Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Why Did Evolution Leave Us the Artists?

Why do we even have artists? Do we really need them, from an evolutionary point of view?

Artists should have died off

Who needs artists, anyway?

Most of them, historically, are not very good at the productive stuff, which makes them a burden on society. The thing that they are good at is not very useful for society and all other animals have done well without pictures or stories or music. We don't really need movies or music or dancers or poets to survive, do we?

Not only that, artists are usually a destabilizing influence on society. They keep trying to break rules (usually), they keep living a wild and sordid life (overall), their art keeps pushing boundaries that disturb the careful balance of society (mostly).

It would seem to make sense that a society that succeeded in eliminating its artists would survive better and therefore have an evolutionary edge. Its people would work better and longer, would not dream of better things, and the rules of the society would be less threatened.

Why didn't artists die off and leave our societies more stable?

Art increases people's intelligence

Most stories are good for our intelligence. When small kids listen to stories, they experience in their minds situations they haven't been in and learn how to cope. They listen again and again to the same stories, and imagine what it feels like to be in that situation. The same is true with grownups. Some stories help us prepare for future situations and/or understand past situations better.

Imagination also helps increase people's ability to think, seeing as it breaks old forms and helps imagine new ones. Imagination is a very good surviving tool. The better your imagination, the better your ability to cope with change, to win wars, to advance in society, etc.

Being able to think outside the box promises a more intelligent society, even if the person who first thought outside the box was one of them artist types. Being forced to push back when somebody pushes your boundaries or buttons, magnifies your ability to justify the boundaries, and also helps you move them should the need for it arise. If change becomes necessary, the fact that your boundaries were already in question, makes it easier to change them. An ability to bend under changing circumstances is a mark of intelligence.

But these things don't exist in all pieces of good art.

Art crystallizes ideas and emotions

What every piece of good art does is crystallize ideas and emotions.

The better the art the more precise the expression of emotion. Artists make solid emotions that are fluid and that don't have a name. If you hear a piece of brilliant music and it captures the way you feel precisely, you are then able to look at some of your emotions in a more precise manner. If a painting captures a feeling you never knew you had, now you know you have it. Your emotional intelligence increased somewhat. If a brilliantly constructed building shows you a relationship of the spaces around you that you saw but couldn't place or that brings some enlightenment to a place in your mind you didn't know was there, you are now a slightly wiser person. If a dance tugs at your heart in a place that has no name, if a play makes you feel like you experienced something bigger than yourself, then your world is richer and your ability to handle it has marginally increased.

So. Turns out artists are good for us. Take two a day before each meal and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What Is It That Peter Jackson Really Does?

Peter Jackson, director of, most notably, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, can’t tell a story. Sound odd? Let’s take a look.

Peter Jackson can’t tell a story

Remember the scene in King Kong in which Naomi Watts (Kong’s blonde love-interest) gets kidnapped by a bunch of aborigines who try to sacrifice her? Supposedly, she’s going to die any minute. Jack Black is on her heels and an ominous threat in the jungle (Kong) appears to be getting closer.

The mark of an interesting story is that it keeps the audience glued to their seats or that it keeps the reading audience turning one more page and one more page after that. That thing which glues us to the page/screen/chair is brought on by tension, a small fear in the audience of what might happen next. In the sacrifice scene there was absolutely no tension whatsoever.

On the one hand, the scene looked exactly as a sacrifice scene should appear, all those crazy angles, tens of shots cutting quickly into each other, plenty of shadows, tense music, etc. And yet the potential sacrifice in mid-movie of the movie’s heroine provoked yawns in the theater that I had attended.

That’s... unbelievable.

How bad do you have to be at telling a story if threatening to kill your heroine doesn’t evoke the least bit of tension?

It’s not that Jackson is bad at telling a story – I don’t think he even tried – it’s that he’s not interested in telling a story.

Peter Jackson doesn’t want to tell a story

Peter Jackson doesn’t want to tell a story. What he’s really interested in, if we look at his last four movies, is taking an imaginary world he must have had as a child and making it real. He took the fantastic and hugely-encompassing world of Lord of the Rings and made it real in front of our eyes. He basically said, “Look! It’s real! I knew it could be real!”

In King Kong he took New York of the 30’s and made it real in front of our eyes. He took the unrealistic monsters and worlds shown in old Godzilla and King Kong movies and made them seem real in front of our eyes. And in that – that thing which he sought to do – he did a fantastic job.

