What a difference half a decade makes. In the mid-’00s, Aaron Sorkin endured a series of disgraces – getting kicked off his own show The West Wing, then creating the mesmerizingly terrible Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But now he’s riding high – a triumphant return to screenwriting brought him critical acclaim for Charlie Wilson’s War and an Oscar for The Social Network.
Now he’s headed back to TV – but no more slumming with NBC for Sorkin. He’s developing a pilot for HBO, tentatively titled More As The Story Develops, which will center on a cable news anchor and his staff, played by Jeff Daniels, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Munn, and Alison Pill. For those keeping track, this is his third show set behind the scenes of a TV show, after Studio 60 and Sports Night.
Sorkin’s always had a bit of a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde problem. When he works with material that suits his operatic sense of drama – like politics on the national stage, or a world-changing new technology – his scripts can give you chills. When he tries to bring that same good-and-evil sensibility to, say, the writers at Saturday Night Live, it’s a sanctimonious train wreck. Which will More As The Story Develops be? Obviously it will have a political aspect, but I tend to think Jon Stewart’s ego-deflating mockery is the right approach to the cable blowhards on both sides of the aisle. Who will this character be based on, anyway? Keith Olbermann? Wolf Blitzer? It’s hard to imagine the investiture of any of those guys with Sorkinian gravitas without snickering. Well, maybe Rachel Maddow could pull it off.
Also, I think HBO might be an oddly bad fit for Sorkin. When he was at the networks, he benefited from being a talented fish in a hack-filled pond, but shows on HBO are actually, you know, good, with complex characters and shades of gray. Sorkin heroes are allowed only two flaws: being too smart and having a now-conquered drug addiction (they are often also wildly condescending, but Sorkin doesn’t seem to see that as a flaw). Those kinds of paragons only pass for fully developed characters when stacked up against the detectives on Law And Order.