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"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Thursday, 1 May 2003

West Wing, why?

It’s official: Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme are leaving The West Wing. Reasons for the sudden move, however, are as of yet unknown.

At least when Chris Carter left The X-Files, he’d already established a strong set of writers and producers. But Sorkin leaving TWW — his writing is the foundation of the show. Hasn’t he written practically every single episode — if not story, then teleplay? Without him writing, what the heck’s gonna happen?

This is a huge loss for the show, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire cast and crew just let out a gasp of astonishment — and trepidation — upon hearing the news. It’s as if the very successful Aaron Sorkin Repertory Theater Company has just found out that it can no longer perform the works of Aaron Sorkin.

At least when Sports Night was cancelled, it meant no one else could mess with the show. Now with Sorkin and Schlamme’s departures, The West Wing will become The West Wing Desperately Trying To Be The Same Show It Was.

I was going to just post a little about "Life on Mars" — last night’s episode — when I read this bit of news. I was going to just write that my favorite part of the episode last night (which, incidentally was above average for this season) was when Donna talks to the bird (was it a pigeon? dove?) outside the window, and later tells Josh not to scare it away. Yeah, it had absolutely nothing to do with the main (or secondary) plot, and it could have been a really pointless and dumb scene, but Janel Moloney (and Bradley Whitford) simply sold it. Who would have thought the line "You’re going to hurt your beak" could be so endearing? Plus it was nice to get a Josh & Donna exchange reminiscent of old.

I hope the small, character-driven scenes like that stay in the show. Even without Sorkin, I hope the writing can be fresh next season, and not resort to a forced and formulaic attempt at his style. At this very moment, a vast majority of people probably doubt the future of the series beyond 2004. This may well mean the beginning of the end. But if the remaining and new producers can harness some excellent screenwriters — they won’t be Sorkin, but if they know the characters extremely well and can write dramatic dialogue…

Well. What can I say? 2003-04 will be a significant season for the series, undoubtedly.

Posted at 6:03 pm | Filed under Television

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3 replies


  1. SportsNight got downright loopy and boring once Sorkin went to start work on West Wing. And I still haven’t forgiven David Kelley for letting Picket Fences die an ignoble death when he went off to work on The Practice and Ally McBeal. But ER seems to have gotten interesting again–except I hate still most of the characters like Romano and Carrie.

    I’d love to see a TV show with plot by Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel), dialogue by Aaron Sorkin, and characters by J. Michael Strazyncki (Babylon 5). Now wouldn’t that be something?


  2. Hmm. Well, I never really got into ‘B5′… nor have I gotten into any of Joss’ shows, except maybe Buffy’s early years. As for ‘ER,’ you make an interesting point, because actually I thought that the last relatively good season was back about three years ago — I actually stopped watching ‘ER’ regularly since then.

    ‘Picket Fences’ used to be so good, save for some of the weird violence and cliches that have since shown up on The ‘Practice’ (e.g. what’s with the whole ‘criminal nun’ imagery?). I do think PF was Kelley’s best effort. I never liked ‘Ally McBeal,’ nor ‘Boston Public,’ and stopped watching ‘Practice’ about 3 or 4 years ago when the writing started recycling ideas from the earlier shows.

    I’m curious about this season’s finale of WW, more so than ever, because based on last week’s first part, it looks like Sorkin isn’t too far from sending all of his established stories and characters over the edge, and then having the new producers and writers deal with the fallout next season.


  3. addendum: well well welll, sorkin pulled a big fat honker of a cliffhanger in the season finale. maybe it signals a whole new administration for the next season–and consequently the need for a whole new right-wing writing staff….

    although i’m terribly sad that even the last, teeny-tiny bastion of left/centrist-leaning (even bartlett is a free trader advocate!!!) in anything approaching a popular show is going to be replaced with more right-wing POV?!?!

    where’s that elitist, left-wing media conspiracy again???