I’m so glad Aaron Sorkin wrote The American President and its intellectual sequel, The West Wing, at the time he did. It’s hard to imagine either working today. If you’re a fan of The West Wing and have never seen The American President, you absolutely should. It’s a wonderful film, and you can clearly see Sorkin working out ideas that he would later expand on in much more detail in The West Wing. A number of cast members, led by Martin Sheen who plays White House Chief of Staff in The American President and President Bartlet in The West Wing, star in both the film and the TV series. Both Sorkin projects are unabashed love letters to the American system of democracy and the ideal of public service. Those concepts have been so tarnished in the decade since The West Wing left the air that I can’t give any serious credence to the rumors of the show’s revival.
The Presidency and The White House are as much a part of the cast of The American President as Michael Douglas or Annette Bening (both of whom turn in some of the best performances of their careers). There have been hundreds of film Presidents, but The American President takes a uniquely human look at the President. Andrew Shepard (Douglas) is looked at as a father and a man in love as much as he is the President. The film captures the last era before the Internet would change how everyone, including POTUS, would interact forever. All in all (and I realize I’m publishing this on a blog, the irony does not escape me) it was a more civilized age. It’s nice to be able to go back to media time capsules like this and unplug from the current political paradigm. Sorkin is my favorite writer in any medium, and I can’t wait to see what does next.
Some of my favorite television shows of all-time take awhile to get into. Breaking Bad, The West Wing, even Game of Thrones have a lot of world-building to do and, while I can tell you exactly what the opening scene was to each, they didn’t immediately reach into my brain and addict me. These five shows, from the very first scene (which I have done my best to include; in the case of Justified, you get the whole pilot with my compliments) light you up. You want more; you want it now. Whether it’s Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) delivering the best monologue in TV history, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) having an old west shootout in very modern Miami, the chaos of ER and the plane crash of LOST, or Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) breaking a dog’s neck and the fourth wall. You wanted more, and that is skillful writing. Grab the viewer’s attention so completely within 3-5 minutes that you have them for the run of the series. These five did the job and then some.
I would read the phone book if Aaron Sorkin wrote it. In fact, I’m sure the phone book could be improved with snappy dialogue best consumed when walking quickly from one place to another. No one uses the phone book anymore anyway, so why ISN’T Sorkin writing it is the real question.
I’m not sure why The Newsroom never found favor with the critics that past Sorkin series (The West Wing, SportsNight) have. I think the first cold open of the series is one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen on TV, and maybe that the rest of the series never got to that level consistently ended up sandbagging it. I’m glad it’s getting a third and final season though. Sorkin has said that he feels like he’s just figured out how to write the show, so while it’s sad that’s happening in a final season, it should be one to remember. The Newsroom returns to HBO this November.
Bittersweet news for fans of HBO’s The Newsroom as the network has confirmed the Aaron Sorkin drama has been renewed for a third season, but it will be the show’s last. The Newsroom has met with mixed reviews from critics, though Jeff Daniels did pick up a surprise Emmy for his portrayal of the show’s anchor. Anyone who’s followed the blog knows that I’m a huge fan of Sorkin’s work. The first season of the show, which is the only I’ve seen so far, was slow to build on the sterling pilot (which contains possibly the greatest rant in television history) but was brilliant in spots and had hit its stride by season’s end. The positive point in this is that Sorkin will probably be writing another movie soon. Full press release from HBO after the break: Continue reading Newsroom renewed for a third and final season→
I make no bones about it, I think Aaron Sorkin is one of (if not THE) best writers working in any medium in the last quarter century. From his play A Few Good Men, to the films (The American President, A Few Good Men, The Social Network, Charlie Wilson’s War, Moneyball, etc.), but most especially in his TV work (SportsNight, Studio 60, The West Wing and The Newsroom) he demonstrates a mastery of the English language that no other writer can so deftly wield. The Newsroom, Sorkin’s current HBO series about a disaffected news anchor becoming re-engaged with real journalism, will begin its second season July 14th. This is the second trailer released for the new season. I’m hip-deep in the blu ray for the first, and I could not recommend it more highly. It’s awesome to have Sorkin writing TV again.