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The West Wing Script Book: Six Teleplays by Aaron Sorkin (Newmarket Press, 416 pp., 3 b&w photos, $19.95 [USD] paperback) has been long awaited by fans of Sorkin's writing. The six scripts, chosen by Sorkin himself, are the pilot; "A Proportional Response"; "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part I" and "Part II"; "17 People"; and "Two Cathedrals." These episodes are some of my favourites, and all would be in my top ten (but I can't help wishing "Shibboleth" was here, too). I think most fans of the show will concur that this collection of scripts represents the cream of Sorkin's crop. "A Proportional Response" is the episode that made me fall in love with the show (and I think you all know when the love affair crashed and burned, so we needn't go into that), and I loved reading the last scene, which is my favourite. The book (which lacks a dedication, which surprises me for some reason; Sorkin seems like the book-dedicating type, don'tcha think?) opens with a few pages of introduction by Sorkin, outlining how the TV show originated. Sorkin's at his best when he sticks to the informal, self-deprecating style of relating anecdotes and trading quips that has characterized much of the series (as Sam claims, "self-deprecation is the appetizer of charm"), and the reader gets a good taste of that in this introduction. Sorkin discusses his scriptwriting history briefly, to set the scene for the reader:
My first play, A Few Good Men, opened on Broadway when I was 28 and didn't close for another 497 performances. I followed that with an off-Broadway disaster called Making Movies. I followed that with a screen adaptation of A Few Good Men and then Malice and then The American President. I followed The American President with a 28 day stay at the Hazelden Centre in Minnesota to kick a cocaine habit. And I followed Hazelden with day work. It saved me from having to come up with an idea. And the nights. And the white piece of paper.Sorkin describes being pushed by various people into the idea of writing a show about senior White House staffers, and states, "Following my usual routine, I thought about the pilot for six months, and wrote it in four days. John [Wells] liked it. Warner Bros. liked it. Then I finally caught a break. NBC didn't want to do it." He enumerates various silly reasons executives have given throughout television history for why certain shows can't be done (among the silliest: "You can't have people with mustaches on TV" -- I guess Tom Selleck showed them), along with NBC's objections to Sorkin's pilot ("Washington shows/political shows don't work"). For the time being, the script just sat on a shelf.