On the set of "Sports Night," ABC's hip new TV show that's like ESPN on adrenaline, producer Aaron Sorkin fusses over the bleachers. The seats were once used for a live studio audience. But he removed the audience - and now wants the bleachers gone, too.
Mr. Sorkin, a screenwriter who has penned movies such as "A Few Good Men," is helping rewrite the rules of sitcom reality on TV by removing the traditional live laugh track.
He is part of a virtual stampede of Grade A film talent moving from the big to the small screen. In the process, they are helping reverse what has been the natural order of Hollywood for decades, setting the scene for a new golden age of TV.
"It [television] has all the best elements of live theater and filmmaking rolled into one," says Sorkin, who's penned every script of "Sports Night" to date and considers television a new creative frontier.
As a result of this migration, TV now serves up some of the best entertainment available, anywhere.
"For anyone who has made their name, TV is where you want to be," says Robert Thompson of the Syracuse Center for the Study of Popular Television in New York. He notes that the pilgrimage to the small screen represents a significant shift in the culture of creativity in the entertainment industry.
Only a few years ago, TV was regarded as a step down. Not any more. Film legend Francis Ford Coppola, who this spring is launching his series called "First Wave" on cable's Sci-Fi Channel, says feature films have become safe and formulaic. He blames large media conglomerates, intent on making money, for edging out directors with a creative vision. As programming outlets on cable and network TV have proliferated, the maker of "The Godfather" says now television "is more competitive and allows ... crazier ideas."