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Sorkin still writing on 'Sports Night,' 'West Wing'
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Being the critics' darling doesn't always get you the things you want, as Aaron Sorkin is the first to admit.
Within the span of one week, the executive producer, writer and creator of "Sports Night" picked up awards for his ABC dramedy from the Producer's Guild and from TV Guide, which bills the half-hour program as "the best show you're not watching."
At the same time, he's working on what might be the show's farewell.
"I have to allow for the possibility that I'm not just writing the season finale, that I'm writing the series finale," says Sorkin, who's also writes and produces "The West Wing" on NBC. "And that's going to be a really hard thing to do."
The show's fans tune into the show -- set on the set of a fictional, ESPN "Sports Center"-like show -- for its snappy dialogue and complex character relationships. When Robert Guillaume, who plays the show's executive producer, suffered a stroke last year in real life, his character on the show did, too.
But his illness wasn't as traumatic for the program as its consistently low ratings against the Tuesday night competition. ABC, disappointed with the series' ratings, has routinely pulled it from the schedule during sweeps while banking on multiple rounds of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
"If I were running a television network, I would do a terrible job," Sorkin says. "That said, it would have been nice in sweeps month to have that as our lead-in."
Winning 'West Wing'
"The West Wing" is faring better on NBC, rewarding Sorkin for what often is a challenging writing schedule. He writes pages of dialogue for the two shows each week, and says that recently he "lapped" himself: "I turned in a script the day the next script was supposed to be due."
Martin Sheen plays United States President Josiah Bartlet on the show, with a staff of advisors including Rob Lowe and Allison Janney. Their Hollywood version of the Oval Office mirrors the real thing, and Washington's power players are regular viewers.
"I send them a lot of 'West Wing' hats, and they send me a lot of White House T-shirts and that kind of thing," Sorkin says. "And usually on Thursday mornings" -- the show airs Wednesday nights -- "I'll get two or three e-mails from people in the White House."
Behind the scenes, Sorkin has his own private "Crossfire." His political consultants, including former White House Press Secretary DeeDee Myers, are a contentious bunch, he says.
"I can kind of put any piece of red meat out on the table -- census, proportional response, slavery reparations -- and get them fighting about it," Sorkin says.
Those arguments, he says, often end up on the screen.
A future for 'Sports Night'?
Sorkin has no plans to include the presidential race in his series. Rather, his most important political campaign is keeping "Sports Night" on the air.
He has some help from viewers: A variety of Web sites shows that ardent fans are campaigning for the show to stay on the air -- whether on ABC or another network.
And other networks have, in fact, expressed interest in the show, even though ABC hasn't sounded "Sports Night"'s death knell. "It's nice to know that if there isn't a future for us at ABC," Sorkin says, "that there might be at NBC or HBO."
But until ABC drops the axe on "the best show you're not watching," Sorkin will just keep on writing.
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