'West Wing' creator's follow-up is slated before its first episode

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Professional critics and ordinary viewers have had their say about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Some believe the new television series by Aaron Sorkin - the producer's first project since he left his award-winning creation, The West Wing, in 2002 - is a sure-fire success. Others say it is a disaster.

And this is two months before the first episode of the show has been aired.

Internet forums for television fans have created a way viewers can make their opinions known about a television show in an unprecedented fashion. Never have television series, their actors, their storylines, and the likelihood of being a success or a dud, been under such scrutiny. Sometimes it can be good, but sometimes it can be bad.

"It's unusual for backlash to begin before the show starts," Mr Sorkin told the Los Angeles Times, referring to negative comments aired by bloggers. "But I'm hoping the timing will work out that there will be a backlash against the backlash by the time we open."

Damon Lindelof, the co-creator of the series Lost, added: "The internet has created something that didn't exist five or 10 years ago, a direct dialogue with the creators or actors of a show. For fans, they feel they have this access and they are empowered. When we do our podcasts, and we explain what we're doing, they disagree with us and they tell us: 'Well, it's my show too'."

Several forums and websites are dedicated to Studio 60, which stars Matthew Perry from Friends and Bradley Whitford, who played the deputy chief-of-staff Josh Lyman in West Wing. The show is a fictional comedy sketch set in an old vaudeville house.

Production was due to start yesterday. Although the premiere is not to be broadcast for two months, a six-minute clip, shown to reporters and advertisers, was posted on the internet for fans to review.

"I think Matthew Perry will be great and I fell madly in love with Bradley Whitford over the course of the West Wing, so I can't wait until the premiere," wrote one poster. "I'm really happy that it's on Mondays too because I have nothing that I already watch on that night. Anyhow, I anticipate greatness."

Another poster said: "The big names alone will draw the average person in (not huge Sorkin fans). Then Sorkin will slay them with his writing. I predict large success (or at least I'm really hoping)."