Jackson doesn’t want to tell us a story. He could care less about the plot. In fact, the plot is an onerous chore he has to go through to get to the part he’s really interested in.

The faults of a new world

When George Lucas wrote and directed the first Star Wars movie way back before the technology for it existed, he realized that reality is dirty. To make his spaceships real, he always made sure that they would be dirty or broken or messed up in some way. The audience understands that on a subconscious level. And therefore if something is too clean, it doesn’t ‘feel’ real to us; it feels man-made. But if it’s messed up in some way, it ‘feels’ real. That’s just how our mind works.

Jackson should take that to heart in the next world he creates. Not every sunset is amazingly, unbelievably beautiful; not every vista is magnificent; not every detail is perfect. Imperfection adds to reality, and the feeling that a view exists in reality makes a beautiful vista more beautiful.

In the same way, real symmetry is rare in life and frequent in Jackson’s movies. The realistic New York cabs in King Kong drive in both directions with flawless symmetry. Nowhere is there a bump or a cab stopping for no reason causing a momentary, imperfectly-spaced jam with the cars behind it. The fleeing dinosaurs in the same movie run symmetrically just before they get trampled. Reality isn’t symmetrical and lack of symmetry adds to a feeling of reality.

Seeing as Peter Jackson is wildly popular, and that the opinions of most of you must differ greatly from mine, I’d love to hear what you think.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Meme Roundup - June 2007

As you may recall from our last meme roundup, when writing an article I try to put in at least one meme that may be new to most readers. Here's what we talked about over the last couple of months:

* Kids are scared of monsters in closets; grownups are scared of an overabundance of possibilities.
* The best-laid plans are planned and laid ahead of time. We pitted Lost's mysteries vs. Babylon 5's mysteries.
* When asking if The Daily Show is patriotic, we learned a different meaning to an old question: 'What is it?'
* Good stories are, by their nature, liberal. Good stories have conflict, and good storytellers need to be able to write (and understand) both sides of a conflict well. They therefore find themselves on the humanistic side of most ideological battles throughout history.
* Patriotism has its limits; honor and truth do not.
* Loss of stability is a feeling.
* Gods aren't heroes.
* The dangers of cockiness: Just because you're one of the best writers around doesn't mean that what you wrote today was any good.
* Of truth-telling and truth-tellers.

Apparently, we're old enough to start news items. Here's one: Rescue Me is back for a fourth season. In this article we talked about how its writers put a soul in a TV show.

Hope you enjoy the articles.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


If the truth is uncomfortable, the American audience would much rather not hear it.

Truth that’s uncomfortable? Truth that’s unseemly? Truth that’s ugly? I’d prefer a story with a happy ending, thank you.

The two top TV writers over the last couple of decades, David E. Kelly and Aaron Sorkin, have had unique relationships with truth-telling. Let’s take a look.

Sorkin and truth-telling

Sorkin had Toby. In The West Wing, Toby was the truth-teller. And quite early in the series, he justly calls himself “the kid in the class with his hand raised that nobody wants the teacher to call.”

Toby was the guy who said the bad things out loud, because he couldn’t stomach lies or self-delusion. Toby stared the truth in the face even when it hurt him.

The first time we saw Toby’s inability to keep his mouth shut was in the middle of a basketball game with the president of the United States, “Oh, this is perfect, you know that? This is a perfect metaphor. After you're gone, and the poets write, 'The Legend of Josiah Bartlet,' let them write you as a tragic figure, sir. Let the poets write that he had the tools of greatness, but the voices of his better angels was shouted down by his obsessive need to win.”

How many people in life do you know who will tell you your faults to your face? Are they loved? Are they shunned?

When Toby’s twins are born, Toby shares his feelings with Leo.

“I don't know,” he says. “For nine months, you're hearing how this is gonna change your life, and ‘You've never loved anything like this’, and ‘My God, the love’ and ‘Nothing's gonna be important any more.’ It just never really felt to me like I was someone who had the capacity for those feelings. Plus, you know, I like what's important to me. I want it to stay important. I want to be able to do it well.”

Leo says, “What do you mean, you don't have the capacity? Of course you're gonna be a great father. Of course you're gonna love your kids the way you're supposed to, the way other fathers—”

Toby interrupts him, “My God, Leo, we look around, we see that's not true. It's not automatic.”

