Before The Newsroom there was The Newsroom, Drop The Dead Donkey and Dead Danes Don’t Count

Aaron Sorkin isn’t the first person to come up with the idea of a television newsroom as a great way to look at politics. Back in the Channel 4 had Drop The Dead Donkey, a topical sitcom written the same week as it aired, that introduced the world to Haydn Gwynne, Stephen Tompkinson and Neil Pearson. Here’s the pilot episode, with its weirdly different theme tune.

Drop The Dead Donkey ran between 1990 and 1998 (go buy it on DVD), inspiring along the way the Swedish show Döda danskar räknas inte (Dead Danes Don’t Count). But over in Canada, Ken Finkleman, the man behind Good Dog, was developing a show that, like Drop The Dead Donkey, featured a TV producer called George. Called The Newsroom, it crossed Drop The Dead Donkey with The Larry Sanders Show.

The Newsroom was a surprisingly successful show by Canadian standards, running from 1996-97… and 2003-4… and 2004-5, as well as having a two-hour TV movie Escape from the Newsroom air in 2002. It featured cameos from famous Canadians, including David Cronenberg, Noam Chomsky and Atom Egoyan, playing versions of themselves in newscasts. The George character also went on to appear in other shows, More Tears, Foolish Heart and Foreign Objects, as well as Good Dog and Good God.

It’s also considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest show Canada has ever produced. So it’s ironic that Sorkin chose the title The Newsroom for his new show, given the stereotype of how little attention the US pays to Canada and Canadian TV.

So it seems while Sorkin may not have created the first TV show set in a newsroom or even the first TV show called The Newsroom, he is, at least, one of the first to have created a semi-serious drama series about the news.

  • Jane Henry

    Drop the Dead Donkey was genius. It was not just spot on with being funny about the news, it was also a brilliantly observed office comedy and soooo like the office I worked in at the time. We had a new boss cut in Gus' mould, and the day he came in and announced we needed a company song we thought we'd entered a parallel universe. It was also incredibly touching at times,I particularly loved George, and his ending was TRAGIC. There is still a guy on BBC News who's voice reminds me of Darren Day, and I cannot take him seriously at all. And obviously, it had the lovely Neil Pearson in it. What wasn't to like?

    (That Canadian show? NEVER heard of it.)

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  • Lisa Rullsenberg

    Yeah but don't you wish you HAD heard of the Canadian TV programme The Newsroom before Sorkin ran off with the title?!

    Plus, you're so right about DTDD – Joy was my heroine…

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