January 27, 2011

WHY AARON SORKIN'S "CABLE NEWS SHOW" IS ALREADY IRRELEVANT

The development executive of the producer I briefly worked with on The Cage fired an email at me the other day, asking me of my opinion on Aaron Sorkin's new pilot that has been set up at HBO, promising to go "behind the scenes of a cable news show" and apparently something that he pieced together after shadowing Keith Olbermann (that man does pop up in my posts far too often lately), but also a couple of people at Fox News and other outlets.

Three things that need to be said here.
(a) I have expanded my original email reply to include a more thorough analysis

(b) I love Aaron Sorkin's dialogue. And I own all seven seasons of The West Wing, I also own Sports Night and Studio 60, and as I have said before on this blog, he has a wonderful, acerbic wit that he puts into the dialogue of his shows. I have also seen and/or bought The Social Network, The American President, Charlie Wilson's War, A Few Good Men and even the abortion that was the Nicole Kidman-starrer Malice. So I am in a pretty good position to judge him and his work.

(c) The fact that I have an affection for Sorkin's writing will not prevent me from judging him just as harshly as I would any other person's writing, since I have no personal relationship with him, am not connected to the same people as him, and even if I were, it would not deter me from being brutally honest about things, as one must be, especially when one likes something.
The main thesis here is this -
Aaron Sorkin's writing is structurally limited.
- and there will be much criticism of that, and I fully expect some of my LA contacts to email me and state, without delay, that this "shows you don't really want to work with people in Hollywood, how can you crap on the guy who will very likely win the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and who is one of the intellectual lions of this industry, and you are nothing, you are a nobody" blah, blah fucking blah... stop whining and grow up.

This isn't about you, personally, and if you think it is, look at the end of the previous sentence. And then look at yourself in the mirror. Then look back at the sentence.

Okay? Mirror. Sentence. Mirror. Sentence.

Uh. Yeah. Okay. Since we already have that out of the way, let me also get out of the way the notion that I may be jealous of his success. I'm not. If I were I wouldn't own the aforementioned DVD sets of his shows, and there wouldn't be the delightful inside joke my friend and former colleague Ralf Müller do every once in a while when things look truly grim, and we only need one line to make each other understand. The line? "This is bad... on so many levels", written by Sorkin and delivered by Rob Lowe in the pilot of The West Wing.

I love that line. I love that delivery. I love a great many things about Sorkin and his writing.

I also want to make clear that what follows is not dealing with Sorkin as a person, or whether he is difficult to work with or if he has stolen other people's work and slapped his name on it, all of which are claims that have been made against him. I have not enough reliable data to comment on any of that, and such things are irrelevant to the analysis that is about to follow. It would be personalising things, just as some have issues with Angela Merkel's haircuts or the way she dresses, all of which should not enter an impartial look at the issues.

And the issue here is whether Sorkin's writing is relevant to a wider audience.

(1) TALKING HEADS ARE NO HEROES (UNLESS THEY ARE EDWARD R. MURROW OR WALTER CRONKITE)


Now, with this in mind, let us look at how Sorkin himself describes his latest project. In this interview with the BBC World, he makes the claim that he tries to bring the same romance and idealism to the world of cable news shows that he brought to the political arena of the White House in The West Wing, turning a much maligned profession (journalism, in case you are wondering) into a theater for both human drama and heroics.

And shouldn't I be applauding that?

Only he has already done the "behind the scene" shows that dealt with the human drama. In fact, there is not much of a difference, structurally, between Sports Night and Studio 60, with the exception of the background. One was in the world of sports casting, the other one was in the world of Saturday Night Live. Somebody who has watched both shows will have noticed that everything in these shows is similarly built, down to the character relationships and the plot devices.

And I am not dissing him here. You may think I am, but I am not. The fact is that the construction of a television show (and I used to be part of one) is very similar, regardless of the topics or subject matters that these televsion shows are dealing with. There is the technical problems, there is the problems with cast, an office romance here or there, there is the prepping for the show and the show itself, and all the variations thereof.

And at its best, so I told the development executive, at the very best you will wind up with Good Night, and Good Luck: The TV series. I know. I know. Everybody and their dog hates George Clooney, goddamned goodlooking communist that he is, and everything he does is horrible.

I know.

But in Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney and his co-writer Grant Heslov inadvertendly already provided the template of what a show like Sorkin's could possibly hope to be. And it is a movie that - despite critical acclaim everywhere - did 55 million dollars at the global box office.

