Sorkin takes blame without specifics for show’s tanking
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STUDIO 60 POST-MORTEM: West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin sat down with Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times recently to gingerly take the blame for the failure of his most recent series, the much-written about but apparently little-seen Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. The piece starts with what would be a flashback scene on a movie or TV show – Sorkin working behind the bar in some Manhattan bar in the ‘80s, working on A Few Good Men, the play that would make him a player in Hollywood, and watching as Brat Pack novelists Jay McInerney, Tama Janowitz and Bret Easton Ellis generated more headlines than their book sales would ever justify.
“I remember saying to myself, 'These guys aren't doing themselves any favors becoming known for all those other things instead of for what they wrote,' " Sorkin told Goldstein."And then look what happened. To me!”
In other words, Sorkin let himself become the story, whether it was his the addiction problems that saw him leave The West Wing before it finished its run, or what Goldstein calls “nonstop sniping between Sorkin and the media” during, and even before, Studio 60 hit the air. It’s not like Sorkin’s career is over, though – he has a new play on Broadway this fall and a new film starring Tom Hanks hitting the theatres for Christmas, and a deal with Dreamworks that might see one of his scripts directed by Steven Spielberg (which is, to be frank, no longer the big deal it used to be.)
Besides the shortcomings of Studio 60, which Goldstein himself – “an unabashed admirer of Sorkin's work” he’s eager to admit – can’t bring himself to overlook (“a bad idea, if for no other reason than it tried to graft Sorkin's fascination with social issues onto a story about career crises in the rarified world of TV comedy writers”), there’s always the tall poppy factor, which suggests that Sorkin, by being both successful and outspoken, made himself a target.
“Rightly or wrongly, Aaron got a reputation as holier than thou," Hollywood mega-manager Bernie Brillstein told Goldstein. "When you put yourself out front in the media, like Aaron did or Judd Apatow is right now, everyone is lying in wait for you. That's the psychology of the town. Once you're anointed, everyone wants the king to fail.”
Sorkin himself is willing to take some of the blame for the show’s failure – “On some shows, you can make mistakes and still survive. But with this one, I made too many mistakes for it to survive.” – but he never really tells Goldstein what those mistakes might have been. Even more tellingly, Sorkin seems to be afflicted with a rather overinflated sense of TV’s influence. “V has a very measurable effect on our national mood,” he tells Goldstein. “When TV gets bitchy and pissy, you find Americans getting bitchy and pissy too.” I’d argue that it’s more likely the other way around, but that’s a hard argument to make within a 50-mile radius of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.