This past Sunday, HBO aired the final episode of The Newsroom, a drama that depicts the behind-the-scenes workings of a fictional news network akin to CNN. If the fundamental concept sounds familiar, it’s because Aaron Sorkin has effectively already done this before.
Remember Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? That was a drama that depicted the behind-the-scenes workings of a late night comedy/variety show akin to Saturday Night Live. And before that, he had Sports Night, a slightly more comedic drama that depicted the behind-the-scenes workings of a nightly sports report show.
Consider the remarkable cold open to Studio 60 from 2006 embedded here. It talks about how we are all “being lobotomized by this country’s most influential industry” and how art is “getting its ass kicked” by commerce. It should have come as little surprise, then, when Aaron Sorkin used a similar cold open to kick off The Newsroom a couple of years ago, once again with a powerful rant from an influential figure.
With the noted exception of The West Wing (which is again a behind-the-scenes drama, though at the White House rather than on a television program), Sorkin’s ventures into television have been short-lived successes. There were only two seasons of Sports Night and a mere single season of Studio 60. And while The Newsroom managed to stick around for three seasons, this final one only had six episodes.
But it’s all so smart and it’s all so witty, even when it comes off as being pretentiously intelligent and witty. It certainly doesn’t help that Aaron Sorkin has also been accused of being a sexist on several occasions and perhaps for good reason.
I’m not here to depict Aaron Sorkin the man as some sort of martyr or to decry the death of intelligent television in favor of yet another mindless reality TV series on TLC. What I will say is that even though I didn’t really even know about Aaron Sorkin until a few years ago, I really enjoy his writing. He’s even said himself that he revels in witty banter and fast dialogue; the plot is just an excuse on which to hang these clever lines.
We’ve seen it with this writing on TV. We’ve seen it in The Social Network movie and, with a little luck on our side, we’ll continue to see more great dialogue. Maybe he’ll take us behind the scenes of a late night talk show. In any case, hopefully next time he won’t have to to dive into the Ross and Rachel territory of romantic comedy. Seriously, did they really have to play up the Jim and Maggie, Mackenzie and Will relationships there?
And in case you missed it, here’s the “The Sorkin Sketch” by the team at Late Night with Seth Meyers. It’s pretty darn accurate.