Thursday, January 25, 2007

What I really think of Ken Levine

Who is Ken Levine? For starters, he’s not Aaron Sorkin. Never mind that like Aaron, he’s written for TV…, because in spite of that fact, he’s not famous (and apparently Aaron Sorkin is). But I’m getting ahead of myself. We know about Studio 60 because John, curiously, likes to talk about it. Why does John like to talk about it? I’m glad you asked. Because I’m a bit slow (never watched The West Wing), I never put Aaron Sorkin and Aaron Sorkin together. I’m guessing John did, because he watched/liked The West Wing, which is why he watches Studio 60, because unlike Ken Levine, Aaron Sorkin is famous. Or to put it another way, no one ever watched Dharma & Greg because when they think M•A•S•H, they think Ken Levine (except for maybe Ken’s parents). This seems an important point. Or at least I intend to make a big deal of it. But it’s ultimately not a big deal since I’ve concluded that unless tons of people are reading you, there’s little point in writing about TV.

Nevertheless, if you read, as apparently tons of people have, criticism of Studio 60--and about halfway down through the comments--and you benefit from having never watched The West Wing, or knowing who Aaron Sorkin is (any more than you know who the successful but un-famous writes are of other hit shows you watch), it quickly becomes apparent that the chief criticism of Studio 60 is that it’s not The West Wing. And if that weren’t bad enough, somehow Aaron Sorkin is famous, which not only makes criticism of Studio 60 more worthwhile than, say, 30 Rock, but his fame also serves to get the envious juices flowing of all those “successful” but who the hell knew we could be famous too!? television writers. The key words being “juices” and “writers” and what that gets you -- a never-ending stream of criticism.

So if you’re scratching your head at all the criticism of Studio 60, a show decent enough that even my finicky ass enjoys it, wonder no more. It’s a combination of people longing for The West Wing and the unfortunate circumstance of inspiring envy in a group of people who use keyboards the way most of us use a hammer.

Lastly, I’d point out that if the old adage write what you know holds true, and The West Wing really is as good as all that, it’s just a matter of time before Studio 60 becomes the best show Aaron Sorkin ever wrote.


JohnMcG said...

There's a couple things at play.

One, I think Sorkin is doing something more ambitious, which gives us something to talk about. Watch a show from the CSI or Law & Order franchises. Anything to think about there? The bad guys end up in prison. The cops did their jobs. The wily defense attorney was thwarted. L & O might have once made us work a little harder, but not so much anymore.

With Sorkin, we've got something to talk about it. We might not like what he has to say, we might think he's a bit heavy-handed in presenting it, bu we've got something to chew on.

Sorkin also engages his critics a bit, both explicitly and in the show (see the references to clueless people on the internet).

switters said...


One thing I really like about Aaron Sorkin shows is that you know it's an Aaron Sorkin show almost immediately because of the writing. It's all about the writing. And the blocking (what the actors are doing when they're talking). I hate the feeling that I'm sounding like a broken record.

The people who are Sorkin fans but who criticize 60 for not being Wing completely miss the point of what Sorkin's trying to do. I think John has it right. I'd echo him and add that it's the combination of what Sorkin's trying to say and how he's trying to say it that makes him and his show so compelling.

Ken Levine and David Isaacs are geniuses. As are Jim Burrows and Glen and Les Charles. I don't remember where I said it (I think it might have been in response to a rundeep post about 60), but it strikes me that Sorkin's the rightful heir to the Levine/Isaacs/Burrows/Charles franchise. Especially when you throw Sports Night into the mix.

Off topic: I (we) could sure use a little help, but only if you're watching this go-around. No biggie. (And that goes for all y'all.)

"Ken Levine and David Isaacs" is permanently ingrained in my mind in bold, yellowish, blocky script, having seen it over and over throughout childhood and the early adult years, not to mention today's reruns. Good catch.