I have a saying that I picked up from somewhere (perhaps Warren Ellis’s email blog years ago) after I watch or read something that I feel is just so damn good that it makes me wonder about my own place in any future writings that I might do:
“It makes me want to break my fingers.”
Because, when you’ve seen the top of the mountain and know that it is probably impossible to get there, well, what else can you do but end your suffering?
I’ve been reading the Dark Tower series and King has managed to make me exclaim that a couple of times. Portions of Breaking Bad managed to make me feel like that as well when we were binge watching it.
That being said, the man who does that to me more often than not (that’s an odd sentence) is Aaron Sorkin.
We’re watching the last season of the Newsroom, and I know that every time I see a new episode that I am going to have that feeling all over again. And I know that when this season is over and the show is done I won’t know what to do with myself because it will be another show that was taken away too soon that had his name on it.
I don’t know when I knew about Aaron Sorkin. I mean, I get that he wrote A Few Good Men and The American President, both of which I had watched. But I don’t think I put those things together until Sports Night came on.
A little something about Sports Night. It is a show that should have been on tv for 5 years. It should have been this show that everyone understood and loved and we could all talk about how well written it was. It should have been that show that had it all, great actors, great writing, great characters, and it was tied into the world of sports.
And yet people didn’t watch it. It was cancelled in 2000 after only 2 seasons and 45 episodes and I still don’t know that I have forgiven all of you who had TVs and didn’t watch the show. You gotta make time for stuff like that (sadly I read that it had over 10 million viewers and still got the ax because 14 years ago 10 million was not good enough – today ABC would kill for those weekly numbers).
I think it may be the only thing I’ve ever watched multiple times all the way through. About every other year I pull out my DVDs of the show and start consuming them. And little by little I’m reminded of how good the show really was.
Luckily, he’d also come up with this little show at the same time called the West Wing, which helped alleviate my loss. Weirdly, I haven’t actually watched that whole show… I’m still working through it on Netflix as I’ve seen about 3 seasons worth and then I think life got in my way (Don’t judge me! You didn’t watch Sports Night!).
Something about the way that the worlds seem to fly out of his character’s mouths. How even when they are saying terribly complicated things that are probably over my head, he manages to ground it in some way or another. He makes his characters complex, living creatures. They show who they are with their words, with how they interact with others. There is never a better feeling than when a monologue is about to begin. They seem to dance in the air, only to be replaced by the next word, next turn of phrase… and somehow, when the moment has passed, I can only sit in my seat and say “Damn.”
Watching his current show, The Newsroom, I probably say that at least three times an episode. And sometimes it is some bomb that he’s dropped, but many times it is because of a subtle moment… a joke that is told… or even where he’s poking fun at his own style (having characters talk about monologuing and the like). It comes off as… well, maybe not exactly the real world (I’ve never worked on a tv show or in the White House or at CNN), but a world I wouldn’t mind hanging out in. Though I think I’d need a script to keep up with the rest of them.
And as much as I like the man’s movies (The Social Network was all kinds of amazing), I think I love him most when he is killing himself to write all the episodes of some of these TV shows. It is nice to get 2 plus hours, but I’d almost rather get the 10 a season I’m getting now, even if I have to wait a week at a time. It may mean that I’m being greedy. And I know I should be happy with whatever I get… but I am greedy. I do want more.
So don’t think of me as a stalker if I happen to hang out on his IMDB page and read about the next thing on his agenda.
John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.
His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!
He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.