The creator of NBC's Emmy-winning White House drama "The West Wing" had a few choice words for the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. -- as well as some criticism for his own network's biggest news star -- in an interview with The New Yorker.
Aaron Sorkin said the NBC News special "The Bush White House: Inside the Real West Wing" -- in which Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw took viewers behind the scenes with President George W. Bush -- was not the hard-hitting affair that a news special ought to be.
"The White House pumped up the president's schedule to show him being much busier and more engaged than he is, and Tom Brokaw let it happen," said Sorkin, "the show was a valentine to Bush."
Sorkin -- who wrote the 1995 comedy "The American President" and the 1992 drama "A Few Good Men" -- said Bush hasn't been doing as good a job as polls indicate the American people think he is.
"That illusion may be what we need right now," he said, "but the truth is we're simply pretending to believe that Bush exhibited unspeakable courage at the World Series by throwing out the first pitch, or that he, by God, showed those terrorists by going to Salt Lake City and jumbling the first line of the Olympic ceremony." The media is waving pompoms, and the entire country is being polite."
Sorkin did say that he thinks Bush is handling his job well during a crisis, and that it is "absolutely right that at this time we're all laying off the bubblehead jokes."
There was no comment Monday from Brokaw, or from NBC -- or from Sorkin, for that matter, who chose not to add anything to his New Yorker comments.
'DAMNED' COMES OUT ON TOP
"Queen of the Damned" -- starring the late R&B singer Aaliyah in an adaptation of Anne Rice's vampire novel of the same name -- sucked in an estimated $15.2 million in its opening weekend to finish No. 1 at the U.S. box office.
Denzel Washington's emergency room drama "John Q" stuck it to the health system for a second straight weekend, grossing an estimated $12.5 million, for a 10-day total of $39.9 million.
Kevin Costner -- searching for a hit after a string of misses -- opened in third place when his new supernatural thriller "Dragonfly" took in $10.4 million. Disney's "Peter Pan" sequel, "Return to Never Land," added $9 million to its running total, now at $27.2 million after two weekends in U.S. theaters.
Britney Spears' "Crossroads" lost more than half its opening weekend audience to take in $7.1 million in its second weekend in release. Bruce Willis' military drama "Hart's War" took in just $4.6 million in its second weekend in the market.
Box-office analysts said receipts for the weekend overall amounted to $110 million -- a 21 percent increase over the take for the same weekend in 2001. For the year so far, grosses are running 1.5 percent ahead of last year's pace.
FALL TV SEASON CASTING NOTES
Tom Berenger ("Someone to Watch Over Me," "The Big Chill") and Kyle Chandler ("What About Joan," "Early Edition") have joined the cast of Rod Lurie's untitled Capitol Hill drama, headed for ABC's primetime scheduled this fall.
Peter Fonda will star as the president and Katharine Ross ("The Graduate," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid") will play the first lady. Lurie is best known as the writer and director of "The Contender," in which Joan Allen was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of a Washington politician whose fortunes are threatened by a sex scandal.
Laurie Metcalf will rejoin her former producer at "Roseanne," Chuck Lorre, playing a widow in his new half-hour comedy. "Two Families" is a new take on the idea -- formerly told in the 1968 movie comedy "Yours, Mine and Ours" with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda -- of merging two families together through the marriage of a widow and a widower.
'SEINFELD CURSE'? OR THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus' highly promoted new series premieres on NBC Tuesday, sandwiched between two episodes of "Frasier."
"Watching Ellie" features Louis-Dreyfus plays a Los Angeles nightclub singer who moonlights as a voiceover artist. The occasion gives TV analysts an opportunity to prognosticate about whether the show will continue what might be called "the 'Seinfeld' curse" -- or whether the third time will be the charm.
Twice before, former members of the "Seinfeld" ensemble have starred in their own half-hour comedies -- failing badly both times. "The Michael Richards Show" bombed on NBC last season, and Jason Alexander's "Bob Patterson" fell flat on AVC last fall.
HONORS FOR DENZEL, HALLE
Oscar nominees Denzel Washington and Halle Berry picked up trophies Saturday at the 33rd annual NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles, as did the WB comedy "The Steve Harvey Show" and the Showtime original drama "Soul Food."
Washington was named outstanding actor in a motion picture for his portrayal of a rogue cop in "Training Day," beating out fellow Oscar nominee Will Smith for "Ali." Both are up for the best actor Oscar.
Berry was named outstanding actress in a motion picture for her work as a femme fatale in "Swordfish." She was not nominated for her Oscar-nominated role in "Monster's Ball," as a black woman who falls in love with the white executioner (Billy Bob Thornton) who puts her husband to death in the electric chair.
Michael Jackson won for outstanding performance in a variety series/special for his CBS TV special, "Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration." The show won for outstanding variety series/special.
Angela Bassett won twice -- once for outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture for "The Score," and again for outstanding actress in a TV movie, miniseries or comedy special for "Ruby's Bucket of Blood" on Showtime.
The TV awards largely replicated last year's results. "The Steve Harvey Show" -- which is going off the air after six years on WB -- took the top series prize from Fox's popular new hit, "The Bernie Mac Show." Harvey was named outstanding actor in a comedy series and his co-star Terri J. Vaughn repeated as outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series.
Mo'Nique of UPN's "The Parkers" won a second straight Image Award as outstanding actress in a comedy series.
"Soul Food" was named outstanding dramatic series.
STARS COME OUT FOR OSCARS
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday that actor-writer Owen Wilson will be a presenter at the 74th Academy Awards Ceremony on March 24.
Wilson is an Oscar nominee, along with Wes Anderson, for their original screenplay for "The Royal Tenenbaums." He recently finished shooting with Eddie Murphy on a screen adaptation of the classic TV series "I Spy," and starts filming in March on "Shanghai Knights" -- a sequel to his 2000 action-comedy hit with Jackie Chan, "Shanghai Noon."
His other acting credits include "Zoolander," "Meet the Parents," "Behind Enemy Lines" and "Armageddon."