Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Aaron Sorkin

Writer/producer Aaron Sorkin gets a lot of shit.

And only some of it is deserved.

On the one hand, Sorkin had written some of the most literate, compelling television of the last 20 years: Sports Night (after they lost the laugh track) and The West Wing.

On the other hand he created a show around Rob Lowe and Moira Kelly. Honestly, The West Wing STARRED Rob Lowe and Moira Kelly, everyone else was just a supporting actor. Actually, Martin Sheen was added at the last minute (originally the President was never going to be seen), so he got "Heather Locklear" credit at the end. That worked so well that Moira Kelly's character, Mandy, all but disappeared (I think she appeared in 2 separate scenes per episode in last part of the first season) and in the season 1 finale she was among the group of characters who were shot at.

CLIFFHANGER!!! Will the character played by the actress who's leaving the show be killed?! Actually, it was better than that: the character was never mentioned again. Oh, snap. I'm sure Kelly was a little pissed when watching the season 2 premiere.

And that's how the term "Mandyville" came to be. But there's also a town called Mandyville in Louisiana, which is different.

Back to Sorkin; he has an eye for talented actors: Felicity Huffman, Peter Krause, Josh Charles, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Dule Hill, Kathryn Joosten, and Allison Janney--he didn't discover any of them, but the parts her wrote for them established them as real talents. Actually, let me say he has an eye for talented white actors (and Dule Hill). As I write this I realize how white his sports show in New York City (which doesn't have a large population of minorities, I admit) and his government show set in Washington DC (ditto) both were. Yes, there was Robert Guillaume, and Dule Hill, but they both sound vaguely French so does that even count? Alan Alda, Allison Janney, John Spencer, Stockard Channing, Bradley Whitford, and Richard Schiff all won Emmys for their acting on The West Wing (and they're all white! it's like he doesn't even know Asians exist).

Sorkin has 6 Emmys. He wrote A Few Good Men as a play before adapting for the big screen, but picked up no EGOT love for either format. Nor for his screenplay for Charlie Wilson's War, which is a pretty good movie, all things considered.

I couldn't get into his Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a show basically about the behind-the-scenes action of a Saturday Night Live-type show. It premiered on NBC the same year as 30 Rock, a show basically about the behind-the-scenes action of a Saturday Night Live-type show. When Tina Fey hosted the Writers Guild of America's east coast awards dinner that year (they have them in NYC and LA on the same night), she said that Aaron Sorkin was in LA wearing the same dress, it was just twice and long and not funny. Nice. She also had a "walk and talk" scene with Alec Baldwin where they basically walked in a circle before realizing they were both following the other one. Love her.

Anyway, Aaron, no one remembers Cop Rock either (that wasn't him, it's just an indication that TV greats like Stephen Bocho can survive failure). I'm looking forward to the next walking, talking show.

Happy birthday dude! Rock on! And see you in Mandyville!

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