Commentary: Suggestions For Aaron Sorkin’s TV Return

by | November 19, 2009 at 10:38 AM | 42-Inch Television

Aaron Sorkin (Getty Images)

Aaron Sorkin (Getty Images)

That he hasn’t been part of a successful television show since the mid-90s didn’t really diminish the outpouring of joy that spread around the web over the announcement that Aaron Sorkin is returning to television. Never mind that reports that he was working on a third show-within-a-show series (after ‘Sports Night’ and ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’) surfaced in April.

When he’s not writing screenplays—forget the sure-fire home run that will be David Fincher’s Facebook movie, ‘The Social Network,’ I’m more interested to see what Sorkin could possibly do to turn ‘Moneyball’ into compelling cinema—or appearing on ‘Entourage,’ Sorkin is one of the select few writer-producers who can still excite fickle television critics, both young and old.

Whether viewers will care is a different story, obviously, since they surely didn’t pay attention to ‘Studio 60.’ Perhaps though, in this now-disjointed world of network television, writer-producers like Sorkin, J.J. Abrams, Matthew Weiner and Josh Schwartz, can help networks to stay relevant; like big name directors, they might cost more than your average showrunner, but at least you’re assured of getting something buzz-worthy and promotable. And in this era, being buzz-worthy is sometimes just as good as concrete ratings (see: ‘Mad Men,’ ‘The Vampire Diaries’). Plus, as crazy as it sounds, if ‘Studio 60’ premiered on NBC this fall, there is no way it would have been canceled so soon. Bear in mind, this is the network that picked up ‘Mercy.’

Wherever Sorkin’s latest show winds up—early guesses ABC or NBC; he doesn’t seem like a CBS kind of guy—I already know it’s going to be filled with the same overly produced dialogue and character actors (hey, Janel Moloney, hope you have some time available!) that marked his previous efforts. The venue is still up in the air, but the rumor back in April had Sorkin focusing this series on the behind the scenes doings of a cable news show—something so obvious it almost causes one to facepalm—allowing him to attack both politics and television in one fell swoop. Doesn’t a show that combines ‘The West Wing’ and ‘Sports Night’ sound pretty appealing? I thought so.

In lieu of that, however, here are some other suggestions, free of charge!

The Late Night Talk Show!

I’ve seen some suggestions that Sorkin try his hand at something like ‘The Daily Show,’ but wouldn’t the world of network late night talk shows be so much more compelling? You could go with the snarky old veteran, embroiled in a sex scandal (Letterman) or the once-hip newcomer saddled with the baggage of his safe-but-successful predecessor (Conan). Either way, there is enough drama and intrigue in the world of late night to fill multiple series.

The Awards Show!

Of course this would have a finite length attached to it almost immediately, but I can’t be the only person infatuated with what goes on behind the scenes at glamorous awards shows: the backstabbing, the in-fighting, the allure of “live.” Sorkin’s patented twisting camera work would fit well inside a huge auditorium. Plus, the chance for celebrity cameos wouldn’t hurt during sweeps week.

The Network!

With television clearly in a state of turmoil, what better place for Sorkin to affix his sharp gaze than the hand that feeds him. A show about how a network fights to survive could be just the type of series that actually saves a network—a “fall on our sword, this is what we’re up against”-type polemic that, for once, treats network executives with compassion, and not the butt of a joke (see: ’30 Rock’). Lest everyone forget, the best parts of ‘Studio 60’ dealt with Steven Weber and Amanda Peet running the fictional NBC stand-in. If you want ‘The West Wing,’ but about television, this is the closest you might get. Sorkin just better make sure he leaves room for Allison Janney.

Three More Inches

Am I to believe an entire episode of ‘Glee’ occurred last night without one single appearance from Jane Lynch? Who thought that was a good idea?

I can’t help but think ABC’s ‘V’ would be performing better if it had aired its first four episodes over two nights. The ratings have dropped nearly 50 percent since the premiere, meaning the marketing was good but the show hasn’t delivered. Spreading it out over a month caused people to vanish, when they were so excited initially.

As Will Arnett keeps filling up his schedule with television appearances (‘Parks and Recreation’) and movie deals (‘Space Invader’), doesn’t the ‘Arrested Development’ movie feel further away than ever? Hope you wrote that 2010 start date down in pencil.