But this one here's going to be on HBO, you will counter, and you would be right to do so. The fact that the show - if going to series - will be on a pay channel (that I admittedly have issues with, for personal reasons, but again, this does not colour this analysis) will insulate Sorkin from the commercial pressure of an American network show, and it ensures without a doubt that the show will be well made, well directed and well cast.

None of that, I must make it clear, is in any doubt.

(2) THE WEST WING IS NOT A TV STUDIO


But the problem is in Sorkin's structural writing and the limits thereof. What he excels at is very topical, fast-talking people that are or at least sound smart. That is another reason why I have chosen the comparison to Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck, for there was rarely somebody as smart as Edward R. Murrow at the height of his game, when he took on Joseph McCarthy and a large portion of the press at his time.

And there is the rub.

If the structure of this new show will follow the established Aaron Sorkin rules, he is at the mercy of his topics. If you compare The West Wing with Studio 60, you will see that the biggest element that contributed to the downfall of the latter is the fact that Sorkin played a show about something as irrelevant as the behind-the-scenes struggles at a comedy show with all the gravitas and drama that he used on topics like gun control in The West Wing.

Hell, there was an entire episode that had the formatting of Final Draft (which is a software that is for writers of screen- and teleplays, see, just the fact that I had to explain that is bad) as a major plot point. And people in the show reacted to this incredibly silly thing in the same manner as Martin Sheen's president when finding out that China had just invaded Kazachstan.

What? Final Draft? With the wrong formatiting? That is horrible! We must talk about this!

And talk they did. A lot. And fast. And in a smart fashion. While the viewer at home, having come home from work thought to himself, what the hell? You are in Hollywood? You want to know work? And drama? Try working at Wal-Mart, you pretentious, stupid, elitist fuck.

Final Draft. Plot point. Just saying.

(3) THE STAKES ARE WHAT IS AT STAKE 


Now, the other reason to bring up Good Night, and Good Luck is the fact that it illustrates the importance of stakes. When you talk to producers or other writers, but mostly executives who are afraid of making any decision that doesn't have to do with them getting a raise, the first thing they ask you is "who the hell are you", followed closely by "what are the stakes."

In Clooney's movie, the stakes couldn't be higher. Why?

Because we know about it. It's a historical piece that deals with one of the most dangerous times in modern American history. The McCarthy witchhunts. And it is the tale of one man, who - as Keith Olbermann so eloquently said - slayed the dragon and had to pay the price for that. As Sorkin's writing shows in Studio 60, it is something he cares about a lot, bringing it up in an episode that deals with the infamous Hollywood blacklist and then recalling it at the end of the show, with Steven Webber's monologue on who provided McCarthy with those names.

So we can kind of gauge where this HBO show will be going.

There is only a slight problem with that approach. And the approach is within Sorkin's limitations as a writer (oh no, you didn't! I am afraid I did). Sorkin breaks down the real world and brings it home to you, be it on the big or small screen, in an almost Bert Brecht manner, stripped of its action and condensed in speeches, monologues and dialogues. He in fact does TV Master Theatre, and it is masterful and at its best, it is witty and funny and relevant.

The best being The West Wing.

The other television things of his? Not so much.

See, in The West Wing, the stakes couldn't be higher, either.

And they are relatable to a wider audience. The environment. The lack of education. The God problem (or rather, the religious nutcase problem, and don't tell me that it isn't a problem). The lack of funding for science. Human rights in China (one of the most berautiful episodes, and hey, it even features "shibboleth"). Terrorism. Women's right in Saudi Arabia, uh, Qumar.

All of this, the world at your door, the world outside the window, the world that has an influence on you as a viewer, broken down and brought to a secret theatre stage in the White House. Where you hope, you wish, you pray that smart people are working there, that Martin Sheen's Jeb Bartlett were real, that Josh Lyman and Leo McGarry were real, for what they are talking about, what they are discussing, what they will have to decide...

...directly affects you, the person in front of the television screen. Well, metaphorically speaking.

The people in The West Wing - with the exception of Jed Bartlett - were also not terribly rich. The point is made, numerous time, that all of them have given up better paying jobs to serve their country, and this may be the idealism that Sorkin wants to achieve with his new show.

Okay, and here is where you lose me. Sure, there are idealistic people in journalism. In the newsroom of a cable news show? People who have given up better paying jobs? Bill O'Reilly gets paid roughly 10 million per year, Keith Olbermann's quote was about 7 million per year.

