A while ago I went to see the new Aaron Sorkin play, The Farnsworth Invention. Just the fact that it’s a play by television impresario Aaron Sorkin would be enough for me to mention it here, but it’s also about the invention of television and the history of why we watch the way we watch. In other words, the most interesting topic in the world.
As another show might put it, the facts are these: Philo T. Farnsworth, a scarcely-trained farmboy from Utah, transmitted the first moving image using the process we still use today (sort of). But he never quite got his television to work quite right, and his patent ended up embroiled in a dispute with GE/RCA/NBC and its leader, David Sarnoff. (Philo=Josh/Sam/Danny/Matt, Sarnoff=Jack Rudolph.) In the meantime, Sarnoff was busy laying the groundwork for regulating advertising and deciding what types of things would eventually be shown on television, once it eventually existed.
I know — good stuff, right? Or is that just me?
I found that I really enjoyed myself at the play, despite the things said in these reviews, which are all true. After a season of Studio 60, it may be that I am hardened to Sorkin’s ticks and pitfalls, and now accept them without question. Or it may be that I’m so engrossed in the topic that I don’t actually care that much about the “characters” or “structure.”
I’m leaning toward the latter explanation, because I was just watching a Modern Marvels on the History Channel about Wiring America and I realized I was just about excited that as I was about The Farnsworth Invention, in the exact same way.
I will say: Jimmi Simpson and Hank Azaria are killer. There’s a classic drunken, silly, romantic scene I rather enjoyed. And there was a truly amazing dramatization of the 1929 stock market crash. Make of that what you will.