Some parents don’t love their kids, and Toby knows that. Some parents treat their kids horribly, and Toby knows that. Some mothers feel bad that they don’t love their kids right away, not knowing it’s a process, and that it takes time. Toby doesn’t fall for that and even dares to admit that he is very different from what a father is supposed to be.

Another time, the president and Josh were shot. The president was all right, but Josh’s condition was critical. It was iffy if he would make it out of surgery.

Donna, Josh’s assistant who cares deeply for him, rushes in to the hospital, only knowing the president’s been shot. In a room full of friends, only Toby speaks, and says, “Donna. Josh was hit.”

“Hit with what?” Donna says.

Toby: “He was shot--in the chest.”

C.J. adds, “He's in surgery right now.”

Donna is in shock. “I don't understand. I don't understand, is -- is it serious?”

And the truth-teller gives it to her straight, without sugarcoating it, “Yes, it's critical. The bullet collapsed his lung and damaged a major artery.”

How many people do you know who don’t – and won’t – sugarcoat the awful truth for us?

Sorkin, of course, also knows how to make fun of it when he wants to. Because Toby isn’t only a truth-teller, he is a pessimist. Andy, Toby’s ex-wife, now pregnant with his child, says that she’s worried about how Toby will raise the kids.

“I do worry about the kids,” she tells him. “Because instead of showing them that the world is for them, you're going to be telling them that they have to work hard in school so they can bone up for a life of hopelessness and despair.”

Toby, not backing down, responds, “Wouldn't it be ironic if our kids were the only ones who were properly prepared?”

When Sorkin left the series after four seasons, Toby stopped being the truth-teller.

Kelley and truth-telling

Kelley’s palette of truth-telling is greater than Sorkin’s. Whereas Sorkin, in writing The West Wing, Sports Night, and Studio 60 only had Toby as a truth-teller, almost all of Kelley’s characters are truth-tellers at quite a few points of their lives.

But Kelly does us one better than that. He doesn’t let the need for everything to be resolved well get in his way. Whereas Sorkin ended the scene quoted above (in which Toby shared his worries about his being a bad father) on the best side possible (Leo tells Toby, “I’m not talking about everybody. I’m talking about you and I’m telling ya, it’s a mortal lock. It’s guaranteed”), Kelly tends to do the opposite.

One time, in Chicago Hope, Alan Birch, the hospital’s lawyer, appears before a committee that holds the future of Chicago Hope in its hands. It doesn’t go well. He gets blindsided and his ass is handed to him. When he comes back to the hospital to prepare for the next session, Dr. Phillip Waters, his boss, reads him the riot act. Later on, Birch appears before the committee prepared, legally beats the aggressive committee to a pulp, and wins the day.

That evening, Dr. Waters comes to Birch’s room, to mollify matters (as usually happens in most American shows). Birch is busy working. I get it, he says. I’ve proven myself a hundred times before, and yet every day I have to prove myself to you as if I’m starting from zero. I get it. You would never have treated any of the surgeons this way. I get it. I’m not one of the guys. I get it. I’m just your lawyer.

And as Birch says these things, he leads Dr. Waters out of the room. For a second, Waters is standing with his back to the open door. He opens his mouth and turns around, only to find the door gently closing in his face.

He then leaves.

Birch was right, and David E. Kelley wouldn’t write a sappy ending just because it's the expected thing to do. Any other writer on any other show would have let Walters come into the room again and ‘explain’ things and show how everything is actually okay. But it isn't. Kelley leaves the painful truth hanging there, for us to see and feel.

Kelley in his truth-telling, does us even one better than that: He goes out and seeks the truth, showing us what really exists behind our actions.

Here are a couple of secrets that Kelley outed during his run on Picket Fences.

One time, Jimmy Brock, the sheriff, and Jill Brock, his wife and a doctor, are having Jill’s father over along with Max, one of Jimmy’s deputies, for dinner. Jill’s father, a professor, keeps making jokes at Max about the ineptness of policemen. The great career as a surgeon that Jill had given up to live as a doctor in this town is also mentioned in passing.

Spirits are heated and things are said. Jill’s father accuses Jill of having grown distant from him, of never calling, of never talking the way they used to. When things get more heated, Jimmy tells him that it’s all his fault. The second Jill met Jimmy, she started to feel her father’s lack of acceptance. Jimmy’s not the intellectual she deserves; he’s a stupid policeman; she could do better. And that, says Jimmy, is why Jill grew distant from you.

