Inside TV is speculating Keith Olbermann’s next gig may be that of TV comedy writer. It seems that Aaron Sorkin, creator of “The West Wing,” among other things, is working with HBO on a series about a cable news show.
“Sorkin spent time on Olbermann’s set while penning the behind-the-scenes script (think “Sports Night” meets “Countdown”), something he did while juggling “The Social Network” and working on an early draft of the upcoming film “Moneyball” (starring Brad Pitt). Sorkin recently told BBC News that he also shadowed Chris Matthews and Fox News and that he’s working with HBO on the project. (Unfortunately, the pay cabler is not confirming anything.)
A TV series about the inner workings of a cable news show would certainly be entertaining if done right. There are a couple of problems with Sorkin doing it.
While Sorkin’s “The West Wing” was a popular series, largely due to an excellent cast and great writing, it was, when everything is said and done, a left-wing fantasy about a President like Bill Clinton but with morals and ethics set in a universe where liberal policy prescriptions actually worked. “The West Wing” had as much to do with the real world of White House politics as “Star Trek” had to do with the modern space program.
And, despite his hiring people like Peggy Noonan as consultants, Sorkin is psychologically and in every other way incapable of understanding or having empathy with conservatives. Sorkin certainly proved that with his recent rant against Sarah Palin. That would somewhat limit that audience for a potential fictional cable news show series.
And there is the question of what kind of show would be depicted. Olbermann’s “Countdown” was a ratings disaster largely because the host was so unpleasant to watch. One could, one suppose, make a fictional show based on “Countdown” with the host character like Olbermann as the joke, a kind of combination of Ted Baxter and Dr. House, a pain to his bosses, a terror to his underlings and an exasperation to his viewers.
The problem is that one cannot be sure Sorkin could laugh at liberals any more than he can understand conservatives. The left wing world view tends to be earnest and humorless, with the world divided into them debil righties and God’s chillun. If the reader is skeptical, by all means suffer through an hour of Bill Maher if you want.
But, the reader responses, Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert are occasionally funny. True, about 20 percent of the time and mostly only to their stoner/slacker audience. Rolling one’s eyes to cleverly edited video or pretending to be Bill O’Reilly on crack doesn’t take much talent and gets old pretty fast.
One is prepared to be surprised. Sorkin has undeniable talent. If he can stretch himself, perhaps he can rise above the clichés and create something that is at once funny and memorable. But that is doubtful.
Source: Keith Olbermann’s next gig: TV comedy writer? Lynett Rice, TV Insider, January 22nd, 2011
Sarah Palin Gets More Snark from Maureen Dowd, Aaron Sorkin on the Hunting Trip, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, December 8th, 2010