Barefoot Doctor Says Aaron Sorkin’s HBO Pilot Script Is Brilliant!!
Published on: May 06, 2011 9:31:23 PM CDT
SPOILER ALERT !!
I am – Hercules!!
Aaron Sorkin is the “West Wing” creator who also scripted “A Few Good Men,” “The American President,” “Charlie Wilson’s War” and “The Social Network,” as well as two other two other series that went behind the scenes at live TV shows: ABC’s “Sports Night” and NBC’s “Studio 60.”
Sorkin's latest project is for HBO. Right now, the channel has only greenlit a pilot.
If HBO decides not to take it series (tentatively titled “More As The Story Develops”) all will be sadness.
“Barefoot Doctor” has read the HBO pilot script:
Let’s face it, Sorkin has never shied away from stealing ideas – it’s just that usually the ideas are his own. He’s at it again here, but it’s refreshing to see him try some new things. Usually his shows revolve around brothers – see Sports Night or Studio 60 (even TWW was intended to be Josh/Sam centric).
Our main character is Will McCallister, described in the script as either side of 40, but who is being aged by around a decade after the casting of Jeff Daniels. Straight away, it’s established that Will is not a popular man, either with the public or his own staff. In fact, the vast majority of his disgruntled staff have walked out, with the exception of just three. There’s Neal, an Indian staffer; Maggie Jordon, a producer on the assignment desk; and Steve Manning, more senior than the last two but probably the least talented. Maggie and Steve are dating, but it’s not going well. Steve is a bit of a schmuck, and we’re not supposed to like him.
Which is another refreshing change – usually Sorkin’s characters are there to be cheered – maybe the move to HBO has forced him to try and create some more conflict between the main cast?
Will meets with Charlie Skinner, his immediate boss and president of the cable news division of United Broadcasting Systems. You’ve met Charlie before, when he was Isaac Jaffee on Sports Night and Leo McGarry on The West Wing. He’s in charge of the operation, tough but popular. Charlie informs Will that he’s brought in a new person to produce his show – which, surely in a nod to his previous programme about a cable TV show, is called News Night.
The producer in question is his ex, Mackenzie Machale. The script really comes alive with her arrival, and while there’s more than a vague similarity to the Matt/Harriet relationship in Studio 60 (or even the Josh/Mandy one in TWW), here it’s handled with much more maturity. And instead of dragging down the show, it’s actually interesting. Maybe Sorkin’s learnt something from those past pairings after all. Emily Mortimer will rock the role – just let her stay British.
She’s brought some new staff members with her, including Jim Harper, probably the most Sorkin-esque character on the show. He’s basically Sam Seaborn by way of Jeremy Goodwin. It’s Jim who scores a massive scoop that will help to revitalize News Night. Will made the near-fatal mistake of saying America wasn’t the best country in the world, and no amount of statistics could help. Jim immediately falls for Maggie, meaning we have an awkward little love-triangle brewing between Jim, Maggie and Steve.
Sorkin decides to use a real-life incident as the main news story in the pilot – the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of last year. I’m not sure if the plan is to set the show a year in the past so that viewers are aware of the stories being discussed, but I expect Sorkin will use a blend of fictional and non-fictional, much like he did on Sports Night. I can’t wait for the series finale where Will gets the scoop about the world’s most wanted man being taken out….
Anyway, thanks to Jim they discover the extent of the damage that is set to occur in the Gulf of Mexico while rival networks fail to see the real story. It’s here the show really kicks into high-gear, as the newly-formed team start to work their sources and get the story on the air. Its fascinating to read, and should work brilliantly on screen. Sorkin, ever the control-freak, even goes into detail in the script about how the score should sound throughout.
One of the main problems with Studio 60 was that Sorkin made out that the work the writers and cast members on the show-within-the-show were doing was of national importance, when really their jobs were just to make people laugh. But here, their jobs really ARE that important – and yes, there are a couple of roll-your-eyes moments when Sorkin’s speechifying kicks in, but nothing you haven't seen before. I’m guessing nobody would be surprised if I said there’s an off-the-cuff speech about democracy. Why don’t they just talk about last night’s American Idol like the rest of us?
But it is a brilliant read. Vintage Sorkin, the 86-pages are pacey and funny, with all his hallmarks present – love them or loathe them.
One thing – despite being written for HBO, there’s nothing particularly adult about the show. Yes, some F-bombs are dropped from time to time, but aside from that it’s very much in tone with his previous works. I guess the ability to swear just adds a few extra tools to Sorkin's box of tricks. Either that or we can expect gratuitous Jeff Daniels ass shots.
One word of warning – Studio 60’s pilot script was expceptional. Better than this one, in fact. I’m expecting more from this – it just suits Sorkin’s style so much more, and sheds light on a truly fascinating subject that deserves to be explored.
How does it end: “Did anybody see the news tonight?”
Will McCallister: The face of News Night, he is smart and brilliant but his staff just don’t like him. Described as around 40 in the script, he’ll be played by 56-year-old Jeff Daniels.
Mackenzie Machale: Ageless and beautiful, she has a complicated romantic history with Will that must be put aside if she’s got any chance of surviving as his new exec producer.
Maggie Jordon: A staffer on the assignment desk, she forms an immediate bond with Mackenzie when she arrives.
Jim Harper: Late 20s, he arrives at the show with Mackenzie, and immediately falls in love with Maggie.
Steve Manning: A semi-senior producer on the show, he and Maggie are dating but he’s a bit of a jerk and is immediately jealous of Jim stealing his thunder.
Charlie Skinner: President of UBS’s cable news division, he’s the boss and more Leo McGarry than Jack Rudolph.