The Sorkin-Less 'West Wing'

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Chad R, Oct 23, 2003.

  1. Chad R

    Chad R Cinematographer

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    I have to admit I'm not digging the management change for 'The West Wing.'

    Overall, the episodes this season have been lacking everything that made the series so wonderful.

    First, the writing has become far too obvious and not as subtle as it once was. In seasons past the characters would discuss issues like they had a firm grasp on it. Sometimes it may have left me scratching my head, or even having to look a few things up, but it was teh way I expect the White House staffers to operate. For instance, on last night's episode there was an embarrassing moment of remedial history where C.J. lectured the President on immigration. During Sorkin's tenure, that would have been covered in a shorthand. She would have expressed her displeasure at the decision but not gone into the specifics.

    Which leads into my second problem. C.J. knows better than to worry about a kid's defection over the collapse of nuclear weapons ban talks. She's smarter than that and would have understood it. Not liked it, but understood it. She would have voiced her displeasure quickly and distinctly, but that's all.

    With this there's also a slow down, not in the dialogue (although it seems like there is that too) but also in the pacing of the episodes because it seems less plot it packed into each episode. With all of the slow down to better explain themselves there's less time to deal with more plot.

    The show just isn't drawing me in anymore like it used to, and is very close to becoming a watch it later in the week on my DVR than a 'gotta see it now' show.
     
  2. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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    The Sorkin-less West Wing is a mere shadow of its former self. It is far too formulaic and obvious now and really suffers from the lack of clever snappy dialog. The bit with the "joke" speech in the Telepromptr was patheticaly predictable.
     
  3. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    This may or may not relate to Sorkin's departure, but I was extremely let-down by the season premiere. All the momentum gained at the end of last season--with the terrific final moments of the last episode--was wasted. I thought the pause in the Barlett administration would carry through several episodes, leading to some very interesting scenarios, but the whole thing was wrapped up too soon and too neatly for my liking.
     
  4. Raasean Asaad

    Raasean Asaad Supporting Actor

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    I too feel the way all of you do, I don't think the wriring is as up to par as in the past. It's like the writers decided to junk all of the previous plot lines and start anew, and then once they did that...they could only handle one major plot at a time. In the past there was always multiple undercurrents and plotlines running much like I imagine the real White House would function, now it seems like a bunch of really intelligent smart-mouthed people hanging around in a big clubhouse.
     
  5. Jennifer^^W

    Jennifer^^W Auditioning

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    > West Wing/Sorkin fan. I have to admit I was critical and skeptical going in to this season. I think that Aaron Sorkin is a brilliant writer. He writes phenomenal fast-paced, witty dialogue and great story lines about intelligent subjects and issues. The West Wing has hands down been the best television I’ve watched.
    While I agree that this season’s episodes have not had the same Sorkin-esque shine that we’ve been spoiled with in years past, I think that the show is still good television. I also think, if given time, the writers will continue to develop and become better at the West Wing flow.
    The episode ending in the North Koreans breaking off the deal was not contrary to what Sorkin has done. It wasn't all wrapped up in a neat little package, but was rather more like reality. I liked how that ended. I didn’t feel the president and CJ’s discussion was that embarrassing. The president knew all of what CJ was saying and was forced to make the decision he did because it was his job. He wanted to hear CJ’s argument because it was such a difficult call to make. I don’t find her reactions out of character because she has been cast as an outspoken, strongly opinionated personality, especially relating to issues of human rights. It’s not hard to imagine Sorkin casting her as the voice that stands up for the right of the Korean man to defect. As an example, in the episode “The Women of Qumar”

    Quote from westwing.bewarne.com:

    The subject is a new lease on Kalifa Air Base in Qumar in The Gulf. In order to keep the base, the Administration has agreed to sell some powerful weapons to this country. C.J. tells Leo: "Three weeks ago a woman in Qumar was executed for adultery. She didn't need a lawyer 'cause there was no trial. It was her husband's word against hers. . . . Later today I'm going to be announcing that we're selling them tanks and guns." Leo doesn't have an answer for her.

    C.J. is lobbying everyone she can about the Qumar situation. Toby pulls her aside to caution her, but he doesn't get far: "If I were living in Qumar, I wouldn't be allowed to say, 'Shove it up your ass, Toby'. But since I'm not, shove it up your ass, Toby."

    Then C.J. talks to the National Security Advisor on selling weapons to a regime which gives no rights to women and seems to keep them alive only to produce more men. But C.J. admits: "I don't suggest foreign policy around here. . . . I don't know how we can tolerate this kind of suffering anymore. . . .The point is that Apartheid was an East Hampton clambake compared to what we laughingly refer to as the 'life' these women lead and if we had sold M1A1s to South Africa 15 years ago, you'd have set the building on fire."

    I agree that the teleprompter thing was a predictable, Three’s Company type painful moment. I had to hide behind my hands groaning because I knew it was coming. I liked the Vice President’s response, however. (I was kind of hoping he’d say…. Ahh, yeah…I'm going to have to go ahead and ask you to come in on Sunday, too...)
    :wink:
     
  6. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    As much as I thought Sorkin did great things, I found the constant acerbic-wit-in-overdrive pithiness of all of the characters' dialogue to be a bit much, a times. However, he was generally great with storylines and plotting, and it was, in all, damned good television. I think the show can survive, and perhaps even be stronger than it was, if different than its origins.

