Aaron Sorkin Has The Most Boomer Taste In Music Imaginable
Tonight is a new episode of The Newsroom. I am decidedly in the LIKE column for the show, with reservations. It’s not perfect, but very few shows are. But I don’t care to dissect his woman problem, his critic problem or his repetitive dialog problem.
I’d like to discuss his music problem.
Sorkin rarely uses music in his shows and films. Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t know much about pop music, but he most certainly doesn’t have the palette or depth of knowledge of showrunners like Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood) or Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Gossip Girl). Ball doesn’t load his shows down with music, but he does put carefully selected cues into the right moments and often chooses to work, in conjunction with his music supervisors (Gary Calamar worked on both with him), with extremely credible artists. Schwartz jam packs his shows with music. Wall to wall. And all of it is probably better than the dialogue in his soapy shows. He works with music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, who has practically built her career around working on Schwartz’s and Shonda Rhimes’ (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice) shows.
At the end of the day, the music supervisor may make suggestions and then clear the rights for whatever the showrunner wants to use. How much input they have varies from project to project. The Newsroom doesn’t even have a credited music supervisor. Neither did The West Wing. That’s because Sorkin doesn’t need a full time person on that desk — he knows how little he’s going to clear music and can just pass it on to the production company or HBO to handle. That’s fine. It separates him from the crowd. It’s his style.
What is remarkable is, with no one to bounce music ideas off of, Sorkin consistently uses the most Boomer-centric, white bread music cues you could imagine.
For example, The Newsroom’s biggest music cue so far in season one was Coldplay’s “Fix You” — used in an episode titled “I Will Try To Fix You.” This is a trick Sorkin likes and you can bet he’ll repeat. On The West Wing, one of his few big music cues were Don Henley (!!!) with his song “New York Minute” in the “Somebody’s Going To Emergency, Somebody’s Going To Jail” (part of the song’s chorus) episode. The extremely heavy handed music cue is his forte, but he’s always underlining his point with a pencil by choosing the least jarring, most Boomer-friendly and utterly lacking in oomph. Using music in the sparse way he does should put a bang on the point, but his choices generally turn it into a wimper.
I’ve heard a few other little tinges of music in the background on The Newsroom including someone karaoking Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly,” a really old Radiohead song, Elvis Presley’s “Burning Love” was invoked at one point. This probably already amounts to more music cues than Sorkin has used in one season of any of his past series.
And the terrifyingly white bread, middle aged music threatens to get worse. John Gallagher, Jr. (aka Jim the “good guy” senior producer — and in real life a Tony award winner for his Broadway performances in Spring Awakening) told E! that the plotline introduced in “Bullies” where anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is an accomplished musician who plays on his friends’ albums from time to time is getting further exploration.
“Aaron found out that Jeff is also a singer/songwriter and he puts out his own records and then he found out that I play guitar and sing,” Gallagher said. “So, one day, he said, ‘Oh, there’s going to be an episode when you and Jeff are jamming.’ I thought he was kidding, but two weeks later I found out that he wasn’t kidding and that he had worked it into the script.”
Jesus help us unless someone gets T-Bone Burnett involved, stat.