Jill’s father is shocked. He turns to Jill and asks her, Is that true? Did you feel that way?

Jill, feeling like a little girl, nods.

Jill’s father then turns to Jimmy. I can’t argue with what she feels, he says, but she didn’t get it from me. I think you’re the exception to the rule, he continues, you’re one of the bravest and smartest men I’ve ever met. Whatever it is that’s going on here, it doesn’t come from me.

Jimmy’s eyes move from Jill’s father to Jill. He’s right, he says. It does come from you. It’s always come from you.

And he’s right. The disapproval Jill ‘picked up on’ came from her and from her own judgments of Jimmy, the man she eventually married. And she kept feeling like this all these years. And that’s an ugly and terrible truth for a married couple to learn. (And if you want to know what happened next, watch the series.)

Another time, Jimmy’s ex-wife comes to town with a surprise: She wants to have another kid, and she’s been trying to get pregnant for quite a while. Unfortunately, it turns out that she has a special genetic disease that allows her to conceive only with genetically-compatible men - only one out of about 75,000 men is a viable candidate (“And how many have you tried?” asks Jill.) And so it turns out that by a freak coincidence Jimmy is one of those men (since they have already had a daughter, Kimberly, who is now a teenager). And she wants his sperm.

Jimmy’s ex doesn’t even want to have sex with him. A few years ago, they had frozen his sperm. She just wants his okay.

When Jimmy says no, she looks at him, squints her eyes, and says, You know what, I don’t need your approval, I’m going to do it.

As you can guess, a big brouhaha ensues, at the end of which she decides not to go through with her plan. But then, standing by her daughter near her car, she admits her true motive: With Kimberly going to college soon, she won’t have a reason any more to come and be in Jimmy’s life. And she wanted and needed a reason to still be around. She is, after all those years, still in love with him.

Now, who else would tell you such truths?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Eli's Coming: Why 'Studio 60' Fell

So Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip fell. What happened?

Sorkin Got Too Cocky

Aaron Sorkin, writer of most Sports Night episodes, the first four seasons of The West Wing, and Studio 60, got too cocky. It’s easy to understand how he got cocky. In his last gig, writing and creating The West Wing, he had made a drama about issues one of the most popular shows on TV. It had seemed like everything he touches turns into gold.

Matthew Perry, playing the writer on Studio 60, seemed to be saying things that the writer writing him now believed.

Time and again, Perry told other writers that if you’re really good, you’ll make it in Hollywood, so why don’t you get your act together. This is not true, but hard to disprove. It is easy to prove with actors, though. There are droves of supremely talented, past actors that have proven themselves in Hollywood but can’t get a gig today for various reasons. If it’s true with actors, it’s probably true with other artists, like writers.

Time and again, Perry’s character seemed to think that if you’re really talented, then whatever you write is good. That is not true, either. There are many styles, and even talented writers can be terrible at other forms of writing. But at the end of the day your story’s good only if you write about something you really care about.

In addition, Sorkin was sure that his writing was working because he was so freaking talented. Unfortunately, just because you’re better than anyone else in Hollywood (but one), that doesn’t mean that what you wrote today is any good. In fact, the more cocky you are that your craft is good enough, the less you search your soul for something good to write about.

The Show Wasn’t About Anything Important

Shows have volume and weight.

An hour-long show has to carry more volume and heft than a half-hour show. Otherwise, something feels wrong and out of balance.

The West Wing had appropriate volume for its length. Even CSI has appropriate volume for its length. Sports Night was appropriate for a half-hour show. Studio 60 had enough volume to justify 15-minutes of TV or, at most, 30 minutes. It wasn’t actually about anything.

Sorkin had a chance to talk about every subject in the world. He had set up an SNL-like environment that can take on any issue in the world, in the same way the west wing in The West Wing could tackle any issue in the world. Instead, he’d made it a dating show. An hour-long drama about relationships is great, but then you have to get elbow-deep as, say, Thirtysomething or My So-Called Life did.

Sorkin and Decadence

The show was about decadent people. Although in the pilot, the show’s leading men fought for their morals, in later episodes the decadence of Hollywood had spread to them.

One time, Lauren Graham was a guest on the show. Matt insults her, deeply, then asks for her phone number. Which he gets.

