I love Aaron Sorkin. I love him when he’s brilliant (The West Wing, the first season of Sports Night); I love him when he’s lurching from bad to good to really weird (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the second season of Sports Night). I love his new show The Newsroom though I think it’s a bit from column A and a bit from column B.
But he does something every writer does: He steals from his work, recycles it and uses it somewhere else. If only there was some means of editing that together, and then putting it on a website that disseminates short video clips via the internet. (Cue Jeff Daniels: “YouTube! YouTube! YouTube!”)
Reading the comments about this fascinates me. People cite this as (and the ways his dramas tend to have similar type characters) as a case for Sorkin being unoriginal. Hell, I think it’s a case for Sorkin being a writer. Writers borrow from their past works all the time. John Irving writes novel after novel featuring wrestling and dominant females and boys schools in New England. Russell T Davies loves characters named Tyler and Jones. Have you seen a Steven Moffat episode of anything that didn’t feature some smart mouthed woman somewhere? And don’t get me started about Matthew Weiner…
Someone who has read most of my screenplays commented, “You always have a gay character.” And it’s true. I do. And when writing non-fiction works like Who is the Doctor I found myself discovering I used the exact same phrase in three different places, reviewing three different things. And don’t get me started about our overuse of the words “astonishing”, “via” and “stunning”. People have quirks, and go-to things they like to write. I think it makes the work far more integral to them.