Here’s a teaser-trailer thing for the new show Aaron Sorkin’s writing for HBO, about…a news anchor. I honestly can’t fathom why anyone still thinks Sorkin is a genius. Watch this and tell me it doesn’t sound exactly like every other thing he’s ever done.
Right there, in two minutes, is nearly every single annoying Sorkinism that exists. Ugh.
Yeah, the problem is that everything else he has ever done keeps getting canceled (Studio 60…because it was too smart) and written off as not a realistic representation of non-fiction (Social Network) and so on and so forth.
My answer to the "all Sorkin sounds the same" complaint is: If you listen to a Dire Straits album, are you upset because Mark Knopfler plays like Mark Knopfler?
Sports Night I think you could say was cancelled because it was too smart. But Studio 60 failed simply because it wasn't his best work. No one hits 'em out of the park every time.
On the other hand, West Wing had a long, healthy life, even if I stopped watching almost as soon as Sorkin left.
As for Social Network, he won an Oscar for it. I should be so "written off"…
The Mark Knopfler objection doesn't really work. I would never say that all Beatles songs sound the same. But I certainly would say that all Sorkin scripts sound the same, because he makes them all sound the same. The teaser in my post is a good example — that guy is able to rattle off a rapid-fire list of statistics, just like every really smart character Sorkin writes does. Sorkin has a very, very limited bag of tricks, and I can pick them out at will every time I watch a film or teevee show he writes.
I thought Studio 60 was abysmal. Just awful. It was arrogant, self-indulgent, wish-fulfillment crap in which Sorkin created a Super Writer who is the smartest person in any room he inhabits and who is single-handedly going to save television (along with his buddy director, who is clearly Thomas Schlamme with the name changed). Frankly, after rewatching The West Wing's first four seasons a year or two ago, it's only the first two and part of the third that stand up. Most of Season Three is really boring (he stops even trying to dramatize issues, and just has scene upon scene upon scene of characters just having identical-sounding conversations with each other, the only differences being what issue is being discussed). Season Four is much the same…a couple of great episodes, but a lot of dull filler.
And yeah, he won an Oscar for Social Network. Sorry, I didn't like that movie, either…because, guess what…all the characters sounded exactly the same as every other Sorkin character. (Ditto "Charlie Wilson's War", which nobody loved, and with good reason.)
The only thing with Sorkin's name on it that I've liked in years is "Moneyball", and that's because there was another screenwriter, so the Sorkinisms are kept to a minimum. Even so, watching the movie, I could pick out exactly which parts Sorkin had written.
Ultimately, Sorkin never changes his style. He never tries anything new. He's got a schtick that lots of people adore and can't get enough of, and I suppose that's fine. But I've had my fill of it. I'll stick with "The American President" and the first 2.5 seasons of "West Wing".
(Tangentially, while seasons five and six of "West Wing" are uneven, there are some fine episodes in there, and the seventh season was terrific.)
I don't disagree that season 3 of West Wing made a whole lot of missteps. The Beatles made Magical Mystery Tour too.
I watched a few episodes of the post-Sorkin version, but it sounds like what seemed missing for me is exactly what you liked about it.
The characters were walking around with the same faces; the same names, but without Sorkin, I felt like we could no longer go inside their heads.
BTW, if you want to know what I really think about The West Wing,
Fair warning: That's one of my favorite pieces I've ever written, but it's also a pretty long review/essay. Let the clicker beware?