Another blogger chimes in:
THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION. An interesting problem here. After it ended, I really found I had enjoyed it – it felt both really entertaining and very educational – and it held my interest the entire time. Well, then I got home and went to Wikipedia and read the real story of Farnsworth v Sarnoff. And basically, Sorkin changed almost the entire story. Which leads me to wonder why he didn’t just change the names, and write a work of fiction, rather than write a work of fiction disguised as history.
If I was a cynical person, I might be tempted to answer the question "why did he write fiction disguised as history?" by answering "because this way, he doesn’t have to pay for any of the rights to the material he has "borrowed from."
The irony in that statement is that Fred Zollo, who is listed as one of the producers of this Broadway production, is also one of the partners who owns the adaptation rights to Pem Farnsworth’s book, Distant Vision. It was Zollo who first introduced Sorkin to this material back in the mid 1990s, while Sorkin was under contract to Castle Rock Entertainment. That project fell through, allegedly due to some of Sorkin’s personal problems during the period. But nobody has adequately explained just how it is that Zollo remains attached to this project, when Mrs. Farnsworth’s book — and indeed the entire family — have been neatly jettisoned from the whole process.
There is a scene in the play where Sarnoff’s wife asks him "what is the ‘getting around Farnsworth department?’" The reference is to RCA’s Camden laboratory in the 1930s, which was actively engaged in finding a way to transmit electronic television signals without infringing on any of Farnsworth’s patents.
And the irony in THAT statement is that the "getting around Farnsworth department" appears to be alive and well in the year 2007.