Sorkin already ran into the same problem with Sports Night and Studio 60, especially in the latter. He had to somehow make the credible argument that people who make a shitload of gazillions more than the viewers out there, for doing something that most viewers - rightfully or not - consider to be fucking easy money.

Oh, poor liberal Hollywood writer has a writer's block? Oh, diddums. Oh, poor cocaine-fueled asshole director cannot work in movies and instead gets a high-paying gig for the next two years as the executive producer on a comedy show? Where can I give my donation for that?

(4) A QUICK ASIDE TO MY FELLOW WRITERS

Now my fellow writers (oh, what the fuck, I have no writers who are my fellows, and we are not looking for Mordor, and if I had fellows, they better be Liv Tyler, for I ain't going into danger with just Hobbits, right?) will be all over this and go, "oh, how would you know? This is hard work! No wonder you hate Sorkin! And it only proves that you don't understand the pain and emotional anguish that..."

To those writers (and directors and producers)?

Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

I know. I know, each one of us deludes ourselves to be the center of the universe, and we are all misunderstood, and we are all geniuses, and we all do very hard work, and it is only that the other people can't see that.

Yes, we do hard work. Yes, it is hard work to create. But you know what? It is kind of not necessary to do an entire show about "us". Because, "us", yes, we are so wonderful. And so full of ourselves, I mean, stories. And we all know that our lives are so important, we only need to write those lives down, and we will have...

... what? I tell you what you will have, nothing, that is what you will have, nothing more than masturbation, and don't worry, I have told this to Hollywood people's faces, you have such wonderfully relevant shows as Californication and Entourage, you have Studio 60, you have - what was that name of that PR firm show with Eric McCormack again? Oh, you don't remember either? And you will get so many more shows like that. Because we have reached a point in Hollywood history where writers are simply incapable of drawing on real life experiences, but have that desire to tell everybody else that their life's story is really, really important.

And please don't tell me about pain. Pain and me are on a first-name basis, and if you are wondering what that first name is, it is Christopher. It likes to be called Christ, however, as in "Dear Christ, this fucking hurts" when your back spasms so badly that you hope and wish you were dead.

The difference here? I don't pretend that my own life is interesting enough to write about and present it to the world as having any relevance whatsoever.

(5) THE IMPORTANCE OF A FEW GOOD MEN


Ever wonder why there are so many cop and lawyer shows (with variations on each of them), and not merely in the US, but globally (with a serious drop on lawyer shows in countries that operate under Roman-inspired law, due to the fact that it makes for less serious theatre)?

Simple. The stakes there are almost always life and death. Cops investigate crimes, and most of the crimes are concerning homicide. What higher stake could there be? And lawyer shows deal with pretty much the same thing, unless they humorous and are written by David Kelley, and even there, the humour is employed to serve a topical purpose, be it "Don't ask, don't tell" or "Why can't we all just have a nuke, after all, the 2nd amendment gives us the right to bear arms", to name only two things he dealt with in Boston Legal.

Sorkin has only dealt with life and death in that most pure form once, in what we may call the quintessential Sorkin story.

I am, of course, talking about A Few Good Men.

It is in these situations that his dailogue crackles the most, it is there that his structural limitations are used to his advatange, breaking down something that is happening or has happened off-screen and then analysed, weighed and argued in front of the camera.

It is also there that Sorkin established the themes of his work, and they are as follows.
(a) A young, brilliant man with father issues who is thrust, often against his will, into a situation, in which he not only has to prove his intelligence, but also live up to some kind of legacy. In short, the best role Tom Cruise had in the 1990s, because such thing overlapped with Cruise's public persona at the time.

(b) A young woman who is similarly thrust into a situation, but more often - as shown by the characters of Demi Moore in said movie, but also e.g. Amanda Peet in Studio 60 and Anette Benning in An American President - seeking out the challenge in order to prove herself. Said female character will have some rather quirky traits and is bound to fall in love or at least lust with the male lead.

(c) A plucky sidekick that provides an alternative, more careful and system-affirming point of view as a foil for the more roguish male lead, like Kevin Pollack in A Few Good Men, Michael J. Fox in An American President, even Bradley Whitford's character in Studio 60 follows to some extent that formula, not to mention Andrew Garfield's portrayal in The Social Network.

