‘West Wing’ Writer Lawrence O’Donnell Explains Why 2016 ‘Ruined’ Political TV Drama

“I would have killed that right away,” MSNBC host tells TheWrap about hypothetical story pitch that foretold the 2016 campaign

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Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” was once a writer for famed NBC series “The West Wing” before he landed a primetime cable news gig and thinks “the politics of 2016 have ruined contemporary political drama.”

“I would have killed that right away,” O’Donnell told TheWrap when asked if he would have agreed to a story pitch that foretold the events of the 2016 campaign.

“I don’t think there would have been any ‘West Wing’ writers who would be fighting for the survival of that particular storyline,” he said.

O’Donnell said “the gravitational forces have changed” and “you cannot do drama without having understood stakes. We no longer understand what the stakes are.”

“The Last Word” host continued: “If you were to look at the pilot, for example, of ‘The West Wing,’ the biggest problem is that Josh had said something intemperate on TV about a political faction that you don’t want to upset. That’s not a drama anymore.”

O’Donnell explained that Donald Trump’s real-life actions have made it impossible for characters on a political drama to have consequences.

“The question throughout the pilot was, ‘Is Josh going to get fired for that?’ So, everybody working for Donald Trump says something just palpably untrue everyday and half of them say something crazy everyday,” O’Donnell said. “There are no stakes and you don’t get fired for that.”

O’Donnell said it will take Hollywood “a while” to settle in and understand how to make a political drama feel realistic after the events of 2016.

“In a drama writing room right now, about a contemporary presidency, I do not know to say, ‘That couldn’t happen,’” O’Donnell said. “That’s not true in any other form of drama. If you’re doing a hospital show now, people still die from the same stuff. All the dramatic stakes of a lawyer show, they’re the same. Every other show you can think of. The dynamics of reality are all the same. This is the one area where, sorry, no one can say to you, ‘That’s impossible.’”

Before emerging as one of MSNBC’s primetime stars, O’Donnell worked on “The West Wing” as a writer, consultant and executive producer. He is credited with writing 16 episodes, according to IMDB.