A new class from a trivia master


Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip debuts tonight at 10pm on NBC. Set your TiVos. As an esteemed member of the Netflix community and a big Aaron Sorkin fan, I screened the pilot episode earlier this month. But I'm no TV critic, and you're not here to read TV reviews.

I bring up Studio 60 because Sorkin deserves a masters in trivia. On Sports Night and West Wing, he managed to inject an amazing amount of peripheral knowledge into his stories. Here's an example, from one of his previous trivia vehicles:

From Sports Night: Sam Donovan: Do you guys know who Philo Farnsworth was? He invented television. I don't mean he invented television like Uncle Milty, I mean he invented the television. In a little house in Provo, Utah. At a time when the idea of transmitting moving pictures through the air would be like me saying I've figured out a way to beam us aboard the Starship Enterprise. He was a visionary and he died broke and without fanfare. The guy I really like though was his brother-in-law, Cliff Gardner. He said to Philo, "I know everyone thinks you're crazy, but I want to be a part of this. I don't have your head for science, so I'm not gonna be much help with the design and mechanics of the invention. But it sounds like in order to do your testing, you're gonna need glass tubes." See, Philo was inventing a cathode receptor, and even though Cliff didn't know what that meant or how it worked, he'd seen Philo's drawing and he knew they were gonna need glass tubes and since television hadn't been invented yet, it's not like you could get 'em at the local TV repair shop. "I want to be a part of this", Cliff said, "and I don't have your head for science. How would it be if I taught myself to be a glassblower? And I could set up a little shop in the backyard. And I could make all the tubes you'll need for testing." There oughta be Congressional medals for people like that. I've looked over the notes you've been giving over the last year or so, and I have to say that they exhibit an almost total lack of understanding of how to get the best from talented people. You said before that for whatever reason, I seem to be able to exert authority around here. I assure you, it isn't because they like me. It's because they knew two minutes after I walked in the door that I'm somebody who knows how to do something. I can help. I can make glass tubes. That's what they need.

For people with a thirst for peripheral knowledge, Sorkin's your guy.

Though he's set the bar for trivia pretty high. If I have one complaint about the Studio 60 pilot, it's that there weren't enough random asides. Here's hoping they reappear in episode two.