The five faces of Aaron Sorkin

The Five Faces of Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin is one of the most respected writers in film and TV, The West Wing alone would be more than enough for most people, Henry Northmore looks back over his career as The Newsroom returns

Film (1992-)

Sorkin started as a playwright with Rob Reiner directing the adaptation of his courtroom drama A Few Good Men in 1992. Malice and The American President followed but they didn't have the same impact. He took a huge break to concentrate on TV returning with Charlie Wilson's War (2007), then picked up an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for Facebook biopic The Social Network (and was nominated for another for Moneyball in 2012).

Most memorable dialogue Colonel Jessop (Jack Nicolson): ‘You can’t handle the truth’ from A Few Good Men, one of the most quoted lines in movie history.
Final tally: Six movies so far.

Sports Night (1998-2000)

Sorkin's first foray into TV saw him create and write this comedy about the behind the scenes action at a sports news show. It started as a sitcom complete with laughtrack which was phased out by season two as Sorkin upped the dramatic content.

Most memorable dialogue Jeremy Goodwin (Joshua Malina): 'Not fitting in is how qualified people get fired.'
Isaac Jaffe (Robert Guillaume): 'Yeah, but a lot of the time, it's how they end up working here.'
Final tally: Two seasons featuring 45 episodes.

The West Wing (1999--2006)

This was the big one. Peeking behind the closed doors at the White House focusing on the men and women behind the President (played by Martin Sheen). It won a whopping nine Emmys for its first season alone (a new record). Loosely based on the Clinton administration, unsurprisingly, it was Sorkin's most political show yet and was dubbed 'The Left Wing' by certain journalists.

Most memorable dialogue Laurie (Lisa Edelstein): 'Tell your friend POTUS he's got a funny name, and he should learn how to ride a bicycle.'
Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe): 'I would, but he's not my friend; he's my boss. It's not his name, it's his title.'
Laurie: 'POTUS?'
Seaborn: 'President of the United States. I'll call ya.'
Final tally: A whopping156 episodes across seven seasons.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-2007)

The off screen dramas at a comedy sketch show (think Saturday Night Live) as the actors, writers and directors squabbled over their lines and relationships. However it was cut down before it's time after a barrage of online sniping.

Most memorable dialogue Matt Albie (Matthew Perry): 'How is it possible that people are so offended by a thoroughly benign sketch? Is true patriotism really that fragile that it can be threatened by a late night comedy show?'
Final tally: A single series of 22 episodes.

The Newsroom (2012-)

This time we're at a news network following the new production crew (including Emily Mortimer and Dev Patel), as anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) returns to the nation's screens after a forced leave of absence after a contentious public tirade about the state of America. The big hook is that the show is set in 2010 so the news stories are based on real events.

Most memorable dialogue 'There's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending …' from Will's (Daniels) speech that causes all the trouble in the first place.
Final tally: 14 episodes and counting.

The Newsroom Season: The Complete First Season (HBO Home Entertainment) is available on DVD/Blu-ray, Mon 22 Jul; The Newsroom Season 2 starts on Sky Atlantic late Aug (date tbc).

The Newsroom Season 2: Trailer