Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/landov; Reed Saxon/AP
07/22/2006 AT 08:00 AM EDT
Crack cocaine and Vicodin aren't the typical topics of conversation at a Hollywood TCA (Television Critics Association) panel to introduce new Fall shows, but when the event is led by Aaron Sorkin and Matthew Perry, accidents can happen.
"I do think that television is a terribly influential part of this country," said Sorkin, writer and executive producer of NBC’s upcoming Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, when asked on Friday about the vacuousness of current reality-TV culture. "When things that are very mean-spirited and voyeuristic go on TV, I think it's (like) bad crack in the schoolyard."
As the audience of journalists erupted into laughter, Sorkin playfully asked, "Why did I use that word?"
Actor Bradley Whitford replied, "I have no clue."
At first, Sorkin simply added, "Everything is fine," but later joked, "I will go person to person giving each $100 if we can just get the crack quote out of the papers tomorrow.
"It's an expression that I meant nothing by. And with all the mental preparation I did for the panel that I was actually able to say that is beyond belief. It really is."
Later on, Studio 60 star Perry, never one to miss a clever quip, extended the joke with, "I think it's mostly like bad Vicodin in the schoolyard."
While drugs are now a source of comic relief for the two men, it wasn't so long ago that both were embroiled in public fights with their private demons.
In 2001, Sorkin narrowly escaped felony charges for the possession of cocaine and hallucinogenic mushrooms by completing a six-month drug rehabilitation program.
Perry, who went to rehab for the second time in 2001, has publicly acknowledged taking an "insane number of pills" of the painkiller Vicodin in the past – sometimes 20 to 30 a day.
Studio 60 takes a behind the scenes look at a sketch comedy show like Saturday Night Live. This is Perry's first starring TV role since the end of Friends. Sorkin is best known as the creator of The West Wing.