I have an unnatural love of Aaron Sorkin. It’s really not very becoming for a man of my age. I have a kind of giggly school-girl relationship with everything and anything he does. Oddly, though, not many people actually know who he is.
Most people have never heard of him and fewer seem to have seen his TV shows. The only thing most people know him for is A Few Good Men, the Tom Cruise/Demi Moore/Jack Nicholson movie, and even then most people only know it when they hear Nicholson bellowing, “You want the truth? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
He wrote that.
He went on to create and write the immensely under-rated Sports Night, which ran for 2 seasons and 40-odd episodes in the States a decade or so ago, starring some proper actors who went on to big things in Six Feet Under and Desperate Housewives, but never really took off. It got buried in the schedules on ABC1 over here a couple of years back, but I don’t think anyone noticed it.
After that he hit the big time (at least in the States) with the unbelievably brilliant West Wing, probably my all-time favourite TV show and multi-Emmy award winner. Sadly, English audiences never really took to it and after the first series was broadcast to critical acclaim but rubbish ratings on Channel 4 it got shifted and bumped around the schedules on E4, More4, Another4, Someone Else’s4 and other such channels.
It was, however, consistently the best thing coming out of the States for 3 seasons, dropped a little in the 4th just before Sorkin left. It carried on for another 3 seasons and was cancelled last year, ironically after its best season since Sorkin left.
So what did he do next? The master wordsmith, the writer I most admire, the man, the myth, the legend went and created Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip – a behind-the-scenes comedy-drama about working on a weekly live sketch comedy show for a fictional US Network.
It’s inspired, sublime and completely riveting – I love the whole thing to pieces, even before you add in to the mix Matthew Perry (ex of Friends) in a role that let’s him loose with his very real talent, and two of the West Wing’s best regulars in Bradley Whitford and Timothy Busfield.
The only problem with watching the series unfold week-by-week on More4 as it is at the moment is the horrible knowledge that comes from following TV production in the United States. You see, Studio 60 is SO good that the network (the real one, not the fictional one) pulled it after one 20-episode series.
Which leaves the tantalizing question of what it did wrong to get cancelled. All shows have their bad weeks, especially when you’re working in the American system where they write the shows as they go (as opposed to the UK where all but the longest series like Dr Who or Robin Hood go into production with all of the scripts in almost final form), but Studio 60 has so far, in 5 episodes, hardly hit a bum note.
Did the American audience just not go for the show? Did they just not carry on watching? Or does it suddenly, mid-season, get completely rubbish.
I’m a Sorkin addict – I’ll watch anything he does because I think he’s one of the most talented writers on the planet. And I know I’ll keep watching this to the bitter end (and you know already that the ending’s going to be bitter), but it’s kind of turning into car-crash TV, to be watched with your fingers over your eyes from behind the sofa. Because you have to imagine that for a show this good at the start to get canceled after a single series, something BIG has got to go wrong with the quality of the output somewhere in the middle.
Ah well, you can’t win ’em all. And even if it does get rubbish, I’ve got 115 hours of The West Wing on my DVD shelf to give me my Sorkin-fix.
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- Nope, we got nada!