On Sunday night, “The Newsroom” comes to an end – and with it, apparently, Aaron Sorkin's time in television.
Sorkin has created four TV series over the last 16 years: one little-viewed but fondly-remembered comedy (“Sports Night”), one beloved, award-winning drama (“The West Wing”), one utter mess (“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”), and most recently “The Newsroom,” which has very vocal defenders and detractors, who always seem to be talking past each other in the same uncivil way that the show's characters lament about modern discourse. I've generally fallen into the detractor camp, pleased with what he's shown Olivia Munn can do as a comedienne, and enjoying a few isolated moments, but otherwise taking great issue with much of what Sorkin was doing from the first season all the way until this last one. But if Sorkin sticks to his promise to never return return to series television – “never” being a very long time – I'll miss him.
Look, I know he has his flaws as a writer. He's averse to internal conflict among his characters, which causes him to lean too much on strawman villains to cause trouble. He can make his political points so bluntly and indelicately that even those who agree with him may wince. He is comically afraid of the Internet and everything it represents. And he is really terrible at writing for and about women, with the exception of a few roles where the actresses (notably Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg) were so good that they elevated the condescending material he was giving them.
The latter flaw was among the more glaring and persistent on “The Newsroom,” and culminated in last week's heinous storyline in which producer Don Keefer patronizingly lectured a campus rape survivor about the ethics of accusing men of rape. (Emily Nussbaum, James Poniewozik and Todd VanDerWerff are among the many who wrote eloquently on what a disaster that whole story was.)
So why am I going to miss Sorkin's presence on television? Why did I watch all 22 episodes of “Studio 60,” a show I didn't like at all? Why did I watch three seasons of “The Newsroom,” a show I only liked intermittently?
For one thing, when it comes to putting words in the mouths of his actors, there are only a few dramatists in the history of the medium (Milch, Kelley and Sorkin's idol Paddy Chayefsky, to name three) I'd put on his level. For another, I never know when Bad Sorkin will give way to Good Sorkin – which it did on a bunch of occasions throughout the brief, difficult run of “The Newsroom” (particularly whenever Jane Fonda was around) – and I don't want to miss the chance to see that happen, just as Dan Rydell on “Sports Night” once insisted that he and his potential girlfriend watch a meaningless baseball game featuring the return of a seemingly washed-up pitcher, because, “There”s really nothing like seeing a guy realize he”s not done yet.”
Sorkin's obviously not done with his writing career. He has that Oscar for “The Social Network,” his Steve Jobs biopic is still going to be made (even if it recently jumped studios), and I imagine he's going to remain in demand for a long time. But after the mess that was last week's “Newsroom” (which also featured Will McAvoy arguing with his father's ghost for an hour), and with the finale of his latest disappointment airing this weekend, we wanted to pick a few great Sorkin moments, from the small screen and the big one, that illustrate just why we stick with his work even when it's infuriating.
These are 10 of our favorites. What are some of yours? And will you miss the actuality of “The Newsroom” after Sunday, or just the platonic ideal of it?