Last Sorkin post for a while, until I am ready to write about why Studio 60 is not working.
Plato distrusted the arts, because he was concerned that its beautiful illusions would interfere with day-to-day morality. People would be under the illusion that they had access to truth, when they had only fictions. Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night, the first four seasons of West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) is Plato best enemy. On the surface, Sorkin’s characters -- almost all of them, even the bad guys -- appear to be the apotheosis of ethical models in art: loving, strong, smart, deeply principled. Just to name a single example, an entire episode of Sports Night is given over to one of the main characters struggling to choose a charity to donate money to. Sorkin is a genius, one of the greatest living writers in any medium (I would put him alongside Grant Morrison and John Ashbery, and I plan to at some point). But he uses ethics, not as a model, but as an aesthetic device, the way a painter might select a particularly picturesque tree. The only complaints I have heard against Sorkin -- at least until Studio 60 -- boil down to the same objection: he is not realistic. But complaining that Sorkin is not realistic is like complaining that ice cream has no nutritional value, it misses the point. Sorkin is the only genuine – which is to say persuasive – inheritor of the films of Frank Capra, especially Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life. Capra is a filmmaker who is such a part of Americana that it can be hard to see how watching his films can be anything other than a study of the nostalgias, especially as Its a Wonderful Life hits with such regularity at Christmas. But they are great films, and Sorkin keeps them alive. Ethics as Aesthetics, beautiful, moving, unrealistic objects. Screw content. Sorkin is pure style over substance. I don't care that much what writers have to say -- as someone once noted Milton could have put all his thoughts on God into four or five pages -- I care how they say it. And Sorkin is a master.
On Studio 60 the parts are there, but they are just not persuasive in the same way. But that is for later.