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This place matters

Monday, July 23, 2012


Jeremy and I spent a lot of time in the car this weekend to spend a little time seeing family in Chicago. The spending a lot of time in the car thing was mostly my fault - we'd driven most way across Ohio when I realized suddenly that I'd left my meds at home and we had to go get them. Most of the time I am deeply grateful for the miracles of modern pharmacology. Sometimes I just wish I wasn't tethered to a pill bottle. Actually, it would be better if I were tethered to a pill bottle - I wouldn't forget to bring it that way.

So not the point. The point is that Jeremy and I had excellent NPR karma all weekend (a complete, but common misuse of the term karma, by the way). Very little static, lost very few shows halfway through, and there were very few repeats. If you're going to spend the better part of a weekend in a car, there are worse ways to do it.
On Fresh Air Weekend, we got to hear an interview with one of Jeremy's heroes, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin has written or co-written a whole bunch of movies and shows, including The West Wing, Sports Night, A Few Good Men, and the new HBO series The Newsroom
Sorkin has this really distinctive way of writing dialog, satirized here on an episode of 30 Rock on which he guest starred. 

Characters talk quickly, banter cleverly, and walk really fast while they're doing it. In the interview, Sorkin revealed one of the big reasons for that: nothing happens onscreen in most of his stuff. I'd never noticed this, but it's totally true. The West Wing, riveting as it is, is a whole lot of characters walking, pacing, filing, entering rooms, leaving rooms, but rarely actually doing anything remarkable. People don't punch each other or have car chases or have dance numbers (come to think of it, where in the hell was the musical episode of The West Wing?). 
Sorkin joked that the sole action sequence in A Few Good Men is when Tom Cruise gets out of his car to get a copy of Sports Illustrated. And I never noticed because nothing he does has ever begun to bore me (except Studio 60, don't tell Jeremy). 
I think that's really neat, that sleight of hand that writers use to keep you from noticing things that really should be obvious. Like how you were so glamoured by the magic and mystery of Harry Potter that it never occurred to you that pretty much everything that happened in the first four books could have been prevented if the kids had just gone to Dumbledore with some key information as soon as they got it? Like "Hey Dumbledore! I got this Marauder's Map, and Peter Pettigrew keeps showing up on it. I'm 14, and decidedly not qualified to figure out what this means."  
But I digress as usual. Please feast your eyes on the following orgy of Sorkinisms, brought to you by people with a hell of a lot of free time. This brings up an interesting question. Jeremy saw this and it diminished Sorkin a tiny bit in his estimation (like, he totally blew out on of the 10,000 candles on his Sorkin shrine over it). But I think it's kind of gutsy. You write something you like? Why the hell not recycle it?
What do you think? 


The Vegetable Assassin said...

It's weird because the reasons I like Sorkin are the same reasons he annoys the hell out of me and it's exactly that. The dialogue. The punchy banter that is just too fast and too forced. Yet I get sucked into his shows anyway. I loved Sports Night back in the day and the only thing I hated about that show was the delivery of the dialogue and it's the same problem I'm having currently with The Newsroom, which I find myself loving despite its close to preachy stance and the same dialogue issue. It's well written and funny and poignant etc., etc., but man, that fast firing dialogue grates on me every time. Thing is, once you notice it you can't UN-notice it.

Dude, I am not sure what I'm trying to say here...

Lucius said...

I'll give a pass on the West Wing and Sports Night duplications because he was writing them at the same time. The supercut missed that Sorkin also enjoys unknown foreigners named Alberto Fedrigotti.

Anonymous said...

I guess it's not plagiarizing if you repeat yourself... It is a little disappointing for key tear jerker moments but I don't think "dammit" repeated in every TV show is a Sorkinism. If so I need to find the cameras because he's filming my life. I liked Studio 60, I mean it wasn't West Wing good but it's far better than The Bachelor.

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

Sometimes after watching a bunch of West Wings, Jeremy and I realize that we've got a quick Sorkin-esque banter going on. I'm sure we're nowhere near as clever, but we totally feel like we are.
Jeremy has a tendency to celebrate personal victories by raising his hands in the air and shouting "Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land."