The Week In TV

Zuckerberg hits SNL; Sorkin moves to HBO
Zuckerberg hits SNL; Sorkin moves to HBO

There were pick-ups, castings, and even a chance to mist myself with hand sanitizer. This was the week in TV Land:

• It's been a good year for Aaron Sorkin. After washing out of TV in 2006-07 with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip -- a cloying, unfunny show that was mainly a chance for Sorkin to exorcise his failed relationship with Kristin Chenoweth in a setting where his on-screen stand-in always got the last word -- he's bounced back in features thanks to the success of The Social Network. On the heels of that film's critical and commercial success, HBO has ordered a pilot for a show created by Sorkin and set behind the scenes of a nightly cable news show.

This seems like a good opportunity for Sorkin to combine the political commentary of The West Wing with the live-TV-production stories of Studio 60 and the diamond in the rough that was Sports Night. The journalism and punditry arena also seems likely to lend itself more easily to impassioned speeches about goals and hope than a mediocre drama about a third-rate SNL. Cable seems like a good fit for Sorkin: he can tell more honest stories, not worry about expletives, and have a crack at crafting more engaging hours that don't have to rely on typical act breaks. The man's got his flaws, but when he's on point, he can blow the doors off.

• Speaking of The Social Network: Jesse Eisenberg hosted SNL last night, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg showed up to play along for the mostly enjoyable monologue. The buzz on Twitter -- which is to say, the three or four comments I skimmed when it happened -- indicated surprise that Zuckerberg would be able to laugh at himself. I should remind you, though, that Zuckerberg's personal current net worth is just shy of $7 billion, so having a late-night sketch show ride the wave of a scathing biopic is probably pretty low on his list of things to worry about.

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• Javier Bardem has been offered the lead role of Roland the Gunslinger in Ron Howard's film and TV adaptation franchise of Stephen King's seven-volume series The Dark Tower, though Bardem has yet to officially accept. Bardem's an interesting choice, especially given his Spanish accent, which will take the character in a different direction than, say, Viggo Mortensen, who was also rumored to be wanted for the part. The first film is set for release in 2013, with TV seasons to follow.

• The best part of last week's The Office was the cold open in which Michael Scott met David Brent. Yes, it makes no sense if you think about it for too long, but props to producer Paul Lieberstein for down-playing it in the press and hiding the scene's real length until airtime. It was a fun moment, and a reminder of just how different the two characters are. (Michael's grown over time to at least have the potential to be more sympathetic.) In other guest star news, Will Ferrell will appear in a four-episode arc later this season as another branch manager whose own quirks will (the network hopes) act as a helpful buffer during the show's transition to an era without Steve Carell.


• Remember a few weeks ago when it came out that Mad Men hadn't technically been renewed for a fifth season yet? Well, weirdly, that's still the case. So what's keeping AMC and producer Lionsgate TV from bringing the show back? Creator Matthew Weiner says it's all about craft services, since Jon Hamm really wants provolone on the sandwiches while Christina Hendricks only wants Swiss. Kidding! It's a shameless money grab. Weiner said: "They are fighting over a very lucrative property, and who is going to pay for it to get made; it's one of the biggest perils of success -- everyone wants a piece of it now and they are fighting over who is gonna get the biggest chunk. Then they will come to me because talent is last. It would be heartbreaking for me if they don't work it out, horrifying really. It would be a shame for fans to never get to see what great stuff we have planned for Don and company." Fingers crossed we get new episodes before 2012.

• So, Charlie Sheen is in rehab. He's apparently had himself quite a week (or several), partying with porn stars and doing a variety of drugs that have finally made the higher-ups at CBS kick the guy into a treatment facility. Two and a Half Men is now on production hiatus for the time being, which means the real loser in all this is the American people, who will have no one to show them how to laugh and love. I originally had several more jokes lined up about Sheen's extracurricular activities, but really, the whole thing is depressing and kind of pathetic. He's just some schlub from a bad TV show with a hankering for hardcore porn and the kinds of narcotics that get showered on weak people at his level. It's exhausting just to pretend to care about.

• Last week's Parks and Recreation was, in a word, perfection. Funny, sweet, tightly paced, and a great chance to explore the chemistry between a pair of characters (Ron and Andy) who don't spend a lot of one-on-one time together. The show is handling the transition into a new casting line-up seamlessly; the addition of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe in the absence of Paul Schneider makes perfect sense because of the ongoing story of the government's attempts to fix some major budget issues. It was nice to see Andy and April move a little closer together, too. All in all, one of the strongest episodes of the show to date.

• "Let me tell you something about Sarah Palin, man. She's good masturbation material." Tracy Morgan, 2011:

• I'll leave you with Jon Stewart once again bringing the logical hammer down on Bill O'Reilly:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill O'Reilly Defends His Nazi Analogies
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