HBO has taken a major step forward in launching a series by Aaron Sorkin that chronicles the backstage drama at a cable news network.

The pay cabler has officially given a pilot order to Sorkin’s project, which could mark the much-anticipated return of The Social Network scribe to the small screen. To prepare, Sorkin spent time on Keith Olbermann’s set while penning the behind-the-scenes script (think Sports Night meets Countdown), something he did while juggling The Social Network and working on an early draft of the upcoming film Moneyball (starring Brad Pitt).

If greenlit, the project would mark Sorkin’s return to the politically charged workplace drama series — subject matter that gave NBC one of its longest running hits with Sorkin’s The West Wing.

Clearly, HBO was waiting until after Tuesday’s Oscar nominations to confirm what has turned out to be the cabler’s worst-kept secret. (Sorkin has given several interviews about the project, including one with BBC News recently in which he talked about shadowing Chris Matthews and Fox News). Sorkin, who snagged an Oscar nomination for writing The Social Network, has already won a Golden Globe and scored a BAFTA nomination.

It’s likely that Sorkin will call upon his trusted allies to help carry out his vision on the HBO project. Emmy-winning scribes like Kevin Falls (Franklin & Bash) and Eli Attie (House M.D.) — both of whom worked on The West Wing – could help Sorkin run the show, while Thomas Schlamme would be a natural to direct. It’s also possible that Sorkin could call on Olbermann – now out of work – to contribute the occasional rant. Sure, there’s no money in it for the ex-MSNBC blowhard, but it would make a great credit at the end of the show, right?