Shortly, NBC will be the first network to announce its fall schedule at this week's "upfront" presentations to advertisers in NY, when it is widely expected that the network will formally anoint Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing and the new, highly buzzed-about drama Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip Live From A Soundstage In Los Angeles, California, as the Peacock Messiah. But don't think that the folks at NBC didn't perform their due diligence (Executive: "So, Aaron, um...yeah...how are, you know, things?" Sorkin: "I'm not making my own crack anymore." Exec: "Welcome to the NBC family.") before putting their fate in the hands of the famously troubled showrunner. Reports the WSJ:
While heralded as a TV wunderkind, Mr. Sorkin also has fought a public battle with drugs. He was arrested in 2001 on possession charges, which were dropped after he completed a rehabilitation program.
Senior NBC executives say they addressed Mr. Sorkin's past at a meeting last fall and received reassurances that he is up to running the show. Mr. Reilly says he is "enormously confident" Mr. Sorkin will be able to deliver on his promises. Mr. Sorkin declined to comment on the drug incident, but says he is focused on keeping "Studio 60" on schedule. He notes that he has already finished five additional scripts. "I'm trying to do the same thing that I did with 'The West Wing' and that is to create characters with a universal appeal. Hopefully, people will respond."
Sorkin may sound confident about his ability to keep himself crack-free and on schedule now, but the true true test of his resiliency to the crushing pressures of NBC's faith that he will deliver them from fourth-place Nielsen hell will come at this afternoon's schedule announcement. As he's lowered to the stage on a majestic throne and his humble "thank yous" are drowned out by a chorus of celestial trumpet blasts, things will seem a little intense, but once desperate NBC executives Jeff Zucker and Kevin Reilly take turns washing his feet in front of the assembled media throng, Sorkin will get his first real taste of the network's expectations.
UPDATE: The schedule's been announced, with Studio 60 slotted in at 9 p.m. on Thursday nights behind the forward-shifted My Name is Earl and The Office. Tina Fey's just-titled 30 Rock will air on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m., indicating that NBC ultimately shied away from a bold, yet easily marketable, 90-minute programming block of shows going behind the scenes at SNL and named for the buildings in which they're set. Missed opportunity or wise show of restraint? Only time will tell.