Aaron Sorkin: TV’s Walker and Talker
Aaron Sorkin is an American writer best known for his screenwriting on political and news TV dramas that have won both Academy and Emmy awards.
Sorkin is closely associated with the “walk and talk” method of showing characters entering and exiting a scene as they speak incredibly quickly in monologues or short conversations that answer basic questions about the TV episode itself. Sorkin uses a single tracking shot that moves through the set and does not have any cuts.
TV Debut, Acclaim
Aaron Sorkin made his debut with “Sports Night,” a TV show that focused on the crew that mans a sports news show. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at story development, pitching, broadcast, and the inner workings of a TV show. Sorkin said he got the idea from watching ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
The show was grabbed by Disney and run on its ABC network for two seasons, starting in the fall of 1998. The show debuted with a live audience and then used a laugh track, which was a major point of contention between Sorkin and the studio. By the end of the first season, the audience was gone and so was the laugh track.
After a second season with terrible ratings, ABC cancelled the show. It was well received by critics and Sorkin was offered to have it run on other networks, but he declined since he had already moved on to his next project: “The West Wing.”
The Bartlet Administration
Sorkin’s “The West Wing” debuted on NBC in 1999. The show focused on the administration of fictional U.S. President Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen.
The show won 9 Emmy Awards in its first season. It would run for a total of seven season, but Sorkin worked only on the first four. After the second season ended, Sorkin was arrested on drug charges and ordered to undergo drug rehab.
Sorkin wrote 87 screenplays and was the producer on 88 episodes, none of which finished on time or under budget, he claimed in 2003.
Next Big Thing
After “The West Wing,” Sorkin suffered a series of personal issues and setbacks, including a divorce from his wife of nine years.
He then returned to movies for work. After successes like “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “The Social Network,” and “Moneyball,” he made a return to TV with the 2011 pitch of “The Newsroom” to HBO. HBO ordered 10 episodes and ran them starting in June, 2012.
The series focuses on the behind-the-scenes events of the Atlantis Cable News channel and centers on anchor Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels.
The show features the same filming techniques and “walk and talk” approach as Sorkin’s earlier work. It is often considered a combination of “Sports Night” and “The West Wing.”
The show finished its second season in September 2013 and has been renewed for a third season, though HBO has not provided a specific date.
All of his work highlights one major trend: Sorkin’s dialog is strong enough to break the trend of TV relying on visuals. Speeches are often a bane of TV episodes, but Sorkin has built his dynasty on lofty rhetoric espoused by his main characters.