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If at first you don’t succeed…

One of the hardest things to deal with in this industry is rejection and failure. Those two go hand in hand as far as I’m concerned, since failure generally comes as a result of rejection. An executive rejects your premise, an audience rejects your finished product, etc. What makes it so hard is how common it is. More shows and movies get cut down than produced, so the question becomes how to deal with it.

If you believe in your product and think it still has a shot, then the answer is simple: repackage. Maybe it was your characters that didn’t work, go back and rewrite the characters to make them more compelling. Maybe the period piece was too costly, go back and move it to modern times. Analyze your work and change what you think failed it.

Obviously there are times when this wont work, your World War II drama might not have the same effect if set in a modern day NFL stadium, but the principle is sound. If you believe in your story, make it work. There are a lot of examples of this. Just look at Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012). While the rights to the Alien franchise couldn’t be secured, Scott believed in his story and this film so much that they made an unofficial prequel. While the film avoided any direct mentions of the other films, it clearly alluded to them at points throughout.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) almost didn’t happen due to different opinions in casting, while Toy Story (1995) is an example of characters needing to be rewritten because their original iterations were completely unlikable. In all of these cases the people behind the productions believed in the product enough to make the necessary changes and keep the story going. There might not be a better example of this than one of TV’s latest hits: Newsroom (2012).

Some of you may be wondering what was keeping Newsroom from the airwaves and, as far as I know, the answer is nothing. But Newsroom existed many years ago and was known as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-2007). When you pay careful attention, these two shows share a striking number of similarities. Newsroom definitely feels like Aaron Sorkin’s second attempt at his failed Studio 60.

Opening

Right from the opening we can see traditional Sorkin flare with somebody fed up with the way things have changed. Yes it draws inspiration from Network (1976), but I would argue this is one of the most effective openings in television history.

Now let’ take a moment to look at Newsroom’s answer to this, again happening in the opening of the first episode.

While the settings change, the sentiment remains the same. Both of these men work in television, and both are expressing their discontent with the current state of America. The difference in terms of the overall series is that Judd Hirsch’s character in Studio disappears after the pilot, whereas Jeff Daniels’ character in Newsroom becomes the main protagonist of the series.

Characters

Many of the same tropes appear in both Studio and Newsroom, creating a lot of parallels between the two shows. You have Matthew Perry’s character and Sarah Paulson’s characters, a writer and a star of the TV show with a relationship past.

And in Newsroom you have Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer, sexes reversed from Studio, but the star of the show and the producer with a romantic past.

Those are just two examples of how Aaron Sorkin creatively repurposed a show he believed in for a new opportunity. When the plot of a late-night sketch comedy show didn’t work out, he moved it to a newsroom and focused more on current events instead of comedy. He refined the characters, though retained their core values and characteristics. He took a show that failed, and turned it into a hit.

So my question for you is, what other similarities did you catch between the two shows? Far more exist than the two mentioned here. Supporting characters fill similar roles, and many plot points work out in the same order. What are some of your favorites? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

And, for our Canadian readers, I can’t go through this entire post and not mention the series Canadians think of when they hear the term Newsroom (1996-1997). Enjoy!

Zac Hogle is a writer/director who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/zhogle.

All images and videos are the copyright and property of their respective holders. No infringement is intended.

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