The Onion recently announced a new passion project by my most favorite screenwriter since Paddy Chayefsky: West Wing, Studio 60 and Sports Night creator Aaron Sorkin was to enter production for a return of the 'The West Wing - The Santos Administration' as an animated series, finally without any of the restrictions he had to endure on Network television.
"The costs of live-action production restricted me to a set only slightly larger than the actual White House and an ensemble cast of under 15 actors. But animation technology will enable us to provide fans with extended 40-minute walk-and-talks, digitally compressed dialogue for faster delivery, and a cast of over 70 main characters. My vision will finally be presented in its truest, most uncompromised form."
A few days later, Aaron Sorkin actually did start a new project, this time in the form of a Facebook group. The group doesn't appear to be just another fan page, but almost the exact opposite: In preparation for a movie Sorkin is to pen about Facebook's founders for Sony Pictures and producer Scott Rudin, the author decided to learn about Facebook users in their natural habitat and parachuted straight into the community.
Within hours, the floodgates opened and die-hard West Wing fans started to crawl Sorkin's wall in an attempt to seize the opportunity to finally ask all the questions we had about Toby, Josh and President Bartlet. No idea how long poor Sorkin's going to keep up answering fan mail online, but so far he's been incredibly courteous, taking the time to provide lengthy answers to even lengthier questions and adulations. And even handle snide comments from former West Wing staffer Joshua Molina.
No coincidence probably for both announcements to fall during the week the Democratic National Convention rumbled through the country: While wiping surprise tears from my cheeks during Al Gore's speech I recalled how big a part in the healing, possibly mental survival of liberal-minded viewers The West Wing played during the early years of the outgoing administration:
Giving us episode after episode of Super-President Bartlet in the White House, surrounded by his wise-cracking, un-intimidated gang of invincible advisers kicking Republican butt was nothing short of creating an alternate reality for the traumatized majority of liberal voters in this country. We even got Martin Sheen re-elected in one of the most memorable campaigns ever, and that in-spite of MS and Stockard Channing dangerously looming over him...
Taping every single episode of these first three pre-tivo seasons to vhs, The West Wing for a while stood in for my only interaction with everyday politics. In my house, The West Wing and Aaron Sorkin were king. (And oh, how much did we want Studio 60 to succeed, especially since it took place in my own industry...).
Can't wait for his treatment of the Facebook generation, even though it should probably be a series of interactive low-budget webisodes instead of a flush studio picture, but hey, we'll take what we get from the master.
The West Wing's premiere on NBC and the start of The Sopranos on HBO, both in the fall of 1999, could be viewed as the beginning of what Robert McKee calls the Golden Age of Television. That's simply how good television drama had become all of a sudden. And the bar still stands.
Here the credit sequence of act 1 of The West Wing's pilot episode:
It's a nice morning Mr McGarry. - We'll take care of that in a hurry, won't we Mike?