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Sorkin influences - 1776, Broadcast News

It occured to me when watching 1776 that there were inspirations for The West Wing in that musical. The to and fro of the debate on important issues, the propensity for speech making, a character called Josiah Bartlet(t) ... though of course that was an actual historical figure, and the lead character's relationship with a strong and loving wife called Abigail/Abby.

(On the subject of speeches and not so much to do with Sorkin, something else that impressed me about Primary Colors is that so many of the characters - politicians, ordinary folks, articulate and supposedly not - spoke in extended set pieces. It goes against the conventional wisdom to have characters pontificate for more than a few lines, but for some reason in that movie it works.)

Another - in retrospect - obvious influence for Aaron Sorkin was Broadcast News, which I also just re-watched. And yes it's as strong and funny and moving as I remember it. One of the great romantic comedies, right up there with Shakespeare in Love, Tootsie and When Harry Met Sally.

The themes of integrity vs commercialism in a news room filled with love and laughter are ones that recur, heck are basically the template for, Sports Night. It struck me when I was watching the interplay between Jane (Craig... vs CJ Cregg??) and Jennifer, both vying for William Hurt's affections... which I think inspired the creation of (Mount) Sally vying with Dana for Casey's affections. (Though Casey bears little resemblance to Tom, except perhaps visually.)

Weird, I remember having very strong feelings about William Hurt the first half-dozen times I saw the movie. I felt that while he was very, very good, he was miscast. Quite frankly, I didn't think he had the obvious charisma and attractiveness the character was meant to have. My preferred actor for the role was always Christopher Reeve, who I think could have been marvelous in it. This time around I didn't mind Hurt so much. On the other hand, Albert Brook's standup comic-ness detracted just a tad this time around... though of course he's still the character I identify most with. Holly Hunter was, and continues to be, perfect in the film.

(Another side note: I could have sworn a young Philip Seymour Hoffman played the tape operator in the movie, but nope, not according to the credits or IMDB.)

Now Sports Night ... rewatched the entire series on DVD again a couple of weekends ago. This time I was struck by the huuuuge number of West Wing overlaps. Perhaps even more than The American President, Sports Night was so obviously a template for TWW it wasn't funny... except that of course it was.

But I'm sure if I wanted to I could list no less than 50 cross-overs: actors, character traits, plot incidents, dialogue...

Perhaps now I won't feel too bad about using the device of starting a story with a dreamish sequence three times or so.

Comments (1)

shootER:

"Now Sports Night ... rewatched the entire series on DVD again a couple of weekends ago. This time I was struck by the huuuuge number of West Wing overlaps. Perhaps even more than The American President, Sports Night was so obviously a template for TWW it wasn't funny... except that of course it was."


Sorkin even "borrowed" plots and plot devices from Sports Night during The West Wing's first couple of seasons: Sam and other WW characters "writing letters" as a storytelling device like Jeremy writing to his sister on SN; Sam discovering his father's long-time affair, just like Jeremy discovering *his* father's long time affair. Still, I love both shows and was terribly disappointed when Sports Night wasn't renewed.

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