Aaron Sorkin says he's done writing for TV, and not a moment too soon
The Newsroom just aired its third and final season premiere, but already its creator Aaron Sorkin is thinking about the future—and it looks like his next inspirational monologues won’t be airing on television.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 8, Sorkin said, “I’m pretty certain I’m about to write my last three episodes of television,” referring to the final three episodes of The Newsroom. Sorkin acknowledges the whole “never say never” adage, but when pressed about whether “pretty certain” meant forever, he remained firm.
“Yeah. And I want to be really clear about this. Really clear about this,” he said. “I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent in television. And I’ve had much more failure, as traditionally measured, than success in television. I’ve done four shows, and only one of them was The West Wing.”
Now, just about anyone who says they’re done with something in film, TV, or music usually finds a way of returning, but even if Sorkin is consciously uncoupling (or whatever term he wants to create) with television, it’s a good thing. His best writing in over a decade has almost exclusively been in film.
Having left The West Wing in 2003, the recent traces of his White House-set brilliance have been in his film scripts—The Social Network, Moneyball, and Charlie Wilson’s War. His TV has taken an almost identical form in every new case—a behind-the-scenes look at a sports news show, a behind-the-scenes look at the White House, a behind-the-scenes look at a sketch comedy show, and a behind-the-scenes look at a cable news show. Three quarters of his television work has focused on the television medium itself, and the guy may just need some distance from TV in general. His best of the four shows, The West Wing, had nothing to do with TV.
So far his film work has never included a behind-the-scenes look at a film production company, and it’s worked out pretty well. Each of his last three films has been nominated or won for Best Screenplay at the Oscars, the Golden Globes, or both.
With Jobs on the way as well, there’s no reason for Sorkin to cling to a TV show that hasn’t quite panned out the way fans or even he may have hoped. Despite its occasional bright spots, Sorkin hasn’t used The Newsroom to, in any demonstrable way, improve on his shortcomings or even emphasize his strengths. Bad Sorkin can be as fascinating to watch as great Sorkin, but his latest foray into TV is the worst kind of Sorkin—the forgettable kind.
So while his seasons on The West Wing and Sports Night will forever be revered, Sorkin quitting TV isn’t really the shame it would have been a decade ago. Maybe he needs another 10 years or so to figure out what his truly great next show will be. Hopefully it won’t be a behind-the-scenes look at the production of a YouTube video series, or whatever the latest media trend comes along to fascinate Sorkin in 2024.