I remember watching a episode of the West Wing, I was probably around fifteen. I thought what is this boring rubbish? I couldn’t make sense of it. I’d jumped in mid season and had no idea what I was looking at.
One thing I did notice, which has been said by Aaron Sorkin himself; The audience dosen’t need to understand everything that’s being said, they just need to think, wow these guys know what they’re talking about.
I knew though I’d seen something different. Something special. A couple of years later I went back to the beginning and watched from episode one all the way through to the finale. Since then I try to re-watch the entirety of the West Wing every two years. The writing and story telling is simply put the best in television history.
Next I got hold of Sports Night and watched those through. I noticed the similar story lines and verbal patterns. There was still that excellent writing but there was something lacking. Time. Sports Night had 22 minute episodes which didn’t give the stories enough time to breath. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be watching a sitcom or a drama and for me, while enjoyable it never quite felt satisfying. But it was the beginnings of something and The West Wing is where things really went from good to superb.
Along came Studio 60. I, like many were so disappointed by Studio 60’s early retirement. Matthew Perry has never been better, he and Bradley Whitford were in harmony throughout. Studio 60 set behind a late night comedy show was a little less hard hitting than the West Wing, though still tackled some tough topics; addiction, polarisation of religion, the creative process and race. I am sad that we wont see more of this show, one season was not enough.
Finally there is the Newsroom. The Newsroom looks and feels different from the get go. The writing is still distinctly Sorkin, but it feels a little alien. I feel it is the missing Thomas Schlamme who directed most of Sorkin’s previous television work. Schlamme brought a distinct look, feel and heart to Sorkin’s writing that I think is sorely missed here.
The Newsroom is unique in it’s mash up of real world news and character driven plot lines. The sharp dialogue doesn’t fail to deliver superb television and performances from all of the key cast, most notably Alison Pill and Jeff Daniels, who is excellent all be it slightly less likeable than previous Sorkin series leads.
In previous series the cast structure usually includes two/three male leads who counter balance each-other, a fiery woman and one father figure. The Newsroom is missing that structure, leaving Will rather isolated and can at times leave you feeling apathetic towards him. Sam Waterston gives an excellent performance though lacking the gravitas of Martin Sheen or Robert Guillaume.
I am excited to see what the second season has to offer. I’m also very pleased that the show is on HBO; a network dedicated to quality, it also means longer running times and swearing; which I feel adds a sense of realism in moments of drama.
It’s not the West Wing, It’s not Studio 60, but it’s still up there with best on TV at the moment.