Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ghosts of West Wing Past

I'm supposed to be writing a post about last week's premiere of Work Out. You will notice that these pictures are not of anyone from Work Out. Or from a gym.

Herein lies the rub: my beloved Jackie Warner (Stu's a little worried I might leave him to *join her gym*) has returned to TV and I was delightfully happy to see all the peeps at Sky Sport & Spa and I took copious notes about items I could address in a post as I watched my TIVOed episode on Friday night. But for some reason, no matter how many times I've sat down to write, I haven't been feeling it. I am feeling remorse for eating a DiGiorno four cheese pizza while watching the trainers perform incessant squat thrusts--ON THE BEACH...IN THE SAND--(although in my defense I had just worked out) and I most definitely feel immense sadness for the loss of Doug Blasdell (I had no idea), but other than that, not much is happening.

What is happening though is that Stu and I are twelve episodes into Sports Night and we are being haunted by ghosts from the past, present, and future: to us, Sports Night appears as the ghost of The West Wing past while in reality it was the ghost of The West Wing future, but watching Studio 60, The West Wing, and Sports Night all within a matter of months, well, you can see how it all adds up to one ghoulish present. Ebenezer Scrooge is nowhere to be found, but Aaron Sorkin's stable of actors, producers, directors, and composers are bedeviling us at every turn.

At the outset, aside from already knowing that Sorkin wrote Sports Night and The West Wing, his scripts seem rather ghostly. Watching Sports Night after The West Wing is like seeing what is to become mature Sorkin dialog with training wheels attached. The screenwriting in Sports Night has the breakneck speed and snapping wit, but it's underdeveloped, not yet fully formed, and definitely not ready to ride on its own just yet.

Delve a touch farther into the opening credits, and we've got numerous episodes directed by Tommy Schlamme, familiar name as executive producer of The West Wing. Hell, if you read through all of the credits on IMDB, you'll see that Timothy Busfield directed a couple of Sports Night episodes as well. And I thought he merely entered Aaron's life as Danny Concannon and is about to leave it as Cal Shanley

And once you see the name W.G. Snuffy Walden flicker across your screen you'll never forget it. So it wasn't particularly shocking to see he was responsible for Sports Night's score as well. It lacks the majestic feel of The West Wing's opening music and whimsical quality of what plays over The West Wing's closing credits, and it sounds a bit too 1980s for something that aired in the 1990s, but it's a catchy Snuffy tune nonetheless!

As for faces on screen, here's where it gets scary. We already knew Joshua Malina (pictured above as Jeremy Goodwin and Will Bailey) went from sports show producer to deputy communications director, but he merely lulled us into complacency so that we were unprepared for the personnel scares that were to follow. If you have heard screams of terror echoing through our apartment, fear not, they are merely shouts of recognition as Stu and I identify actor after actor who we have seen in the future that is really the past and vexes our present:

- Every time I see Ron Ostrow's name in the Sports Night credits, I am certain that I have seen it before, but can never remember where. I finally looked him up, only to learn that he was a reporter in The West Wing's press corp. Ahhh. I feel so much better.

- A pre finally-had-sex-with-Josh Donna appears as a wardrobe assistant who puts Peter Krause's Casey McCall in his unappreciative place. Stu and I have been wondering where Janel Maloney's been since leaving the White House. Apparently she played Amber Frey in a 2005 TV movie. Quite a long way from the oval office...

- Immediately following Janel's cameo (Although it can't really be a cameo if the actor's not famous yet. For Janel it was probably a very exciting bit part.), we watched an episode in which there was to be a blind date for Casey, and a female substitute co-anchor for Dan. I turned to Stu and said, "how much do you wanna bet one of those women is going to be someone we've seen somewhere in Washington D.C.?" Sure enough, there was Lisa Edelstein, high-end call girl/law student/friend of Sam Seaborn, sitting next to Josh Charles (And speaking of ghosts past, here's a fun fact: I went to theater camp with Josh when I was fourteen. What'd ya want? I'm Jewish and from Long Island. It's the law.).

-And in the very next episode, who should appear as a redhead with a cute little bob? If you guessed the next first lady (we wish!), Helen Santos, you would be correct! Stu likes Teri Polo with the kicky cut on Sports Night while I prefer the long, blond, political hair. Maybe it's just that she looks better standing next to Jimmy Smitts. Who wouldn't?

With a season and half left to go, I have the feeling Sports Night will continue to frighten the bejeezus of out of us. And I haven't begun to discuss how many themes and plot points are exactly the same in all three Aaron Sorkin shows (let alone the enormous crossover between The West Wing and Sorkin's movie, The American President). SCARY STUFF!


Anonymous said...


This is really funny stuff. I mean I can't see the name W.G. Snuffy Walden and not laugh. All the Sorkin connections past and present are fascinating.I think this has the makings of an interesting article for like or something . . .

sign me,
Koko's BFF

gigi said...

Oh, you clever, anonymous Koko's BFF (love that!)...I'd like to claim credit for some of the comedy, but really, is anything funnier than W.G. Snuffy Walden? I'm glad he found a career in the arts. I think it was his only choice.
As for the rest, I will indeed be pontificating on all things Sorkin when we're done with Sports Night. It just keeps getting scarier. Aaron's a man with talent and a singular idea that he keeps using over and over and over. Just in different settings. Sort of. Cuz Sports Night and Studio 60 are both TV shows. Eery, isn't it?!