Aaron Sorkin’s Next Workplace Ensemble Drama

According to [the National Weather Service’s] statistics, humans improve the accuracy of precipitation forecasts by about 25 percent over the computer guidance alone. They improve the temperature forecasts by about 10 percent. Humans are good enough, in fact, that when the organization’s Cray supercomputer burned down, in 1999, their high-temperature forecasts remained remarkably accurate. “You almost can’t have a meeting without someone mentioning the glory days of the Cray fire,” Kyger said, pointing to a mangled, half-burnt piece of the computer that was proudly displayed in the office where I met him. “If you weren’t here for that, you really weren’t part of the brotherhood.” —The New York Times Magazine

Titles Under Consideration:

“The Weathermen,” “You Do Need a Weatherman,” “Windvanes and Waterwheels,” “The Storm Center,” “Stormy Weather,” “The Weather Bureau,” and “Fast Times in Silver Spring.”

Casting Opportunities:

Leon Raycroft — Leon believes in the weather. He believes that the job of his team is to understand the weather as best they can, and to share that information in a timely fashion so that people can dress appropriately for the conditions. He also believes that baseball bats should be wooden, not aluminum. His team is fiercely loyal to him, but after some high-profile gaffes involving hail and sports cars, rumors are beginning to circulate about his ability to lead. He’s been divorced three times, and has a chocolate lab named “Precipitation,” or “Chip” for short. He smokes pot for a bad knee; the only reminder of his college football days.

Ike Sanderson — A Cray-fire-era veteran, Ike is hanging on at the agency by the skin of his teeth. Still uses a typewriter, once ripped apart a goat and studied its innards in order to pinpoint the path of a major cyclone, saving Gary, Indiana. He and Leon butt heads over individual forecasts, but share a father-son dynamic that brings warmth and heart to the series.

Chad Armtrading — Callow, camera-friendly wunderkind, NWS’s golden boy. Dismissive of the wisdom of the older meteorologists, Chad lives and dies by his computer forecasts. And the young women of the office live and die by his casual glances.

Ellie Klein — Storm-chaser extraordinaire, Ellie lives on candy corn, Activia, and nicotine patches. The only woman Chad hasn’t been able to seduce. Her father-daughter chemistry with Leon is mostly sexual, and over sweeps week they’ll share a motel room in Tampa during a power-outage.

Maggie Termagent — The recently-promoted head of the NWS, Maggie wants to push Ike out, and wouldn’t mind if Leon went with him. Her endgame is to eventually replace all the meteorologists with automated forecasts, even if it might cause their efficacy to decline by over 15%. She wears a different Herve Leger bandage dress every day of the week.

Naomi Rutling — Naomi is Maggie’s eyes and ears inside Leon’s team. She is very attractive, has an on-again-off-again relationship with Chad, and is slowly beginning to wonder if Maggie has feet of clay. When she uncovers evidence that Leon set the Cray supercomputer on fire to prove a point, her decision to sit on the information instead of turning it over to Maggie may cost her her job. But will it save her soul?

Pilot Outline:

A new intern (Naomi Rutling) arrives at the NWS, fresh out of college. She keeps trying to get Leon’s attention, hoping Leon will autograph her copy of “Weather: God’s Moods or Man’s Greatest Mystery?” while Leon keeps passing her off to underlings. We slowly learn that a major storm may or may not be approaching Atlanta (the computer says no, Ike says yes), and Maggie is refusing to issue warnings that may result in an evacuation unless Chad and his guys sign off on it. At the last minute, Chad relays that the computer forecast now agrees with Leon, and the evacuation is called, saving thousands of lives. As the celebration winds down, Naomi finds Leon alone in his office, studying a glass of bourbon. Leon pours Naomi a drink of her own, and asks if she’s ever read Isaac Asimov’s 1961 short story, “The Machine That Won the War”. She shakes her head, and he begins to tell it to her as footage of the evacuation plays. Beginning to understand, Naomi asks him if he fed faulty information into Chad’s computer to get the outcome he desired. Leon smiles, and says “keep your ears open, sweetheart. You might learn something here.”