Tuesday saw the pilot episode of Aaron Sorkin’s THE NEWSROOM on Sky Atlantic. And what a treat it was – a wonderful piece of writing. A real achievement to pull off something of such scale and thematic ambition within about 4 interior sets – there wasn’t an exterior in the whole episode!

The pre-credit sequence which has been doing the rounds on youtube etc for weeks was wonderful enough in itself – writing of real flair and bravura, and a wonderful performance from the outstanding Jeff Daniels – but when you saw it in the context of the episode as a whole, it was even better.

Brilliant in conception – the personal politics of a newsroom – but focusing on the minutiae of a REAL news story. So not only was it hugely entertaining, it also brilliantly went into the detail of the BP oil disaster off Louisiana in 2010. And was hugely instructive.

There was so much to take away from this in terms of setting up story and characters in a pilot episode. The dynamics between the characters were great – to my mind it was witty, engaging and hugely entertaining.

So next morning I thought I’d have a look at what the critics thought. Well generally speaking the arrogant, ignorant bastards pissed on it from a great height.

‘Aaron Sorkin, the justly celebrated American writer behind The West Wing and The Social Network, recently told The Daily Telegraph that his new drama The Newsroom (Sky Atlantic) was “a Valentine to journalism”. On the basis of last night’s opening episode, the series, which places us behind the scenes of an American current affairs show, belongs to the long tradition of woeful mistakes made by men in love. It is, for a writer of Sorkin’s talents, an embarrassment.’ Daily Telegraph

‘it generally sinks once again up to its wheel wells into the kind of morass that has plagued Sorkin ever since people started talking about The West Wing as though he had reinvented television drama’ Esquire Magazine

Unbelievable! This 2nd review seems to also be saying he hasn’t written anything decent since ‘The West Wing’. Did the seminal ‘The Social Network’ pass him \ her  by?

I despair of the snotty superiority of critics. Aaron Sorkin has clearly got up their nose because he’s smart and he knows it – but in my humble view, THE NEWSROOM is an exceptional piece of screenwriting  – you may not agree with its thesis or its possibly romanticised view of the US – but it’s undeniable that the writing has real flair – the dialogue is razor-sharp, the personal politics between the characters fascinating; and the pace and brio of the show hugely exciting.

I’ve lost count of the number of fantastic shows I’ve enjoyed in the past few years that have been ripped to shreds by smug, mediocre critics.

I’m pissed off for the talented writers who have to put up with this abuse but more than that I’m pissed off for US the viewers who end up missing some fantastic shows because we’re unreliably informed they’re no good by idiots.

Which is one of the reasons why in my poll of a few weeks back I asked for your ‘undeservedly overlooked gems’ – see

OK, rant over. I’m going to lie down in a darkened room for a while to regain my equilibrium.


In Part 2 of this week’s newsletter I’m going to do a bit of a hard sell on my course, ‘The Authoritative Guide To Writing And Selling A Great Screenplay’.


We are running the course again in central London on the weekend of Sept 22 + 23. I run this course with my experienced screenwriter mate Phil Gladwin. Phil has worked on many UK TV shows (and has also recently had a stageplay on tour and a play on BBC radio). Among the shows he has worked on are ‘The Bill’, ‘Casualty’, ‘The Sarah-Jane Adventures’ and, in my view, one of the best ever ‘Trial & Retribution’ stories (Lynda La Plante notwithstanding). Phil also runs his own screenwriting website and has written a really excellent screenwriting manual based on his first-hand experiences as a successful professional screenwriter in the UK.

So Phil brings his expertise and experience as a writer, I bring a slightly different perspective as a script editor and producer, who has worked with a huge number of screenwriters on a huge number of different projects.  See

But between us we have learnt a thing or two about screenwriting and how to get the best out of yourself as a writer.

Day One of the course is about the craft of screenwriting – involving a series of idea-generating exercises which will really open up your creativity – so many exciting ideas have come out of these sessions in the past – and an examination of the fundamentals of dramatic structure based on Phil’s writing method honed over many years of success; a look at what it takes to create new series; and sessions on dialogue and characterisation.

Day Two is about the business of screenwriting. A large part of the day is spent on pitching – and honing your own pitch to take out into the big bad world; about networking – its importance and how to ENJOY it; and generally about how to get work and build a career as a screenwriter.

On this September course we’re delighted to announce that we’ll be joined on the Sunday afternoon by top literary agent MATTHEW BATES from Sayle Screen. Matthew is a hugely experienced (and very nice) agent, working at the cutting edge of the industry. His tips about how to get an agent, what to expect from an agent and how to build a career as a screenwriter will be invaluable

 As a whole the course is about giving you the opportunity to express yourself as writers – this is not a course where you sit and listen for two days. We ask a lot of you – and consequently the people who do this course get a lot out of it. Don’t take my word for it – have a look at the testimonials we have received.

This is why we limit the numbers to 20 – we want to give everyone on the course the chance to express themselves and get the most from the course .

A big bonus of the course is the opportunity to sign up to our ‘screenwriters studio’ closed facebook page. This is an online community only open to those who have been on our courses and it’s developed into a wonderful arena for a select group of screenwriters to trade information about the world of screenwriting – with tips, recommendations and insider information about writing opportunities.

Happy Writing

Until next week



July 13th 2012