If you like Aaron Sorkins’ work but have not watched Sports Night, you need to. The series captures the essence of Aaron but leaves enough raw nerves to be developed in his later work.
I first met his work with a half-watched season of West Wing when I was not old enough to understand why I loved the series. I was lucky enough to watch live on TV the last couple of seasons with the first showing. Sometime later, after I had sprinted past 45, I watched West Wing from beginning to end as I jetted around the world for work. What a joy.
When I realized that the script and the casting was what made the series unmissable, I researched the secret. I figured it might be Aaron Sorkin. From here I watched Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and within two episodes I realized Mr. Sorkin was the secret sauce. After a delightful and modern series I then discovered The Newsroom. This was yet another brilliant series that I had little choice but to binge watch. Exasperated and sad that I had watched his last major TV serial, I had little choice but to acknowledge his work and delve into his first TV series, Sports Night. It was initially hard due to the clear age in setting, but after two episodes I warmed to the characters, just as I was meant too.
The series introduces Aaron Sorkins’ canvas that you can see in all his TV serials. His secret includes a clever, rampant and systemic repartee between two lead actors. He never lets a minute stand alone; there are always rejoinders for every line. He judiciously and smartly ends an exchange with the point or the mood made; but he plans the exchange- long or short- with meticulous craftwork.
His next skill is to overlay the continuous and enjoyable rejoinders, with a certain mirth, humor or hubris that almost universally reminds us that we are human, or that we are fallible. He deftly reminds us that we are not alone; that our weaknesses are what makes us strong; and our strengths are what make as meek. He knows us well and can tell the story with a mirror held up in front of ourselves.
The main leads are men. So much of the script revolves around the two. This is a pattern that you see throughout his TV serials. This is not a sexist storyline; it is the story. The intelligent quips are shared across women and men equally, though he cleverly plays on the the wide range of heart strings and emotions that comprise man and women and how they interact and react.
Each series is steeped in research: Sports rooms; news rooms; comedy show to Whitehouse. What is missing? Maybe a documentary in a war-torn middle east country? That would provide a period of intense script coupled with release; this is Sorkin’s model and it works.
As I sat in my long flight back to Atlanta, I found myself with just three episodes of Sports Night left to watch. I realized I was really very sad. I was about to run out of runway. I was about to reach the end of the line. No more series, no more scripts, would remain unknown to me. I was to know all of Aaron’s TV work. I didn’t want it to end, much like I am not a fan of the end of what clearly constitutes the most imperfect part of me: my own ability to love another day.
All I could console myself with was to rush home and download Studio 60 strip to my iPad for my next world winding trip. I know of no other script writer who can capture the essence of us so easily and so completely. To think this is his lot, I can’t believe it. To think this is all I have left, I don’t believe it. Is there one more TV series left?????