STUDIO 60 returns with new shows. I hope it does well.
Aaron Sorkin probably doesn’t believe me. He thinks I hate him. He dismissed comments I made in a recent LA TIMES article by saying I wasn’t a “real” comedy writer and was unemployed. I’d like to think that based on my credits and agent that neither is true (although if he found out I did AfterMASH I could see why he might make that claim).
I actually have great respect for Mr. Sorkin. I stopped watching WEST WING when he left because the show just wasn’t as good. Yes, I wrote a parody (If Aaron Sorkin wrote a show about baseball), but I also parodied LOST, 24, and HOUSE and their producers found it amusing.
My criticism of STUDIO 60 was very much in line with everyone else’s – the characters seem too smug, the sketches aren’t funny, Sara Paulson is not convincing as a gifted comedienne – but for whatever reason that article really hit a nerve. (Rumor has it the TIMES is trying to make nice by preparing another article, this one about how people love STUDIO 60.)
The new batch of shows will veer more towards romantic comedy, Sorkin promises. That might work. Often times there are growing pains in the first year as a show tries to find its groove. Watch early episodes of CHEERS. We did a lot of experimenting. Some episodes focused on Sam & Diane, others were more like BARNEY MILLER where our regulars dealt with colorful characters who entered the bar. It took about half a season until the series really found its way (although it was still getting its ass kicked in the ratings by mighty TUCKER'S WITCH).
I do have empathy for Sorkin. It’s not easy creating in a negative environment. I’ve been there. Everything you do is second guessed, the cast starts looking at you like you killed their puppy, your budget gets cut, you're pre-empted for a RUGRATS prime time special, and your health deteriorates faster than that guy who ate nothing but McDonalds for a month. When a show is going well your hair comes out in clumps, so you can imagine when it’s not. But I think he makes it harder on himself by being so defensive. There's no witch hunt. No one is attacking him personally.
There’s another reason to root for Sorkin. Networks and studios are inserting themselves into the creative process now more than ever before. It's like being eaten to death by moths. Very few showrunners enjoy the autonomy that Sorkin has. So if his show is a success, other writers can point to it and say, “See? If you just leave the creator alone he’ll turn out a better show.” If it's not a hit, you're up until 3:00 in the morning upping the stakes and making the actress they forced you to take more likeable.
So when I say I hope he turns it around I’m being absolutely sincere. I don’t hate Aaron Sorkin. I just wish he didn't take himself, his show, and his critics so seriously. This isn't the White House. You can have a few laughs.