The 1 Piece of Advice Larry David Gave ‘The West Wing’ Creator Aaron Sorkin When He Left the Show

Creator of The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin, left the award-winning political drama in 2003 at the end of Season 4. Ahead, find out what advice Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David gave Sorkin upon his exit and what happened when he didn’t follow it. 

Sorkin, 58, not only created and wrote episodes of The West Wing but is responsible for other TV shows including Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Newsroom, and Sports Night. During a panel at the 2016 ATX Festival in Austin, Texas, he reflected on the biggest mistake he made on The West Wing and departure from the series.

Characterized by its fast-talking characters and trademark walk-and-talk scenes, Sorkin’s The West Wing gave TV audiences a look at what goes on inside the White House. The show followed staff as they advised fictional U.S. President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and ran the office of the president.  

The West Wing cast members included Sheen, Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman), Allison Janney (C.J. Cregg), Janel Moloney (Donnatella “Donna” Moss), Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler), John Spencer (Leo McGarry), Dulé Hill (Charlie Young), and Rob Lowe (Sam Seaborn).

Aaron Sorkin at The Zurich Film Festival on Oct. 4, 2017
Aaron Sorkin at The Zurich Film Festival on Oct. 4, 2017 | Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

The NBC series ran for seven seasons from Sept. 1999 to May 2006 and garnered a whopping 95 Emmy nominations and 26 wins among other awards. 

He ‘missed the show terribly’ after leaving

Sorkin called it a “very difficult decision” leaving The West Wing, according to Empire. Not only did he bid farewell to the show but so did director Thomas Schlamme.

“Both Tommy and I had built a home there; we loved the show and we loved the people,” Sorkin told the audience at “The West Wing Administration” panel. 

Sorkin and Schlamme were joined at the event by cast members Bradley Whitford, Dulé Hill, Janel Moloney, Joshua Malina, Richard Schiff, and Melissa Fitzgerald.

“We knew at some point we would have to move on and there were a number of factors that contributed to the end of the fourth season being the right time,” Sorkin added. “But it certainly wasn’t a decision we arrived at easily and I missed the show terribly once I had left it.”

Aaron Sorkin, Allison Janney, and Bradley Whitford at the 90th Annual Academy Awards on March 4, 2018
Aaron Sorkin, Allison Janney, and Bradley Whitford at the 90th Annual Academy Awards on March 4, 2018 | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Larry David’s advice for Sorkin: Don’t watch the show

After Sorkin said his goodbyes to The West Wing at the end of Season 4, the show continued on for three more seasons. Since his departure, Sorkin hasn’t watched any episodes — albeit 15 seconds of Season 5 — following advice given to him by David who left Seinfeld in 1998.

“You can never watch The West Wing again,” Sorkin told the audience, recalling what David had told him over the phone after he exited the series. “Either the show is going to be great without you and you’re going to be miserable, or the show is going to be less than great without you and you’re going to be miserable.”

Thinking David’s “kind of professionally miserable” Sorkin decided to watch the first episode of The West Wing’s fifth season. 

“I put it in the VCR and I don’t think I got 15 seconds in before I leaped up and slammed it off! It felt like I was watching somebody make out with my girlfriend,” he said adding he’s never watched any episodes from Seasons 5-7.