I’ve been waiting for Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show, The Newsroom, for more than a year. When I learned that the show-runner for Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip had a show coming to the network where all the great shows live, and that this show would be a behind-the-scenes-of-a-TV-show TV show (like Sports Night and Studio 60) and that it would focus on politics (like The West Wing), I was sure it was going to be great.
Then the early reviews started coming in. If you haven’t read them, here’s a sample:
Based on these pieces (and several others) I adjusted my expectations and braced myself for what I read would be a pompous, pedantic, semi misogynistic love letter to a time when TV journalists were REAL TV journalists when America was truly great — a time I don’t think ever really existed. I also started questioning my love of Sorkin and the TV he has created up ’til now (he also wrote some pretty great films, BTW, including The Social Network — he won an Oscar for that — Moneyball, The American President, and A few Good Men). Maybe Sorkin has always been really bad and I was just a naive fool to love those other shows.
Then I watched the premiere of The Newsroom (the first episode can be seen in its entirety here), and I remembered: I love Aaron Sorkin despite all these flaws.
I’ve loved every one of Sorkin’s shows — even the much maligned Studio 60. Yes, he’s an asshole. Yes, he’s pompous. Yes, he longs for an America that probably never actually existed and even if it did, probably isn’t really worth longing for. Yes, he’s guilty of all of his characters sounding the same. Yes, he has an unhealthy and unrealistic indignation toward the internet, And yes, his issues with gender roles are occasionally troubling (though he frankly does a million times better in this regard than the majority of TV writers, he just gets extra heat over this because we expect so much more from him, IMO). Despite these flaws, I can listen to Sorkin characters banter all the live long day and not get tired of it.
Here’s what Linda Holmes wrote in her review for NPR:
Aaron Sorkin remains my favorite writer of dialogue in American television and film. His workplace-banter scenes are like perfect little songs; there are times when I think he is as good at playing with words and rhythm as Cole Porter. Stretching back to A Few Good Men and the way it teased out a playfulness in Tom Cruise that I had never seen, I have believed he has an almost unmatched ability to build sentences and scenes that hit you like the Rube Goldberg machines in OK Go videos: You look at them in wonder and almost want to clap your hands when they’re over, simply because they have been executed with such love, energy and style.
I like that Holmes went with a music analogy. This is why I love Sorkin, and even the “Sorkinisms” featured in this YouTube edit that’s making the rounds. Those Sorkinisms are favorite riffs, like any good musician will have. Stretching this analogy further, Sorkin is like an amazingly good, but cheesy and obvious guitar player, whose solos occasionally sound the same but are still incredible to behold.
So yeah, Sorkin isn’t perfect and The Newsroom will be pompous and pedantic and all the other things the critics say, and I’m still going to love every overwrought, self-righteously indignant second of it.