Newsroom returns tonight on HBO. I watch the show, and while its often well acted & written, it does have a bothersome range, careening from annoyingly preachy to genuinely interesting plot lines.
While Aaron Sorkin’s writing is sharp, and his characters are mostly very good, I don’t want to discuss Newsroom.
Rather than discuss that show, I want to point you to a much earlier work of his: Sports Night. It was on in 1998, barely lasting 2 seasons. The tagline explains it pretty well: “It’s a Show About a Show About Sports, That Isn’t About Sports At All.”
I really enjoyed the show when it first aired. It has been described as “the funniest show you never watched.”
FX has been rerunning it in order — and I have been binge watching it. There were 45 episodes (plus the pilot) which are rapidly filling my TiVo.
Sports Night showcased what became know as Sorkin’s schtick — the rapid fire dialogue, complex characters, interoffice romances, and intricate plot lines. It is probably best known as the show that tee’d up Sorkin to get West Wing greenlit.
Sports Night is my favorite Sorkin show, and in many ways his best. But it was much more than that. In West Wing, the politics drove the plot line. There was a tendency to get too distracted by partisan debate. Because the focus of the show is a Sports Show, Sorkin’s tendency to get preachy instead make for small interesting digressions. Issues such as decriminalization of marijuana, sexual assault in sports, issues with hunting become fodder for the secondary plot lines. The politics seem to work better when the show focuses elsewhere.
It’s about sports. The same way Charlie’s Angels was about law enforcement.
Newsroom on HBO