Magazine article Newsweek

Newsmakers

Magazine article Newsweek

Newsmakers

Article excerpt

Byline: Jac Chebatoris

Isn't It Aaronic?

Just eight months ago, "The West Wing" won a record third straight Emmy for best drama. Last week it set a record of another kind: fastest plummet from prime-time powerhouse to just another show in turmoil. Amid sinking ratings and complaints from NBC brass about ballooning costs, creator Aaron Sorkin announced that he was quitting. (Also departing: Emmy-winning director Thomas Schlamme.) Regime change in Iraq took longer than this.

Sorkin was controversial--less for his 2001 drug bust or his antiwar statements than for his insistence on writing the show virtually single handedly, leading to costly production delays. In April, NBC put him on notice that this had to stop. Inquiring minds wonder if Sorkin was forced out, but both sides insist the decision was his. "I'm amazed he stayed so long," says former "West Wing" staffer Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. "His job was indescribably difficult. It was the equivalent of writing 10 great movies a year." And for chump change. Sorkin's devotion to the series, one source notes, kept him from writing films or developing new shows--where the real bucks are.

Given how heavily "The West Wing" depended on Sorkin--he wrote 87 of the 88 episodes to date--it's fair to wonder if the show can survive without him. Co-executive producer John Wells (who also heads up "E.R.") will take a more active role, but industry vets are already cringing over the futility of following Sorkin. "If they came to me with that job," says Marti Noxon, executive producer of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "I'd say, 'Uh, no thank you'."

--Devin Gordon and Sean Smith

Nigella Lawson

She could pass for the love child of Wolfgang Puck and Sophia Loren--if it weren't for that British accent. Last week television's domestic goddess launched a new season of cooking shows, "Forever Summer With Nigella," and published her fourth book, also called "Forever Summer. …

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