(d) The aforementioned characters are up against a systematic evil. Sorkin has never really - outside of Malice - been interested in evil on a personal level, and since Malice seems to be so far removed from the rest of Sorkin's work, I will leave that movie out of this analysis (for which some may skewer me, but it sounds and feels more like a work-for-hire job at the beginning of his career, and not so much something that he would write once he had established himself). That systematic evil is then portrayed through one or more characters, very often through one, like Grinning Jack in a Few Good Men or Richard Dreyfuss in An American President. At their best, these characters shed light on deeper issues and give some of the best lines in modern American cinema, like "You can't handle the truth", at their worst, they are caricatures, like Dreyfuss' senator in the Machael Douglas-starrer.

(e) The struggle of our leads are usually resolved in dialogue, sometimes with the ferocity of a military battle (A Few Good Men) and sometimes through a monologue, and if it works, if you have the right actor, the guy who William Goldman once called the "symbol of the modern American flawed male", you have one hell of a movie ending, like you did with An American President. Michael Douglas explaining why he is a card-carrying member of the ACLU and asking why the hell his opponent isn't, that is sheer brilliance on a dramatic level. And it ends with "I am Andrew Shephard, and I am the President!" If you cannot hear the mythic, larger-than-life version of Bill Clinton through that, then you didn't live through the 1990s. Douglas plays Clinton the way liberals (and don't make that a dirty word, it isn't) hoped and imagined the real man to be, instead of what they really had: a player with the charm of a used-car salesman. 
The last point here already shows the inherent weakness in Sorkin's work. Have you seen it? With such strict adherence to elements, all of which are necessary to Sorkin's dialectic, Brecht-like analysis of a situation in front of him, the relevance of his writing is no longer the actual writing. It is good writing, more often than not great writing, and I even include the criticism of many people in that, who claim that Sorkin doesn't create characters but rather points of view and dresses those up as characters. And that is a bad thing. Boooohoooo.

No, it isn't. If it were, then neither George Bernard Shaw nor Berthold Brecht would be rightfully called great writers. Not everybody has to be Charles Dickens, you know?

But such an approach to telling a story is limiting, and whether it then has any resonance with a wider audience rests no longer on the characters/points of view, bur rather on this:
The relevance is what he is writing about.

(6) WHY MARK ZUCKERBERG IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SUCCESS OF THE SOCIAL NETWORK AND NOT AARON SORKIN (AND NOT DAVID FINCHER, EITHER)


Oh dear, I have done it now, haven't I? I took off, flew up high in the sky and dumped from all the way up there on what most people call the best screenplay of the past year, adapted or not.

And is it a great screenplay?

Yes.

Is it any better than the screenplay to Charlie Wilson's War?

No. I have read both, and they are both essentially the same in structure. You don't have to trust my word on it. Watch both movies back to back. Or read both screenplays back to back. The same structural elements, the flashbacks, the fast talking, the five elements I have identified up under (5) are in both screenplays (granted, minus the "woman who is challenged in a man's world, and much fuss has been made about that in the case of the Zuckerberg movie, and I am not going to get into that right now, that is a discussion all of its own).

One movie crashed and burned, the other became a smashing success around the world (as much as non-genre blockbuster extravaganzas can become successes).

The secret ingredient?

Not Aaron Sorkin, my dear people in Hollywood. Not even David Fincher, and we all know how much Hollywood loves the latter. No, the secret ingredient is none other than...

... Mark Zuckerberg.

Through the creation of Facebook and the fact that he is young and reclusive and the youngest billionaire ever, he had a built-in relevance to an audience that otherwise wouldn't give a shit about a movie biography.

Don't get me wrong. Both Sorkin and Fincher are at the top of their game, structurally and visually, in the movie. But if that movie had been released one year earlier, or one year later, it would have not had any impact whatsoever. In 2009, the media had yet to bombard us with all things Zuckerberg, and I can guarantee you that in 2011 and even more so in 2012, the best you can expect from Facebook is to become nothing more than another "business" story, and if you don't believe me, ask how many people out there are interested in how Google was created. Or Yahoo. Or YouTube. Or MySpace. Or... [insert some internet company here]

Why is Zuckerberg important?

Because he sells the movie. Not merely in ticket sales, no, the fact that the audience knows, and most of them did know, who Zuckerberg was and what he had achieved was what gave each scene relevance. Don't believe me?

Much has been said about the first ten minutes of the movie, the break-up scene between Zuckerberg and the "maybe she existed in that way, maybe she didn't" girlfriend/love interest. It was machine gun dialogue, it was nothing less than an emotionally exhausting battle of wits, where Zuckerberg used every word to his apparent advantage in the battle, while he actually lost the war. And the girl. And knowing a little about such a situation, I can tell you that it isn't too far from the truth of what can happen. And it is brilliant.

