I like to watch television series from start to favorite and have over three dozen complete runs to enjoy. My standard practice is to watch one episode a day for the series I am going through, although I might go back-to-back with a two-parter. But when I decided to watch the one season of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" I went through all 22 episodes in five days (it would have been less but I had other things to watch, classes to teach, time to spend sleeping, etc.). When my wife heard what I was doing she decided to lie in bed for two days and watching the entire series from start to finish. So that would be a pretty good indication of how much we liked the late and lamented television series from Aaron Sorkin.
I am enthralled the art of writing and so wish that when it comes to writing that my attention span was better suited to actual works of literature than writing reviews. With this television show I get to appreciate both the writing of the episodes and the parts in the episodes where people are writing. But the bottom line remains that I simply love the way Sorkin writes and have yet to reach my saturation point with watching (although I should really say "listening") repeats of "The West Wing" the way I have other series that I love (Yes, I know that Sorkin only produced and wrote the first four seasons of the show, but those were the best ones and I would swear that those who wrote in his wake were trying to emulate his style). It goes without saying that the same comments apply to Sorkin's first television series, "Sports Night."
Beyond that, I find this television shows particularly affecting. I think I got choked up more often watching "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" than for any single season of any television show I have ever seen. I do not just mean getting teary eyed over all of the life and death questions resolved in the final episode ("What Kind of Day Has It Been"), or when Harriet tells Matt "You knock my sox off," or when Danny tells Jordan "I'm coming for you." I mean things like when Matt bet Jeannie $10,000 that the number of people who liked her "Commedia dell'arte" routine is going to go from two to three people ("The Focus Group"). My wife probably cried more often than I did watching the show, which apparently speaks to a hitherto unrecognized point of commonality between our disparate natures, but once again reinforces our shared affection for the series.
This is not to say the show was perfect, because it was not. My first fear that the series might be fatally flawed came in the second episode where we did not get to see the Crazy Christian skit and were instead treated to reworked lyrics for a Gilbert & Sullivan songs that were okay, but not memorable. You can only talk about a killer skit so much before you have to show the damn thing. Of course that means you have to write an absolutely killer skit and maybe it is the case that Sorkin never tired, but what matters in the end is that we never get to see any of it in the show. Because the point is the show behind the show we do not get to see that much of the show in front of the show behind the show, and what we do see is not stellar late night sketch comedy. The takeoff on Nancy Grace was pretty good and I liked the dry wit of the White House press conferences, but the news segments never amounted to much of anything. For me the funniest bit of the entire season was the running gag in "The Harriet Dinner (1)" of Harriet's inability to tell a joke, although I have to say it is a toss-up between Holly Hunter and Dolphin Girl for which of Harriet's voices cracks me up more.
I know that Sorkin is condemned as a liberal, but he certainly writes some of the best political characters. That was true on "The West Wing" with characters from Ainsley Hayes to Arnold Vinick, with the likes of Christopher Mulready and Sheila Brooks in between, and with Harriet Hayes we find Sorkin doing for evangelical Christians what he did for conservative Republicans (I always thought it would have been interesting to continue "The West Wing" with a Republican president to show that dramatic political storytelling is not just the province of the left). Ultimately what makes Harriet a fascinating character is that despite the inherent contradiction, she is never going to give up her faith in God or her love for Matt. The question is whether he will ever stop taking one step backwards for every step forward in his relationship with here. Sorkin and his talented ensemble cast knew the show was over by the time they got to the final episode and were already to provide a sense that the characters go on even if the series does not, which provides some small measure of comfort. I certainly appreciate that because tonight I start watching "Carnivale," a series HBO jettisoned before the end was even in sight.