Danny, Matt’s friend, gets some extremely stupid girls to come to a party so that Matt can get over the woman he loves. Even though none of them can grasp the idea of what ‘writing the show’ means, Danny still tries to schmooze them.

Sorkin wrote those things because that’s what happens in Hollywood. But are those the people you want us to root for? Sorkin’s characters were never like this before.

In addition, the Hollywood norm of judging people by their salary, of people with lesser salaries not having the complete right to talk to people with higher salaries or, god forbid, date them, was rampant in the show. Hollywood’s decadence got to Sorkin.

The Actors

Although we don’t usually talk about acting, a bit of Studio 60’s problems goes to tremendously horrible casting choices. (Sorkin’s choices, no doubt.)

Bradley Whitford, Steven Webber, and Timothy Busfield gave virtuosic performances. And Merrit Wever, who had a small part as Suzanne, Matt’s assistant, was great.

Matthew Perry should have given a great performance, too. He was hired to play a man who knows he can be funny whenever he wants to be, but usually chooses not to, a role we all know he can do. But Perry took the dramatic side of his character, and magnified it so much as to overshadow everything else, bringing down his own character’s pace and rhythm, the overall mood, and the occasional comic lines.

Next, Amanda Peet may be hired to play many parts, but she shouldn’t be hired to play an alpha female. She isn’t one, and there are many strong women who don’t have to raise an eyebrow to be one of the strongest people in the room (Christine Lahti, for example, who had a small role in the middle of the season). In addition, Amanda Peet isn’t secure enough to try anything new. In the beginning, she chose to play an alpha female by getting a sexual ‘zing’ every time she manipulated and/or got her way. That’s not how it works in reality and it destroyed the believability of her character.

Next is Sarah Paulson. Every scene she is in has crap timing, which to the audience translates as “something’s wrong here but I can’t put my finger on it.” Now, for some reason, Sorkin kept giving Perry lines about how, although she is the famous star of a sketch show, only Perry knows how good a comedian she is.

This never happens in reality.

You can’t be a star comedian and not be appreciated for comic talent. No one needed to be told that Robin Williams is a comic genius because when he first burst on to the scene in Mork and Mindy, people couldn’t stop laughing. No one needed to be told that Eddie Murphy is a comic genius when he first appeared in SNL because people were too busy rolling on the floor. The test for comedians is immediate, and if you’ve passed it you’ve passed it. Sorkin’s reality test here was off.

And lastly we have the other actors playing the actors on the Studio 60 live sketch show. They occasionally had to play only two or three lines in the middle of an SNL-like sketch. That means that your mission, as an actor, is not to be funny, but to know what it’s like to be in a sketch after you got a laugh. You need to know how to get a laugh in the middle of a sketch, when things are going well, and not just how to be funny. These are roles that have to be played by comedians with vast comic experience onstage, and of them only D.L. Hughley fits the bill.


Back to Sorkin. There are different kinds of comedy, and the fact that you’re good at making someone laugh doesn’t mean you can write any other kind of comedy well.

Sorkin writes very funny throwaways. That means that he can insert really funny lines into serious conversation as a throwaway - if someone in the audience got it, good; if not, they never noticed it. The conversation is never broken, and no one waits for a laugh. Here are a couple of examples:

In The West Wing, the staff is debating what to do about a group of Cubans who are at this moment making their way in ramshackle boats towards Florida.

Toby says, “Oh, for God’s sakes, forget about the journey. The voyage is not our problem.”

“What’s our problem?” asks C.J.

Toby says, “What to do when the Nina, the Pinta, and the Get-Me-The-Hell-Outta-Here hit Miami.”

If you got it, you got it. If not, who cares. You still understand the story and what he was trying to say, and you didn’t feel Sorkin was talking down to you.

In Sports Night, Dan picks up on the fact that his friend, Casey, likes the scheming and conniving Sally. He urges him not to go for it: “Don’t do it, Casey,” he says. “She’s got an agenda.”

Casey asks, “You think she wants a job on Sports Night?”

“No, I think she wants to rule all of Metropolis.”

And this discussion goes on. If you get all the jokes, it’s great. And if not, the gist of it is very clear.

Casey: ”You’ve seen the job she does on West Coast Update. She’s a very skilled producer.”

Dan: “Of course she’s skilled, she’s Satan’s handmaiden.”

Casey: “She’s not Satan’s handmaiden.”