And utterly worthless. And lazy.

Unless you know or at least have an idea as to who Zuckerberg is, that this just may have been the moment that spurred him to create, the scene is worthless. On its own merits, it doesn't establish anything other than the fact that here is a guy who is smart and has no clue. That's all that you get from this scene, if you remove the name Zuckerberg from the character.

Try it at home. Close your eyes. And pretend that it's Joe Miller.

And ask yourself if you care to see the rest of the movie. In fact, The Social Network plays out very much like the Star Wars prequels.

Say wha?

Yes, you heard me right. The Social Network is to Mark Zuckerberg what the Star Wars prequels are to Darth Vader. Only not bloated. And without droids. And with better dialogue. And without any action sequences and light saber fights. I can see you shaking your heads, all the way up there, in the back of the class. Making that analogy, man, I just lost every right to exist, eh? Comparing Sorkin to Lucas, I must be insane.

Only that I am not comparing them, I am comparing the relevance of each movie(s) to the audience. In the case of Star Wars, being so well-known around the world, the audience walked into the three prequels (less with each one of them) knowing what the outcome will be. And they know the man Anakin Skywalker will become, so every scene, every line of dialogue, every moment is weighed by them in the certain knowledge of that.

In The Social Network, you have the same interactive set-up between audience and movie. In fact, they sold the movie this way, remember?
You can't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.
The potential audience is right on the one-sheet. The Social Network is not about a character, it is about a symbol. About a myth that - for better or worse - is currently socially relevant. It is a perfect ground for Sorkin's writing, that, because - as I stated earlier - his writing is all about putting forward different points of view, and a movie that bounces back and forth between different accounts of the same story? Perfect for him.

But let us not delude ourselves that his writing would have made any impact whatsoever, if that weren't the case. If the story had been about a guy who becomes a great mobster, for example, but a character who had to live and die on the screen on his own merits.

So, if you win the Oscars, David and Aaron, say "thank you" to Zuckerberg.

As for the machine gun dialogue between two lovers/potential lovers/about to be broken up lovers, it is structurally the very same here as in numerous instances with Matt Perry on Studio 60. Say, how many people remember that?


Full disclosure. I think the first example I have chosen here is a wonderful piece of writing and directing and editing and acting, and it is one of the reasons why - when I put together my own pitch package for The Cage (don't worry, this is not going to be one of those "me me me" stories), I chose Matt Perry as my male lead, because he could do angry and vulnerable.

Or this? This is from The Harriet Dinner. Notice something? Replay these scenes with Perry in your head while you watch your screeners of The Social Network. It is the same scene, essentially, only in Studio 60, there are two fictional characters, and so their weight of their argumentation in the eyes of the audience is considerably less.



But still, nobody really cared about Studio 60, which was just as well made and had beautifully funny bits in it, but was only relevant twice. In the two-parter Nevada Day, in which the coddled and pampered Hollywood cast was stuck before a "Yeeehaw" judge played by John Goodmann, a caricature of a Red State conservative, who turned out to be smarter and kinder than anybody else.

And in the four-part ending of the season/show, in which real life with all of its consequences comes crashing down on all of them, with a cast member's brother having been kidnapped in Afghanistan (something being foreshadowed in Nevada Day), the tabloid news making a travesty out of it, the network being under public relations pressure and Amanda Peet's Jordan nearly dying giving birth to her baby. There were so many things going on that you could almost take those four episodes and have that as a movie.

It is under this pressure that Sorkin's writing turns from a solid state to solid diamond.

But he did what he did before The Social Network, and you can make a clear line from his earliest work to this movie and the new TV show that he is developing. The difference between him being made fun of after the giant failure that was Studio 60 and now?

Mark Zuckerberg.

And since Hollywood executives have the enormously limited attention span of a goldfish, they delude themselves that it wasn't Zuckerberg, that it was... can you say it with me, kids?

Me! Me! Me! Me!

Or in this case, the delusion that Sorkin's writing was so extraordinary, that people came to see his writing acted out on the big screen that no matter what he would be doing next, people would tune in and see him do it again. And he will do it again. He will do the exact same thing.

Without being able to stand on Facebook's Zuckerberg's shoulders of relevance.

Which brings us to...

(7) THE NEW SHOW, OR STUDIO 60: RELOADED


Now, I have worked at a cable "news" show myself, so forgive me when I state this quite clearly. Nothing exciting ever happens at a cable news show, at least nothing that is world-changing or groundbreaking or even moderately interesting.