    I also think that the Sorkin era produced the worst episode of the series, the one in which Josh and company are "lost in America." Yikes. [​IMG]
     
  7. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    Bah. I liked the farmer's daughter. =)

    I think TWW's ratings have actually been trending up so perhaps Wells' formulaic style if what most Americans can understand. Personally, I liked Sorkins' wit and the challenge that came from such well drafted dialogue.

    Ah well...
     
  8. Phil L

    Phil L Supporting Actor

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    I dropped it after the second episode this season.
     
  9. Chad R

    Chad R Cinematographer

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    It wasn't the story and it's not that it's out of character; it was the delivery that bothered me. It was too heavy handed and explanatory. If you're watching "The West Wing" than it can be assumed that you know that America was founded by immigrants, we didn't, and certainly the President didn't, need that explained to us.

    In Sorkin's tenure he had these characters deliver this storyliine with much more panache and an understanding between the characters where these little facts didn't need to be explained in such a perfunctory manner. Sorkin had an intellectual manner to his dialogue that didn't pander to the audience which lent an air of authenticity to the show that seems to be missing.

    It's a weaker show and much less exciting than it once was.
     
  10. Joel C

    Joel C Screenwriter

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    I lasted three. It's sad to see what was once a great show (even the critically lambasted S4 was entertaining) sink so fast.
     
  11. Jennifer^^W

    Jennifer^^W Auditioning

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    Chad,

    I can't fault you for loving Sorkin's style because I couldn't agree more. I don't think last night's episode was that off base, though. It is CJ's way to speak out, with volume, and with heavy-handed explanations of human rights realities even when talking to people like Toby, Leo, and Nancy - all people who are well aware of the realities in the country, as discussed in the examples above. It may be that it's preachy, but that is exactly* how Sorkin wrote her on those issues.

    The subtely of her interaction with the President should not be overlooked. She knew that he understood the human rights issue. She knew that the President HAD that side of the issue in his mind. That's the side she was appealing to. She wasn't _explaining_ that fact to the President, or the viewers. She was trying desperately to get the President to listen to THAT side of his own persona. The President clearly knew what the argument was, so much so that he knew the other two arguments CJ presented were not _actually_ the source of the her objection.

    Sorkin was not against being overtly preachy on occasion. Remember the first episode fall of 2001, "Isaac and Ishmael"?

    -Jen
     
  12. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

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    I noticed the change more in the scenes discussing the economy. All of the key advisors on Bartlett's staff (presumably folks who would be well versed in the subject) get together in a room to discuss how to avoid a "bagel", and then argue with each other over some of the most basic elements of fiscal policy. At least the writers were smart enough to realize how much they were dumbing this issue down and had Bartlett walk out of the room in frustration. I expect that sort of interaction on Crossfire or The McLaughlin Group, but not from an internal staff meeting.

    Donna's "borrow a little from each theory" comment seemed obtuse, but not necessarily out of character given the naivete they have always burdened her with. Bartlett echoing the same comment later just seemed contrived.

    Both of these seemed like obvious examples of the writers trying to make the audience feel smarter. I'm not saying the show has never done that before, but the cumulative effect of the changes in pacing and dialogue is giving me the exact same "watch it later on TiVo" feeling that Chad noted above.

    Brad
     
  13. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    You guys are good. I agree with all of the above statements. [​IMG]

    Another observation, though, regarding the "telegraphed from a mile away tele-prompter gag". ... My question would be: Do you think Mr. Sorkin would have ever had Will Bailey (to begin with) even type out ANY of the Will/Toby nonsensical negative comments they were bantering back & forth?? WHY would Will even feel the need to physically type out those words? Doesn't make logical sense to me. But, obviously, for the sake of the script, we needed for him to actually type the words out on the computer.

    That phrase I just uttered above ("For the sake of the script"), IMO, has ruined many a TV program (not West Wings; but others). Do you not agree? During the Sorkin years, I can hardly think of any shows where something like that was tossed in to just "further a gag".

    Still, I kinda liked the October 22 episode, even though, as usual, you can barely make out anything due to its being filmed in pitch-darkness (very annoying -- with the 10/22 episode I think being the darkest ep. yet).

    I doubt we would even have seen an ep. this week if the Sox & Cubs were in the World Series, instead of the current FLA./NY match-up.

    This (thus far) somewhat sub-par season of TWW makes me look forward all the more to the November 18th DVD release of the Sorkin-led first season of the show. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Thomas H G

    Thomas H G Screenwriter

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  15. Jennifer^^W

    Jennifer^^W Auditioning

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    Yeah, the "Bagel" thing rubbed me wrong from the get-go. I think it must be an attempt to emulate Sorkin's style.

    -Jen
     
  16. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    I'm coming around to a partial retraction of my comments re the Sorkin era.

    Last nights episode was not good. Not good at all. The "dumbstruck Josh staring at the camera" thing during the final sequence w/ Tom Skerrit was cringe-worthy.
     
  17. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    The October 29th ep. was, IMO, by far the BEST ep. of '03-'04 thus far.
     
  18. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

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    I have been a huge fan of this show since day one. I have also been disappointed with this season. The one thing I noticed that is missing is the comic relief that Sorkin would throw into the show. Last night's episode had none of that and there was a constant tension building throughout the episode.

    I won't give up on the show. I just hope the new staff finds there groove.
     
  19. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Like a good number of fans, I'm unsure of what to make of the Sorkin-less version. I'll wait it out and give it a chance, but so far I'm less than impressed.

    I didn't mind the season opener, but since then things have slid downhill. Last nights episode was just poor. And yes, the little bits of comic relief in the banter between characters is sorely missed.

    I'll wait and see...
     
  20. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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