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May 1, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Sorkin, Schlamme Leaving ‘West Wing’

Aaron Sorkin, creator and executive producer of NBC’s The West Wing, is leaving the show after four years. Thomas Schlamme, who was the series’ principal director, is also stepping down as executive producer. Mr. Sorkin has written almost every episode of the show and in the process won an Emmy for Best Writing, the Writers Guild award and has twice won the Humanitas Prize.

“This has been the experience of any writer’s dreams,” Mr. Sorkin said in a statement. “I had the best job in show business for four years and I’ll never forget that. I’m indebted to a cast, crew and staff whose world-class talents were exceeded only by their tireless dedication to the show and endless generosity of spirit. If I worked with them all another hundred times, it wouldn’t be enough.”

Mr. Sorkin has one year left on his contract with West Wing producer Warner Bros. and is expected to develop other projects for them.

John Wells, also an original executive producer on the show, will take an expanded role in the show next year. John Wells Productions co-produces West Wing with Warner Bros.

NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker and Warner Bros. Television President Peter Roth said in a joint statement: “Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme have done an extraordinary job in their four years at the helm of The West Wing. Aaron’s brilliant writing and Tommy’s gifted direction and leadership have been the cornerstones of The West Wing’s remarkable critical and ratings success.

Moving forward we have asked Executive Producer John Wells to assume a more active role next season and he has graciously agreed. We thank and applaud Aaron, Tommy and John for creating one of the finest shows to ever air on television.”

In January, NBC renewed West Wing for two more years, despite a 30 percent ratings drop this year in the key adults 18 to 49 demo. The show is averaging a 4.5 rating in adults 18 to 49 season to date, compared with a 6.2 rating for the same period last year. Average number of total viewers has also dropped to 13.5 million from 17.3 million. In its most recent outing last night, West Wing finished third in its time slot in adults 18 to 49 with a 4.4/11, getting beaten by ABC’s The Bachelor (6.4/16) and Fox’s sitcom combo of Bernie Mac and Wanda at Large (6.0/15).

Spike TV Wants More Slamball: Spike TV, Viacom’s newly named network for men, has upped the order for Slamball to 16 one-hour episodes in season two.

Slamball, the made-for-TV extreme sport, is from Tollin/Robbins Productions in association with Telepictures Productions. The new season premieres Aug. 4, when Slamball moves to its new post-WWE Raw time slot on Monday nights.

Cheskin Discovering Other Options: Steve Cheskin, an 18-year Discovery Networks veteran, has resigned his position as executive VP and general manager of the Travel Channel and is leaving the company.

Mr. Cheskin’s current contract expires this week and he is moving on to other opportunities, according to a Discovery spokeswoman. He has headed the Travel Channel for the past three years.

Cablevision Provides Overseas Programming to the States: Subscribers to Cablevision Systems digital tier iO: Interactive Optimum service in the Bronx and Brooklyn, N.Y., as well as in New Jersey’s Newark and Hudson Counties, now will be able to access four new international foreign-language programming services.

They are the Russian Television Network and RTVi, both of which offer Russian-language programming, the Chinese Channel and South Asian programming from Zee TV. Cost of the iO international package is $14.95 per month.

Comedy Central to Produce Animated Series: Comedy Central and Apostle, the New York-based production company headed by Denis Leary and Jim Serpico, have produced a series of animated interstitials featuring Dane Cook, Greg Fitzsimmons, Janeane Garofalo, Denis Leary, Jay Mohr, Patrice Oneal and Jeffrey Ross.

The intersitials are derived from House Arrest, Apostle’s animated pilot for Comedy about two 20-something slacker couch potatoes who hang out watching animated interstitials on TV. The interstitials debut May 1.