For a few people, the title of this will already give you a strong indication of what this is going to be about. For the rest, heres a ‘previously’. In all of Aaron Sorkin’s first 3 TV shows, the final episode of season has been titled ‘What Kind Of Day Has It Been’. It’s one of a number of things you can find repeated through-out his TV work (some you have to look for, and others will likely hit you in the face). Anyway it appeared to be something of a tradition, but it’s a tradition that his most recent (and apparently last) TV show ‘The Newsroom’ broke. That shows season 1 finale was titled ‘The Greater Fool’.
But as it turned out, it only bent the tradition, instead of broke it. As the Newsroom’s series (and season 3) finale used the title. So at some point I had the idle thought of ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to what all 4 versions of ‘What Kind Of Day Has It Been’ in one sitting and use that as the spine for a discussion of the similarities of the shows and how Sorkin’s writing has evolved. So that’s what i’ve just done. All 4 episodes in one go, roughly 3 hours of TV.
As it turns out the individual episodes doing have that much in common. I’d kind of hoped for some revelation whilst watching but unfortunately not, just 3 hours of quite enjoyable re-watching. But it still gives me a chance to look back at the 4 shows. And maybe give a few people a reason to rewatch.
Sports Night – Series 1 – Episode 23 – ‘What Kind Of Day Has It Been’
Of Sorkin’s 4 shows, only The West Wing got a good run. Going for 7 series, with Sorkin at the helm for the first 4. Of the other 3 shows, Sports Night is the one where it’s short run seems the most unfortunate, the most unfair. This is perhaps felt even more keenly with a sense of what might have been given that so many fans of the show seem to have found only after it was cancelled, as a result of the West Wing’s success. You could perhaps be forgiven for thinking if only that had started after The West Wing, it might have lasted longer. Although perhaps Studio 60 disproves that.
Still it did get 2 seasons and 45 episodes, which does make it the second longest run for a Sorkin show (based on number of episodes). And this is one of my favourites. Wrapping up a few season arc’s, but the more prevalent feeling of optimism at the possibilities the future holds for the characters. If you don’t get a little choked up at the ending, I don’t think we can be friends, because you’re probably dead inside.
Thinking back to the episode, I want to watch it again already, it’s only be 2+ hours since I did. That be silly, I won’t do that. Although thoughts of wrapping this blog up as quickly as possible so I can start re-watching Sports Night from the beginning have suddenly entered by brain.
So moving swiftly on…
The West Wing – Series 1 – Episode 22 – ‘What Kind Of Day Has It Been’
This is this the episode i’d seen the most times. I have The West Wing on a pretty constant loop, so I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times i’d seen this. However it was odd to watch it cold, without the build up of the previous episodes that this pays off. It was note worthy how I hadn’t at all felt that with Sports Night. It simply didn’t occur to me until I started the West Wing portion of my mini-marathon. You could probably draw conclusions about the West Wing being broader in scope and more ambitious in it’s story telling, but you’d have to do more digging to really back up that statement.
Another thing that felt odd about watching this cold and out of context was not then going onto watch episodes 1 and 2 of series 2, that directly pick up this episodes cliffhanger. Combined those 3 episodes go together so well that it’s slightly jarring to remember that they where written, filmed and broadcast several months apart.
This episode gets overshadowed somewhat by the Series 2 finale ‘Two Cathedrals’, which is understandable as thats an episode which is widely considered as the best episode of the shows 7 year run, and I count myself among a number who consider it one of the best TV episodes every produced. Even still West Wing’s ‘Day’ is very much a gripping and crucial episode. It comes in the middle of what i’d call the ‘Setting out the stall’ years of West Wing. It capes of a terrific first year, and lays solid foundations for an even better second year.
Studio 60 – Series 1 – Episode 22 – ‘What Kind Of Day Has It Been’
Studio 60 has it’s critics, and it is easy to see why, it wasn’t as gripping as The West Wing, nor was it perhaps as some might have hoped given a vaguely similar premise, a spiritual sequel to Sports Night. Lacking that shows overall energy and enthusiasm, plus a tone of hype which raised expectations to beyond reasonable levels.
Having said all that I still really like Studio 60. But for quite different reasons than the previous two shows. You could see the mechanics of the show whirring and whizzing week to week as it constantly re-adjusted to find the right gear. Generally I don’t consider that a good attribute, but for a ‘show within a show’ it kind of works if you accept it for what it is. Being a fan of Sorkin certainly helped as well.
With this particular episode, the mechanics have stopped trying to find a higher gear, instead it’s settling for the smoothest landing possible. Which it achieves, it’s twee in places, and it again feels odd watching it cold as the show had started circling for it’s landing some 4 episodes prior. It signs off with all being well, the subtle promise that “we did a good show tonight, but we can do better”.
The Newsroom – Series 3 – Episode 6 – ‘What Kind Of Day Has It Been’
Once ‘The Newsroom’ premiered in 2012, the criticism that Studio 60 got suddenly seemed quite mild, but is slightly odd on one level since The Newsroom does actually improve on nearly every central criticism of S60. Still it’s hard to refute all of the criticism it received, even if I don’t personally agree with a lot of it.
Slight spoiler here, for what will apparently be the last episode of TV he will write. Sorkin returns to the ‘How the band got together’ structure he previously used for The West Wings ‘In The Shadow of Two Gunman Parts 1 & 2’ (the two episodes which follow the West Wing’s ‘Day’ I mentioned earlier), and with strong results. The flashbacks and some much needed humour help lift up what could be been a very sombre final episode. myessayshelp
In truth it probably isn’t Sorkin which is the biggest reason to watch The Newsroom all the way to the end. If you’ve watched the full runs of his previous shows then you’ll know what you’re getting from him by now. It’s the cast who are the real reason. Sam Waterston as Charlie Skinner steals every scene he’s in. Alison Pill and John Gallagher Jr as Maggie Jordan and Jim Harper make you root for them through out, and I would think will likely be two names you’ll be watching out for in the future. Thomas Sadoski as Don Keefer manages to pull off a remarkable trick of making an initially unlikeable character incredibly likeable without you realising how or when it happened. And that’s without mentioning the leads.
Hopefully this will have make you want to go back and re-watch some of the episodes and shows i’ve discussed. If it has please let me know which ones and why.
Also, a note that I will hopefully be blogging more this year.
Finally, in looking for an accompanying image, it appears some else has already written this piece better, but hey I gave it a go. For those interested here’s vulture.com on the same topic: http://www.vulture.com/2014/12/newsroom-aaron-sorkin-what-kind-of-day-has-it-been-west-wing-sports-night-studio-60.html
Plus also, here is Sorkin on where the title comes from : http://www.zap2it.com/blogs/aaron_sorkin_explains_what_kind_of_day_has_it_been_means_to_him_the_newsroom_west_wing-2014-12