The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

by Jesse Walker

Tuesday, September 24, 2002
THE WORST WING: I've never watched the Emmy Awards in my life -- reading the list of winners in the next morning's paper is depressing enough. This year, in response to a TV schedule that included such worthy programs as The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and The Daily Show, the statuette-granters saw fit to award their Best Comedy prize to ... Friends, which has been funny maybe four or five times ever, all in its first season (and whose cast has given the world more bad movies than any other program not aired late Saturday nights).

On the drama side, The West Wing won its usual chunk of Emmys. When I tell people that I hate this show, they generally assume that I dislike it because of its politics. Well, I don't like its politics, but that's almost beside the point; there's plenty of art out there with disagreeable politics that I nonetheless enjoy. The reason I hate The West Wing is because it springs from the pen of Aaron Sorkin, perhaps the worst writer in television today. The fact that Sorkin wasn't locked up for those psychedelic mushrooms he got caught with is the final proof that the War on Drugs should be abandoned: For once, those drug laws had a chance to do the world some good, and they let us down.

Few people can write dialogue with tricky, "literary" rhythms that nonetheless is credible as a conversation; the living writer who's probably best at it is
David Mamet. Sorkin tries to pull this off, and he fails miserably: the accents are in the wrong places, the repartee sounds forced, and everything is way too self-conscious. When I'm watching a Sorkin-scripted movie or TV show, it doesn't matter what's on the screen: All I can see is our smug auteur pounding away at his word processor, periodically yelping, "I'm writing!" to the ceiling. We are speaking of a man who once wrote a hilariously "powerful" scene featuring the president in a church, railing against God for the injustices of the world and in the middle of this -- here's the funny part -- quoting Graham Greene. Now, I could mock this for the sheer unlikelihood that someone angrily pouring his heart out to the Almighty would also remember just the right line from Bartlett's for the occasion, but that isn't necessary. It's enough that Sorkin produced a scene in which the president of the United States quoted Graham Greene to God. I'm sure he felt very proud of himself as he wrote this, too.

Combine that with the didactic fog that hangs over almost every moment, and the program becomes unwatchable. I've tried it twice, just as I've attempted to watch Sorkin's last series, Sports Night, and just as I suffered through two of his movies, A Few Good Men and The American President. I cannot see why this man is considered a good writer or why The West Wing is considered a great show.


posted by Jesse 3:44 PM
. . .

. . .

For past entries, click here.


. . .