David: Maybe Emily Previn was autistic. I read an article once about a high-functioning autistic person who didn’t need people. She just had a job designing these big cattle slaughterhouses. At night, she came home and sat in a machine that made her feel like she was being hugged. And that was all the intimacy she needed.
Nate: That’s really upsetting.
Claire: I don’t see why this person has to be mentally ill just because she had a life that doesn’t conform to some familiar image that we have in our heads. Maybe she was living the life she wanted. A life without the hassle of other people.
Ruth: What kind of a life is that?
Olivier: [to Claire] You sit in such judgment of the world. How do you expect to ever be a part of it?
Nathaniel Sr.: You’re missing the point.
David: There is no point, that’s the point… Isn’t it?
Nathaniel Sr.: Don’t give me this phony existential bullshit, I expect better from you. The point’s right in front of your face.
David: Well, I’m sorry but I don’t see it.
Nathaniel Sr.: You aren’t even grateful, are you?
David: Grateful? For the worst fucking experience of my life?
Nathaniel Sr.: You hang onto your pain like it means something, like it’s worth something. Well, let me tell ‘ya, it’s not worth shit. Let it go. Infinite possibilities, and all he can do is whine.
David: Well, what am I supposed to do?
Nathaniel Sr.: What do you think? You can do anything, you lucky bastard, you’re alive! What’s a little pain compared to that?
David: It can’t be so simple.
Nathaniel Sr.: [putting his arm around David and pulling him closer] What if it is?
Nate: I just feel like all I do, all day long, is just manage myself, try to fuckin’ connect with people. But it’s like, no matter how much energy you pour into getting to the station on time, or getting on the right train, there’s still no fuckin’ guarantee that anybody’s gonna be there for you to pick you up when you get there.
But the overwhelming thrust of ”West Wing,” and of Sorkin’s work in general, has nothing do with the darkness so apparent in his life or what he calls ”the whole black world of addiction.” His show is a tour de force of Hollywood professionalism. Every piece of dialogue is spit-polished within an inch of its life. The story lines, worked over by a roomful of Ivy League graduates, land softly with just that right little narrative twist. The acting is gracefully understated, and the lighting and direction are all far better than in most movies. With references to Shakespeare and Graham Greene, visits to rare-book stores and oblique Latin episode titles like ”Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc,” the show is so achingly high end that you almost expect the warning ”Quality Television” to start flashing below the picture.
Sorkin’s intense reluctance to share writing credit and his need to create such uniformly positive characters seem to come from the same place. If the reason that you are writing scripts in the first place is to undo the terrible impression you believe others have of you, you would want to make sure that people know exactly who wrote them. ”I don’t want to analyze myself or anything, but I think, in fact I know this to be true, that I enter the world through what I write. I grew up believing, and continue to believe, that I am a screw-up, that growing up with my family and friends, I had nothing to offer in any conversation. But when I started writing, suddenly there was something that I brought to the party that was at a high-enough level.”
Peter de Jonge on Aaron Sorkin and the West Wing for The New York Times
LINDA CARDELLINI: Life is filled with moments where you have to sit alone with yourself, and I think this show let our characters do that in a way that wasn’t normal at the time. You don’t really know what to say or do, so you just have to sit there in the uncomfortableness.
BRYAN GORDON: The show played silences, and television is afraid of silences. But silences just speak to so much about teenagers.
–from An Oral History of Freaks and Geeks