Monday, July 24, 2006

I Think Sorkin Rocks. Does This Mean I Think He's ON Rock? Then I'm Sorry. Or Am I?


Aaron Sorkin, the acclaimed wordsmith behind "The West Wing" and the upcoming "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," was left wishing Friday he could reclaim one public remark.

"I do think television is a terribly influential part of this country and when things that are very mean-spirited and voyeuristic go on TV, I think it's bad crack in the schoolyard," Sorkin told a meeting of the Television Critics Association.

He paused briefly, then asked: "Why did I use that word?"

In 2001, Sorkin was arrested at a Southern California airport and charged with possession of cocaine, mushrooms and marijuana. He entered a drug treatment program after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and two felony counts.

I'm sorry, are the members of the Television Critics Association actually all
schoolchildren? Or crack dealers? No? Then why'd Sorkin feel so bad at his choice of words? Because he made some mistakes, copped to them, and moved on, just like any number of plumbers, airline pilots, secretaries, CEO's, and (probably) a television critic or two?

Sorkin shouldn't have played the scene all sheepish (despite the inspired follow-up quotes from fellow NBC employees Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford that showed that the cast has his back). His point (actually a reiteration of a point one of his characters makes in the premiere episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip)was a valid one, and now it's obscured by the connection his druggy simile had with his personal life.

And that connection in and of itself is actually kinda nifty, if you think about it. Here's a writer of fictional characters who's applied a part of skillful fiction to his own non-fictional life: he's made a change. Few are the number of successful and enduring characters on TV, in movies, or in books that haven't made some change or at least have been given the opportunity. If Sorkin can imbue his latest cast of characters with the stuff of his changes, of his ability to own his past, then he'll have done another masterful job.

And we should let him try.


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