Why? Because the actual show and the making of it is very similar to what Sorkin has already covered in Sports Night and Studio 60. It is actually a fairly, sometimes over-the-top, but basically a decent depiction of what mostly happens (minus the topical humour)

It is...
(a) people waiting for stories to get in

(b) people sitting in meeting discussing what may be covered

(c) people editing said stories.

(d) people booking guests (pundits)

(e) people writing editorials

(f) the actual show itself.
Note that these are exactly the story parameters that are the ones of Studio 60 and Sports Night. With one minor difference. In this show thes tories will be political or social ones. In this show, you will have a Keith Olbermann (insert another anchor here, if you don't like Olbermann) coming to work on his day off to do an editorial on the Tuscon shootings. You will have maybe a couple of outdoor set-ups that deal with the things on the ground, but the way cable news works, very often, things on the ground are far, far away, and the show itself will only provide the echo chamber.

There will be beautifully crafted monologues and rants, and maybe even a harsh rivalry with Bill O'Reilly (again insert anybody here) as these people tackle the issues in different ways and from different points of view.

Only one problem. The guy with the other point of view is not in the same room, so Sorkin will not be able to have a direct exchange, it will all be removed by one level, coming from and going into the television.

Unless the rivaling show (look at Sports Night) is hosted by the same network. Possible? If you look at Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, yes, absolutely, but it isn't really worthwile to watch this, then.

Why?

Because the audience can see this play out in real-time in the real broadcasts. Why fictionalise it? What is the incentive? To find out that somebody is an ass to work with? That there are rivalries between the staff? Well, whooopeee. Why should a larger audience care?

Again, what are the stakes?

I will now tell you a secret. Journalists are deluded. Myself included.

They actually think that they are important, TV journalists much more so than newspaper ones. They do think that their editorials, that their wonderful and sometimes uncooked thoughts have some kind of impact. They delude themselves, because sometimes, not very often, but sometimes that is true. Like I said, Murrow against McCarthy. Cronkite against the Vietnam War. Woodward and Bernstein and Cronkite against Nixon. And that... is about it. That is what everybody is looking towards. These few instances.

And as much I said before, the fact that Keith Olbermann for example stood up and criticised the Bush government for its ineptitude in 2005 and then, with his first special comment in 2006, makes him a very brave man.

Just as I consider Glenn Greenwald a very brave man for not letting Barack Obama off the hook when it comes to the human rights/torture issues.

What it doesn't make?

Compelling fictional television. Because you would have such a moment very often, you would have to raise the stakes in each episode of your show to make it relevant that way, otherwise you just have a workplace show, and that is set at a workplace that most in the real world would consider a blessing to work at, especially when they hear how much those talking heads get paid for having exactly the same thing as the audience out there: an opinion and nothing more.

And that is what this show will fall down on.

But does it matter?

(8) JOURNALISTS LOVE TO TALK ABOUT THEMSELVES

No. Not at the beginning. Why not? Because of what I wrote in the headline above. Sorkin's show will start with a giant echo in the media. You will see it everywhere. You will see the cast members on covers. You will see interviews with Sorkin about the long, intimate process that had him tail Olbermann and O'Reilly, and everybody in the media will lap it up.

Because journalists are deluded. They live, quite literally, in Carly Simon's song, but without understanding the irony, You're so vain... you probably think this song is about you.

And yes, this song is about them, and if you ask a journalist, any journalist, even the ones who make a shitload of money, they will tell you that they are underappreciated and overworked, and if they could only make everybody see....

... and that is why writers understand them so well. Because, see, as stated above, we are all misunderstood, we are all geniuses, we want our damn recognition already!

But what they don't realise is this. Nobody cares about them as people. And you shouldn't. They are here to serve a function, and the fact that they haven't served this function, verifiably so, makes them, especially the television variety, at best uncared for, at worst unloved or even hated.

Unless Sorkin is writing Network: The Series (and you can't, that is an idea good enough for one movie, and, oh, he already did that entire movie... in the first three minutes of Studio 60's pilot, which was another superficially brilliant, but ultimately lazy thing to do) or Good Night, and Good Luck: The Series (again, you can't), the parameters of this show's concept are already the blueprint of its downfall.

Because it will not have a relevance, nor will it have the stakes to make it relevant to a wider audience. It will be a quintessential insider's show, and the ratings will reflect that.

But it will sure open with a big media splash.

That is one thing you can count on.