Monday, September 23, 2002

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Aaron Sorkin and Tom Clancy -- separated at birth?

The West Wing won the Emmy for best drama for the third consecutive year, demonstrating once again that Emmy voters are truly one-dimensional.

Aaron Sorkin can do one thing and only one thing well -- write snappy dialogue. Characterization, moral nuance, symbolism, all of those are out the window on his shows. To be clear, I have great respect for the actors in the West Wing, they deserve all the awards they can get. After all, it's tough to develop a distinctive character when there's no difference between your dialogue and those of the other protagonists. The only shade of characterization Sorkin manages is between those who are smart and those who are evil. The evil characters are apparently not allowed to use words with more than two syllables. I appreciate witty banter as much as the next guy, but when that's the only merit to the writing, then it's not must see TV.

Watching The West Wing is exactly like reading Tom Clancy's novels. Clancy's characters are interchangeable, his villians are cartoonish, and he commits a literary misdemeanor every time he uses a metaphor. But, when he writes about military gadgetry, the prose shifts from pedestrian to vibrant. Like Sorkin, he's a one-trick pony, it's just a different trick.

Clancy never wins any awards; Sorkin can't fit all of his on his mantle. Meanwhile, The Sopranos has yet to win best drama, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer has yet to be nominated. There's no accounting for taste. [Is this rant because The West Wing is unabashedly liberal?--ed. No, I admire the fact that the show pulls no punches about where it's coming from.] On Wednesday's, I'll occasionally watch the show if I feel then need to listen to sparkling conversation. Or, I'll watch The Bernie Mac Show and wait for Sportcenter.

P.S.: David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, has a similar disdain for The West Wing:

The networks, constrained by advertisers’ concerns and audience sensibilities, can’t use the obscenity and nudity common in The Sopranos. But couldn’t they do a show just as good? Yes, says Chase.

“There isn’t any reason why someone couldn’t do a really complicated, psychologically intricate and totally engaging drama series on a network,” he says, and then The West Wing falls into his sights—“one which didn’t provide you with all the answers, which didn’t give you arrows saying you’re supposed to feel this way now, and let us tell you how we feel about this, that wasn’t just some kind of sermon, tricked up with actors moving their mouths. That could happen. But it doesn’t.”

P.P.S.: For those who snicker at the artistic value of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, click here. And Anthony Cordesmann uses Buffy in composing his thoughts on homeland defense. [From what Cordesmann wrote, he clearly never watched season four--ed. This has already been pointed out].

posted by Dan on 09.23.02 at 11:01 AM