Posted by: markfender | July 10, 2012

The Newsroom

So, I’ve been watching HBO’s The Newsroom. Because I’m not incensed enough.

This is the third time Aaron Sorkin has made this particular show. I liked Sports Night mostly (Damnable laugh track). I wanted to like Studio 60 (There’s actually supposed to be jokes, Sorkin). But Sorkin’s big popular show that actually worked (The West Wing) I couldn’t watch. I can’t stand real world politics and I especially don’t agree with Sorkin’s politics and seeing characters with the power to actually implement those political decisions just causes an hour of cringing.

So, this show is just Sorkin doing what he always does. It’s about making television and how important that is. But at least this time, I can see how TV news is important. A show about sports? Nah. A show about Saturday Night Live? Nope. But news? Yeah, I can buy into that one. Even if Sorkin’s premise is flawed (Americans are stupid. The reasons they’re stupid is because they’re not being informed. We’re going to inform them and it will be amazing), I can still accept the fact that a news show lets him wrestle with the big issues without feeling contrived as shoehorning them into sports or comedy.

These are characters we’ve seen before. The sexy executive producer. The earnest but dweebish producer. The irascible father figure. The conservative who’s not conservative. Nothing you see here is gonna surprise you. It’s Sorkin’s television work all over again. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It sounds like I’m pretty down on the show. I’m not. It’s got issues (for someone as liberal as Sorkin, he sure enjoys his chauvinism). But it has a good cast (Although I’m confused by Emily Mortimer’s character. Why, exactly does he need to make the point that she was born in America? And can’t Mortimer do an American accent? So what’s going on? And for some reason, Sam Waterston always sounds to me like he’s just reciting lines, which is especially evident here). Everyone can walk-and-talk. And I like the central conceit of the show – that it’s taking place 2 years ago. It lets them interact with the news, but with some hindsight.

But you don’t watch this show because it’s a good show (which it may or may not be). You watch it so that you can listen to speeches. Because, my God, can Sorkin write a speech (Dan’s Apology from SportsNight is still one of my favorite moments of television ever). And if you agree with what he’s speechifying, it’s a heady mixture of righteous indignation and boosterism that can’t be beaten. If listening to Jeff Daniels reel off statistics on why America isn’t a great country and why it needs to be better doesn’t suck you in, then nothing’s gonna. The patented Sorkin three conversations happening at once and the epic walk-and-talk are all in abundance. Like David Mamet, Sorkin’s dialogue is so stylized that you either accept and glory in it, or you can’t stand it. Personally, I think it’s awesome. So I’m watching for that. Yeah, nothing on this show is original in any way. Sorkin has walked this ground before countless times. But if he’s going to talk while walking you through that familiar landscape, then I’m all ears.

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