Dan: “On the entire planet, have you ever seen anyone with eyes like that? She’s a Stepford producer.”

Casey: “I say she’s a very nice person.”

Dan: “I say she has no reflection.”

Another time, Sam and Toby get lost trying to find their way in the country, in order to solve an embarrassing incident with their Supreme Court nominee. Even after they find the police station, where the judge had been placed under arrest, Sam still kibitzes, “Let me tell you something. If we’d stayed on the Merritt parkway instead of getting off at Exit 29 and going east to Greenwich, I don’t think we’d have wound up in Bridgeport so many times.”

Sorkin also writes situational comedy (comedy that arises from the situation) very well.

One time, Casey came back from the doctor temporarily blinded, and Dan was having a field day getting him to duck, crawl, and scream by shouting at him about things that weren’t there.

Then there are the Cheese Day episodes on The West Wing, which you just have to see to believe, the fact that Josh was manipulated by the press to admitting the president has a secret plan to fight inflation, the Thanksgiving pranks, the Thanksgiving pardon of the other turkey, the Star Trek holiday, and Josh’s horrific encounter with people in the internet. And that’s just to name a few.

Sorkin, however, does not write good sketch comedy. That requires a different set of skills. He assumes that he can do it because he knows he can be funny. There are, unfortunately, many forms of funny, and being good at one doesn’t mean you’re good at the others.

The Good Old Days

Only once in all the episodes of Studio 60 did Sorkin write about the things that really matter to him, from his gut.

There are many things that matter to Sorkin, and one of them is clearly: The freakiness of happenstance, the junctures in life caused by coincidence. Sometimes unrelated events seem related while events that seem related aren’t that at all.

When President Bartlet explains the Latin phrase, Post hoc, ergo procter hoc, he says, “ ‘After, therefore because of’. It means one thing follows the other, therefore it was caused by the other. But it’s not always true. In fact, it’s hardly ever true.”

Take, for example, an episode of Sports Night called Eli’s Coming. Our heroes are having a very weird day. Rebecca, the woman Dan was in love with, was having conversations with her ex-husband. Isaac, the boss, was supposed to have returned from London already, and yet wasn’t there. Bobby Bernstein was coming to guest-host, and every time she would come, she would blame Dan for not having called her after he’d slept with her in Spain. Dan, meanwhile, believed she was a crazy woman, seeing as he’d never been to Spain and had never slept with her.

Dan says to Casey, “Rebecca isn’t here, Isaac isn’t here. There’s a strangeness about this day.” He looks around, and says, “Eli’s coming.”

“Eli?” Casey asks.

“From the Three Dog Night song. Eli’s something bad. A darkness.”

Casey doesn’t get it, “ ‘Eli’s coming, hide your heart girl.’ Eli’s an inveterate womanizer. I think you’re getting the song wrong.”

“I know I’m getting the song wrong, but when I first heard it, that’s what I always thought it meant, and things stick with you that way.” He looks around again. “They say it’s always calmest before the storm. That’s not true. I’m a serious sailor. It isn’t calm before the storm. Stuff happens.”

Sorkin is blindsiding us here. Because almost immediately, Bobby Bernstein finally enters, and Rebecca returns. Rebecca, it turns out, isn’t really divorced, she’s just separated. And the husband that used to abuse her now wants to reconcile, and she doesn’t know what to do. Meanwhile, it turns out that Dan actually was in Spain and did sleep with Bobby, and didn’t call and didn’t remember. But none of that is the storm. Because soon they learn that Isaac has had a heart attack in the airport, and no one knows how serious it is.

Another time, during their hour-long Sports Night show, everyone is freaked because this is the anniversary of the ghost of Thespis, who likes to slap people around who appear in front of audiences. Everything that can go wrong does: There’s a mysterious drip on the desk, a thawed turkey falls down on the desk right as they head to commercial, they forget text, they miss cues, and they go off the air for a minute or so. Are these things connected? No, but they seem to be. It’s the freakiness of happenstance, and Sorkin loves it.

In fact, it’s in the little things, too. One day, simply because things happen that way, Casey is kicked out of two or three rooms, for reasons that have nothing to do with him. It’s the freakiness of happenstance.

A while ago, we named Sorkin the second-best writer in TV today, and in another article, we talked about why. Here’s hoping he takes a long vacation and writes with a less cocky attitude about things that are important to him.