Sorkin commented that: "Once you do shoot in front of a live audience, you have no choice but to use the laugh track.Oftentimes [enhancing the laughs] is the right thing to do. Other times, it alienates me." Sorkin was triumphant in the second season when ABC agreed to his demands, unburdening the crew of the difficulties of staging a scene for a live audience and leaving the cast with more time to rehearse.
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Sorkin fought with the ABC network during the first season over the use of a laugh track and a live studio audience.
The laugh track was widely decried by critics as jarring, with Joyce Millman of describing it as "the most unconvincing laugh track you've ever heard".
The The West Wing episode "In Excelsis Deo" won, which was awarded to Sorkin and Rick Cleveland, while it was reported in a The New York Times article that Cleveland had been ushered off the stage by Sorkin without being given a chance to say a few words.
The story behind The West Wing episode is based on Cleveland's father, a Korean war veteran who spent the last years of his life on the street, as Cleveland explains in his Fresh essay titled "I Was the Dumb Looking Guy with the Wire-Rimmed Glasses".
A back and forth took place between Sorkin and Cleveland in a public web forum at Mighty Big TV where Sorkin explained that he gives his writers "Story By" credit on a rotating basis "by way of a gratuity" and that he had thrown out Cleveland's script and started from scratch.