With The Newsroom hitting Sky Atlantic tonight, here at FemaleFirst, we’ve had a quick look at the past work of one of America’s most wanted screenwriters.
Lampooning and investigating the world of sports television, Sports Night was a comedy-drama before there were comedy dramas.
This was also the debut places for Sorkin’s future trademarks. The rapid fire dialogue, often featuring tongue twisting jargon was there, the ‘walk and talk’ scenes were there, the extended monologues were there.
Sports Night was also far cleverer, drier and subtler than most other comedies of the time. Perhaps overly so at times, but Sports Night’s unapologetically wordy nature won quite a few friends.
While cancelled after two series, Sports Night had plenty of suitors but Sorkin decided to leave the show alone and concentrate on his next, much bigger project.
The West Wing
Sorkin’s most famous baby, The West Wing was one of the most in-depth yet approachable political dramas to come out of America. Running for seven series, Sorkin’s touch was felt on the first four.
Having learned about the inner workings of politics during research for his film script for the Golden Globe nominated The American President, Sorkin set about his new show detailing the everyday goings on in the halls of American power.
Helped by drafting in the brilliant Martin Sheen to play President Bartlett, Sorkin’s show absolutely hit every note nearly perfectly. Winning nine Emmys in its first year (a record that still stands to this day), The West Wing became an instant classic.
With episodes ranging from negotiations over gun legislation to dealing with bad PR, The West Wing Took dry, stuffy subjects and made them thoroughly intriguing. Perfecting Sorkin’ major techniques, The West Wing became famous for its ‘walking and talking’ and quick-fire banter.
It took Sorkin’s already lofty reputation and sent it sky-rocketing. Now the movies studios were scrambling to get a hold of him. He was put them off one more time though.
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
Sorkin was back in world of the television studio, but Studio 60 was a short lived yet extremely promising project that unfortunately never really found its groove.
Again trying to find that comedy-drama balance, Studio 60 was all about two writers trying to bring a once famous variety show back from the dead and back in to the headlines. Sorkin said that the show was semi-autobiographical and absolutely no-one disbelieved him. Although critics rightly pointed out the slightly dangerous amounts of wish fulfilment in the shape of ‘rock star writers’.
The trouble for Studio 60 came in the shape of 30 Rock. Another show about the background workings of a TV variety show, 30 Rock didn’t try taking Sorkin on at his own game, but simply dropped all pretence on the drama side, going all out comedy.
But while 30 Rock continues to live on, now in a sixth series and having made Tina Fey a star and re-launched Alec Baldwin, Studio 60 saw the curtains after only one. Sorkin’s dialogue was as good as ever, and people walked and talked at the same time, but the show never rode that perfect line between the comedic and dramatic like his best work has.
Despite having two shows cancelled, Sorkin’s star has only continued to rise. Simply now it’s in the movie business. Having written A Few Good Men and The American President, Sorkin got back in with the film crowd with adaptations of Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network (which he won an Oscar for) and last year’s Moneyball.
Despite having the cinematic world at his feet, Sorkin has decided to come back to TV with The Newsroom. Continuing his love of the studio backdrop, it’ll be interesting if he can recreate the success of The West Wing or if the show will divide viewers like Studio 60. Here’s to finding out.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith