Shark Jumping: Are Aaron Sorkin Shows Any Good?

Tim & Beth take a look at Aaron Sorkin TV shows, to figure out why his newer shows are so bad and whether the older ones were any good in the first place.

About SharkJumping

Hosts Tim & Beth break down the best, worst and strangest TV shows to find out when they jumped the shark.

22 comments

  1. OverlyCaucasianMale

    I think Aaron Sorkin has talent, but lately his ego has gotten to the point where it’s eating itself.

    He’s never been that good at writing female characters, and Maggie Jordan and Mackenzie McHale are the pinnacle of that. They’re horrible characters, annoying and self-righteous.

    Even his best films like A Few Good Men or The Social Network have huge problems. The Social Network is filled with unlikable jerks and A Few Good Men gets really preachy and treacly by the end.

    His Steve Jobs movie should be okay, though. Since it’s already about a notoriously mercurial person, it fits him like a glove.

    • wasn’t the social network mainly about unlikable jerks? Do the characters have to be likable to be interesting?

    • “He’s never been good at writing female characters.” Yeah I can think of a few examples where that’s not true (or, at least, are exceptions to the rule): C.J Creeg, Abby Bartlett, Donna Moss, and Mrs. Landingham

    • His female characters are awful when it comes to relationships, sure. But so are his male characters. That goes back as far as Sports Night. His next series would be better served if he just skips the “will they/won’t they” angle entirely because relationships ARE his weakpoint.

      (Though his West Wing material was pretty great all around for the 4 seasons he did there. Something about the material worked fantastically for him.)

      But other than that his female characters tend to be strong, intelligent, witty individuals that are able to hold jobs in high positions of power that are on an even playing field with the boys.

      And after Maggie’s character arc with the dead kid? How is that not a strong and interesting character arc?

      • Now that you bring up the “will they/won’t they” point, I can kinda see it. But I think the CJ/ Danny romance was believable, and I thought it was kind of strong. But that’s just me.

  2. The late episodes of The Newsroom really just felt like sermons from the Book of Sorkin wrapped up in a brittle shell of fiction that was getting thinner each week. There’s one episode that turns into a musing on rape where Don actually goes to talk to the victim who’s coming forward publicly in her dorm room. Why they couldn’t have just spoken on the phone is not addressed, other than the fact that then they wouldn’t have been able to get Don standing over her evangelising about how evil blogs are.

    • If they ran with the story, they would have been putting her on camera. Being there in person helps judge if a person is lying or being sincere and if its worth dragging in a camera crew in or flying the person to the studio.

      Don didn’t want to do the story to begin with, and the scene wasn’t about how evil blogs were. It was about how even if you have good intentions, if you give *every person in the world* access to what amounts to a revenge hotline, it can and will go south. Just look at what happened with Gamergate, and imagine that in reverse.

      Same as the rest of the show, it was about trying to be right in your reporting, and the news should not about airing your own personal or issues… much like a season earlier when they prevented someone from coming out on their show, because it wasn’t the place for it.

  3. Say what you want about Studio 60 or Newsroom, but West Wing still holds up. I’ve watched all seven seasons not long ago, and yes, Sorkin has his slant on things, but he was pretty even-handed overall. Hell, the issues brought up in West Wing resonate today, which is more a polemic about the state of politics than on the show itself. Sometimes it does come off as an idealized idea of government than a real dissertation on current government, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    So no, I don’t think Sorkin was “never” good. Much like Frank Miller or Orson Scott Card, he’s a good writer that has fallen victim to his own hubris.

  4. MidnightScreeningsman2014

    funny that critics in 2005 thought studio 60 was going to crush 30 Rock(which it didn’t studio 60 got cancelled and 30 Rock went on to be successful). He also had a guest spot on 30 rock which is ironic(well you know what I mean). Critics on rotten tomatoes liked the newsroom so I don’t see why you guys don’t like it. Women on the internet probably sent him bad e-mails for having such weak and annoying female characters. At least he’s better at movies(like with moneyball etc).

    • I haven’t seen his other shows so I can’t say much, but his female characters on The West Wing were all pretty strong and pretty well-written. CJ, Abby, Donna, and even Mrs. Landingham (despite her short run on the show) are some of my favorites.

    • That’s because 30 Rock was a dumb straight comedy that appealed to a wide audience the same way Big Bang Theory does, while Studio 60 was a smart show about the writing process… but wasn’t really very funny despite the expectations that it would be… being about a Saturday Night Live sort of thing.

      Comedians didn’t gel well with Sorkin’s higher ideals speeches the way high level politicians or execs do

  5. Say what you will, but I actually enjoy the West Wing. I was a child when it came on, but I recently started marathoning it on Netflix. I really like the show. Just my opinion.

  6. My money on the newsroom over studio 60, it has a bit more material to discuss, although both would be fun (Studio 60 nowaday like an odd artefact of it’s time)

  7. I usually don’t see Dennis Miller or Aaron Sorkin’s national-pride tone as patriotic in the sense that they’re smarter, but that they are more first-amendment freedom fighters.

  8. I agree that Aaron Sorkin lost his mind a bit after 9/11. From ‘Isaac and Ishmael’ onward you can see a definite shift in politics on the West Wing. Far from being the critical response to Bush’s presidency that it had been before, it essentially became a cheerleader for war. The most heartbreaking result of this was Leo’s character assassination, who went from threatening to raise an army against Jed in season one to bloodthirsty hawk in season six.

  9. it kind of bothers me that your cartoon picture doesnt match your actual physique. why do people do that? just represent yourselves as you are. i dont have much to say on the actual topic, but yeah, that bothers me

  10. The Newsroom is a great show. It’s the kick in the balls we needed.

  11. Beth said it all with the dialogue. I saw almost all of season 1 of Newsroom and I couldn’t take it anymore. The way they all spoke to one another was so robotic and/or preachy, I might as well have watched computers arguing. And I’m a liberal, but even I couldn’t stand how perfectly scripted everything Jeff Daniels would say. I never did watch West Wing, but I did see Sports Night which I remembering liking a bit more. A Few Good Men was good at least 😛

    But remember 30 Rock wasn’t such a ratings juggernaut itself and Tina Fey has said she has no idea how it wasn’t cancelled, except that it kept winning awards.

  12. I feel the exact same way about David E Kelley

  13. Aaron Sorkin’s running theme is an idealized patriotism that is socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and pro-military? So he is doing the same thing that Robert Heinlein did with Starship Troopers?

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