I’m still waiting…

for Sorkin to apologize for The West Wing, but I suppose it’s good that he has finally recognized he has a problem:

At Tribeca Film Festival on Monday, April 21, Aaron Sorkin apologized for trying to teach us a bunch of lessons on “The Newsroom.” As the show moves into its third and final season on HBO, Sorkin admitted that he is only now beginning to figure out how to write it.

“I’m going to let you all stand in for everyone in the world, if you don’t mind,” Sorkin said to the audience. “I think you and I got off on the wrong foot with ‘The Newsroom’ and I apologize and I’d like to start over.”

Sorkin added that he chose to use the recent past, not to revel indulgently in how things ought to be done, but because he did not want to make up fake news. “I wasn’t trying to and I’m not capable of teaching a professional journalist a lesson,” he said.

Continuing in his overwhelmingly humble mea culpa, Sorkin admitted he is “just now starting to learn how to write” the show, while lamenting the fact that he had to practice for a public of several million people and longing for the simplicity of debuting a play with previews.

Sorkin has just realized that it’s possible his writing style might be a bit too didactic? Seriously? I wonder whether, with his new-found self awareness, he has any regrets about this gem:

For better or worse, The West Wing has always been a didactic series, but it took finally the urgency of the recent news events for Aaron Sorkin to write an episode that was literally didactic — that is, teacherly — by setting it in what was for all intents and purposes a classroom. The set-up: in response to a reported security breach, the White House “crashes” — no one is allowed to enter or leave — just as aide Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) is speaking to a class of honor students.

The class decamps to the basement; the nervous kids only want to ask Josh questions about terrorism. And from here on out, for the bulk of the episode, class is in session for Professor Sorkin, who doesn’t need to bother even with the scanty dramatic figleaves he usually knits together in order to deliver himself of soliloquys through his characters. Here, the kids just serve up one setup question after another — “Why are they trying to kill us?” “What do we do now?” — that allows for a series of well-meaning, well-expressed, but by now well-worn disquisitions on how Islam does not teach terrorism, spy satellites can’t replace human intelligence and killing innocent civilians is not noble. After a few questions, Josh announces that he needs to get “some of my friends” to field the tougher questions, allowing him to usher in the rest of the White House staff cast. It’s a little like the scene in a kids’ dental-hygiene film where the host says, “Now I’m going to get our old pal Mr. Floss to sing us a song about tooth decay!”

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  • Guest

    I rarely disagree with DEDC, but his disdain for Aaron Sorkin is misplaced. Yes, “Isaac & Ishmael” was a bit preachy. It was conceived, written, produced, and aired within three weeks after September 11th–probably a mistake with the benefit of hindsight–and not really a part of the West Wing story.

    • http://www.poisonyourmind.com/ nickgb

      He hates Sorkin for the same reason he reads Pitchfork. He likes to know which smart things he should look down on. :-P

      I agree that Isaac and Ishmael was, in some ways, a huge mistake. It was non-canonical and in many ways a vanity exercise. But it also provided a lot of historical context to an America that did not, and in many ways still does not, understand “the enemy.” Sure, it felt like a bad afterschool special, but it also tried to cast a more neutral light on Muslims and Arabs to an audience of millions. It seems a little weird to me to bitch about the execution of a PSA that was intended to address the kind of bigotry that we’re still dealing with.

      If you want to bitch about Aaron Sorkin, the real issues are plagiarism, repetition across shows, and his abysmal writing for female characters. And yet those aspects are largely ignored because we’d rather whine about someone talking down to us.

      • http://poisonyourmind.com dedc79

        There are some commonalities in why I hate Pitchfork and West Wing – the primary one being that I think they’re both not nearly as clever as they think they are. Pitchfork has other value (music news, videos, etc..), but West Wing is just entertainment, and so since I didn’t find it entertaining, I stopped watching.
        My problems with west wing were the following:
        1) the preachiness/didacticism
        2) the style of dialogue. I know he was praised for how clever and snappy it was, but to me it never sounded real. Compare it to, say, the more vulgar, biting dialgoue from In the Loop (or the tv show on which it was based), which I think likely more accurately reflects what goes on.
        3) i was put off by the show’s model of what a liberal/progressive president should be. And the further into the Bush presidency we got, the more unwatchable I found the fantasy to be. This aspect of my hatred, I admit, falls more on me than on the writers. I recognize that for some, the show provided a kind of therapeutic value during a depressing time for progressives.

        • http://www.poisonyourmind.com/ nickgb

          Your third point hits on something close to my bigger problem with the show, and I should have brought it up earlier.

          In the interest of being “complex”, WW played a “both sides have a point” theme a lot. I remember one episode about AIDS in Africa where the gang is trying to get cheaper medication from Big Pharma. At the end of the day, they all realize it doesn’t matter because the drugs need to be taken on a schedule and the poor Africans either don’t have watches or can’t tell time or some other nonsense, and thus we wash our hands of the gordian knot and move on.

          Or there’s the episode dealing with how we send military equipment to Qumar (basically Saudi Arabia) and it bothers CJ because they beat women to death for no reason. Yet, at the end of the day, they all just shrug it off as “well, the world is complicated.”

          The show’s politics were mostly centrist with well-meaning people on both sides. Even at the time it was a fairy tale out of touch with the Clinton-era Republicans, and reality has only diverged further.