ridgemont High," Goonies," "Back to the Future" and "Splash" have all reunited in various ways this year.

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.

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