Saturday, November 08, 2003

John Wells Needs a Hug; Les Moonves Needs a Ball Sack:

1) "The West Wing" suffered a steep decline in ratings last season, precipitated by stiff competition from "The Bachelor" and what some viewed as sluggish, convoluted storylines. Head writer and creator Aaron Sorkin consistently turned in late scripts, NBC balked, and Sorkin and Tom Schlamme--two of the show's three executive producers--quit before they were fired.

NBC asked the remaining exec producer, John Wells (hugely successful as a writer and exec producer of "ER") to helm "WW" 's writing staff and jump start its ratings. According to the latest Nielsens, ratings have improved slightly, but I don't care: John Wells isn't fit to clean Aaron Sorkin's keyboard, and he is ruining my goddamned show.

Nuance? Gone. That absurd close-up of Mary Stuart Masterson's red toenails lasted so long it could have been a Revlon commercial. (Oh, I get it now. *Feminists can still be sexy*. Thanks for clearing that up.) Wit? M.I.A. Leo’s referring to Albania and Greece as "two Bronze Age civilizations" was humorous, but hardly deft. Sorkin’s trademark banter is sorely missed.

It’s a mistake to analyze a writer’s personality based on their work, but John Wells seems pissed off and needy. As "ER" has devolved over the years, its characters have become self-loathing, petulant, and moody. When they yell, it’s not out of anger at the injustices that they witness, it’s because another staff member has insulted them or because they have to work late or they got dumped again. When they’re not fucking each other, they're hating each other. (Sometimes both simultaneously.)

Under Wells, the same dour mood has blanketed "The West Wing". In the most recent episode, Josh had his driver stop the car so he could get out and scream at the Capitol Building, "You want a piece of me?" Um, you want a piece of me? This execrable line was completely out of character for the hyper-articulate Josh. He sounded like a third grader who got pushed off the swings and into the wood chips.

Perhaps it’s nap time for John Wells.

2) Much has been written about CBS pulling its mini-series on the Reagans, but I want to add: Les Moonves, you are a little, little man. So, the RNC sent you a letter. Big fucking deal. You could have aired the series and weathered the heat for one news cycle. Sure, there might have been boycotts, but as the CEO of the country's #1 network, you should have learned something by now: Americans have short attention spans. The next ostensible controversy would have erupted--maybe "The Restaurant" would have poisoned a diner with some bad squid--and no one would have cared that your network depicted the neocon's patron saint as human.

Most likely, you were scared how a Republican Congress would treat CBS and its parent company, Viacom, in matters of deregulation, etc. Jesus Christ, man, grow a set. It’s not as if you’re staring down the Khmer Rouge.

Alms, please, for Les Moonves’ penis.

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