4 items from 2016
Aaron Sorkin famously exited “The West Wing” after season four, and he revealed in a panel at the Atx Festival in Austin, Texas on Saturday that he still hasn’t watched the three seasons that followed.
He tried watching the first episode of the fifth season, but only made it about 20 seconds in before he had to stop. “It felt like I was watching someone make out with my wife — it felt horrible,” he told the crowd at “The West Wing Administration” panel, which also featured director Thomas Schlamme and cast members Bradley Whitford, Dulé Hill, Janel Moloney, Joshua Malina, Richard Schiff and Melissa Fitzgerald.
He recalled that when news broke that he was leaving the show, “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David — who left his series after the seventh of its nine seasons — advised him not to watch the show. “Either the show is going to be great and you’re going to be miserable, or the show is going to be less than great and you’re going to be miserable,” he said David advised him. “Either way you’re going to be miserable.” But Sorkin dismissed his advice as David’s “professional” misery.
But he learned the hard way that David was right, and still doesn’t know what happened after he left. “I was not trying to burn the earth behind me. I was trying to seed it,” he said of the climactic season 4 finale.
Sorkin recalled that the initial pilot for “The West Wing” didn’t test well, but that Warner Bros., the studio behind the drama, created new demographics to push NBC and help recruit new advertisers. Back in 1999, one of those groups — households with Internet access — proved prophetic, as dotcoms flocked to the first episode. “I’m grateful to the Internet for getting this show on the air,” said Sorkin.
The show has since found new life among viewers on Netflix. Sorkin acknowledged he was grateful for the renewed attention, pointing to the young fans in the audience. “I’ve got to learn how to use Netflix,” he joked.
Sorkin talked at length about his writing process, admitting he struggled with finding deeper roles for Toby (Richard Schiff) and C.J. (Allison Janney). For Toby, it took the episode “The Crackpots and These Women,” from the first season. “I really found out where true north was on Toby,” Sorkin said, explaining that he realized Toby’s role was to challenge Bartlet. As for Janney, the cast heard her singing “The Jackal” in her trailer, and soon enough, Sorkin worked the song into an episode.
The cast said Sorkin was skilled at mining their real lives and personalities for the characters. “There is absolutely no distinction between my political point of view and Josh Lyman’s point of view,” said Whitford. Schiff recalled suggesting to Sorkin that Toby might play with a Spalding ball, and that ended up a plot point as well.
The actors heaped praise on Sorkin for his writing, opening the panel with a standing ovation:
#WestWingReunion panel opens with standing ovation to Aaron Sorkin. pic.twitter.com/n5PIIs8cKy
— Debra Birnbaum (@debrabirnbaum) June 11, 2016
Earlier in the day, “West Wing” co-executive producer Kevin Falls (who is now showrunner of Fox’s “Pitch”) was asked about the possibility of a “West Wing” reunion or reboot. He said the question had come up at a cast dinner, but that “it’s had its time.”
The panel wrapped with a nod to actor John Spencer, who played chief of staff Leo McGarry and died during the run of the series in 2005. “If you look up the definition of actor, you would see his picture,” said Schlamme.
- Debra Birnbaum
Despite the success of series like “Black-ish,” “Empire,” and “Fresh Off the Boat,” the broadcast networks’ push for diversity hit a stumbling block with the rollout of the new fall lineup. A Variety investigation into new scripted shows for the 2016-17 season reveals that 90% of showrunners are white, and almost 80% are male.
This is based on information provided by the five broadcast networks, which gave Variety the names of the showrunners of their new scripted programs (a total of 50 across 38 new series). Variety independently confirmed the race and gender of each, via multiple sources. All names and data used for this story is available below. (Showrunner designations were not yet available for four series — two at NBC and two at ABC — and information on those programs was not included in the statistical analysis of the new season.)
Showrunners not only determine the creative direction of their programs; they also oversee the hiring, »
- Maureen Ryan
With the current TV season winding down, the networks are preparing for their upfront presentations next week, where they will announce the new fall lineups. In recent years, networks have been getting a jump on the upfronts by announcing their new shows early, and today Fox has revealed six programs that have been given series orders, including shows based on hit movies The Exorcist and Lethal Weapon. The other four shows are dramas Apb and Pitch, along with comedies Making History and The Mick.
The Exorcist series hails from 20th Century Fox Television and Morgan Creek Productions, with Jeremy Slater (The Lazarus Effect) writing the script for this psychological thriller. More than four decades after the Academy Award-nominated film solidified itself as the greatest horror movie ever made, The Exorcist returns in series format as a propulsive psychological thriller following two very different priests tackling one family's case of horrifying demonic possession. »
Fox is the first broadcast network to jump into the 2016-2017 television season.
As Variety reported yesterday, Fox was looking to pick up three to five dramas and two to three comedies with all of the official series listed an in contention in our report. “Making History” has been an early favorite at Fox all along, and “The Mick” was a comedy frontrunner in the past few weeks. On the drama side, “Lethal Weapon,” “The Exorcist” and “Pitch” also received big buzz early on. “Apb” become a late favorite after changes were implemented behind the scenes.
The six new series join the previously ordered “24” spinoff “24: Legacy,” Lee Daniels’ drama “Star,” the “Prison Break” reboot, the event series “Shots Fired” and Jason Sudeikis’ hybrid comedy “Son of Zorn. »
- Elizabeth Wagmeister
4 items from 2016
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