Old Media: On Aaron Sorkin
Tina Fey, David Milch, Matthew Weiner, Lindelof and Cuse, and now Lena Dunham — it’s hard to think of an acclaimed contemporary television show that isn’t the product, or at least pitched as the product of writerly auteurship. What’s remarkable about this, though, is that, while television has historically been focused on the producer or even actor as creative agent, and film is still very beholden to the director as prime mover, contemporary television alone is a cult of the writer. Since the days of David Lynch, television has tended toward indulgence with its screenwriters. But Aaron Sorkin, who frequently and publicly claimed unequivocal authorship of The West Wing, was one of the earliest and most visible popularizers of this model in this latest generation of quality TV. The writer is king on television, in part because Aaron Sorkin staged a coup.
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