The Newsroom is a critics dream if you’re looking for a rant, because the show is an endless conveyer belt of flaws. It’s a horrendous case of idealistic masturbation, marred with forgettable clichés and certainly won’t be on The Guardian’s list of classic TV shows any time soon.
Yet whilst I agree with most of these criticisms, something about the show is ruthlessly addictive and just plain old entertaining. So reviewing Season One is no easy task.
The Newsroom brings a brand new original idea, which is, in itself very refreshing, and Aaron Sorkin has clearly put a tremendous amount of work into it. We should also be thankful that, courtesy of HBO, a creator can even entertain the idea of having this much freedom. Sorkin creating the Newsroom is, to me, akin to giving a teenage boy the keys to a Ferrari on his 14th birthday.
The dialogue is fantastically sharp, and the pace of the show is delightful. Its camera work and the speed at which it focuses from person to person reminds me of 24 without the infamous countdown timer.
If you hate the show – which a lot of people do – it certainly won’t be from boredom. The production quality is outstanding and the want to watch the next episode is not easily dismissed. It’s relevance also makes it intriguing, because although I think fictional news events would have been disastrous, the way that real life events are imbedded into it is brilliant.
I really want to love The Newsroom, because I’m a journalist myself and herein lies a glorious opportunity of ego massaging. But I can’t conclude The Newsroom as anything more than a guilty pleasure because beneath the entertainment and overall pros lies a rather dire case of false heroism.
Instead of aiming to portray a profession where, just like real life, not everyone is a hero and collectively striving towards moral infinity, Sorkin has decided to lecture us on how the news should have been delivered. Sadly this is at great expense.
The problem that lies is that Sorkin decided to kick out at an industry that has kicked him back a lot harder. Season One consists of a series of news events that happened in real life, and uses The Newsroom to show us how it should have been done.
Yet the problem is that I don’t think people feel 24 hour news channels have acted in a particularly wrongful fashion in the first place. Sure, Fox News is a biased news channel but that’s because it has a target audience and sticks to it. Those that want that type of news tune in, those that don’t will watch something else.
The West Wing was effective because it showed the effects of politics. If you live in a democracy, you may have to put up with a governments policies that you didn’t necessarily vote for. But with the news, you simply switch the channel and find a preferred medium. You don’t like The Daily Mail, you don’t buy the Daily Mail.
Besides, looking at American shows such as CNN, ABC and NBC, I don’t think people feel any dramatic differences in how they reported the news are that desirable. And here in the UK, it would be hard to put together an argument that the BBC and Sky News should have reported differently to the way they do now – bar the odd occasion, but thankfully I find these to be a rarity and not daily propaganda.
Few successful shows are lectures anyway – think of David Simon portraying the police in The Wire and you’ll soon realise how subliminally effective, and of course realistic, it is to be anti-hero.
Then there are the clichés. It may seem unfair to call any protagonist a poor man’s Tony Soprano, but when watching Will Mcavoy’s therapy sessions, what other analogy is there? Although Jeff Daniels plays his role very well, Sorkin’s attempts to create an aura of mystery surrounding his lead character fall short in my eyes.
The same can be said of pretty much the entire cast. It just doesn’t feel like anyone has anything interesting behind them, despite woeful attempts to paint Mackenzie and Harper’s background as that of a war-torn one with bullets flying over them.
It’s a real case of what could have been, had Sorkin just relaxed his need to cast a hero I could be writing a very different review. I look forward to the second season, but it has a lot to do to promote its status from a guilty pleasure.
The Newsroom is out on DVD now