On Thursday, HBO officially picked up a new series written by Aaron Sorkin — a behind-the-scenes look at cable news tentatively titled More As This Story Develops. (No premiere date has been set yet.) In the series, Jeff Daniels stars as the quixotic anchor of a struggling network staffed by actors Emily Mortimer, Sam Waterston, and Olivia Munn. Sorkin has been the toast of Hollywood of late, with his Oscar-winning screenplay for The Social Network and early raves for his Moneyball script. But before those big-screen accolades, the West Wing and Sports Night scribe was thought of as the sharpest writer in television. Now that he's returning, here are six reasons critics are cheering:
1. This is right in his wheelhouse
Whether it's the inner workings of the White House on The West Wing or backstage of a TV show on Sports Night (which tackled sports news) and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (sketch comedy), Sorkin "has a knack for writing about what really might be going on behind the scenes," says Kelly West at Cinema Blend. Expect his look at cable news to be equally insightful.
2. And he'll have loads of creative freedom
It's "doubly exciting" that this is an HBO series, says West. The network's generous budget and content flexibility will grant Sorkin more creative freedom than ever before. (All of his previous TV efforts aired on the FCC- and money-constrained NBC).
3. This will be like Studio 60… only better
Though it began with infinite promise, it became clear early on that Studio 60 — which was canceled after just one season — wasn't working, says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. One of the problems was that the show-within-the-show — an SNL-like sketch comedy — "never seemed as funny as the characters insisted it was." The sentiment at the time was that Sorkin should have applied his successful Sports Night formula to cable news rather than sketch comedy. Now he's doing just that — with the added bonus of "the authority that comes with winning an Oscar."
4. Sorkin did his homework
Before he wrote the pilot, says Simon Dang at Indie Wire, Sorkin did extensive research on the manic world of cable news. He shadowed both Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews to get a feel for how his show's lead would act in the work environment. He also spent time at both the Fox News and CNN studios. Expect a very realistic reflection of the cable news world.
5. HBO's other political shows have been fantastic
The official premise of the series released by HBO explains that the news team will "set out on a patriotic and quixotic mission to do the news well in the face of corporate and commercial obstacles." HBO boasts a winning track record of fascinating "politically-charged" projects, says Michael Crider at Screen Rant, including 2008's Recount, about the events following the Bush-Gore election debacle, and this year's Wall Street meltdown telepic Too Big to Fail.
6. The cast is terrific
Sorkin has rounded up yet another impressive cast, says Richard Lawson at Gawker. Jeff Daniels as the anchor and Emily Mortimer as his producer should both be great. Then there's a talented group of actors largely known for their theater work — John Gallagher, Jr., Allison Pill, and Thomas Sadowski. Add in Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel, True Blood's Adina Porter (who plays Tara's drunken mom on the vampire drama), and Law & Order's Sam Waterston: "That's a good crew."