Posted by: markfender | September 5, 2012

Newsroom Recap

I’ve watched all of HBO’s The Newsroom. Go me.

I looked at the show earlier when it first started airing and enjoyed the central premise – that the show takes place in the past. It lets Aaron Sorkin talk about events with the hindsight that comes from having a year or more to digest it. So, he can get incensed about having to cover Casey Anthony, I guess. But that central premise wore thin pretty quickly.

Because Aaron Sorkin wants to change the world. He’s doing it through a fictional medium involving characters that are also trying to change the world. It’s not enough to report on the Tea Party. Instead, Jeff Daniel’s character, a staunch Republican, is mad that the Tea Party has taken over his party. And he fights it every night on the news. He covers the mid-term elections by poking holes in all the Tea Party candidate’s platforms and ridiculous talking points.

This is all well and good. It’s what Sorkin does well (and, you know, I happen to agree with him) and this sort of show is the obvious platform for this sorta stuff. The problem is that, despite all of ACN’s aggrandizing of the Tea Party and despite the fact that Will McAvoy’s fictional broadcast consistently comes in number two in the ratings, real life events still proceed as they did in, well, real life. So, the show within a show is ineffectual at its goal. The Tea Party still won a bunch of seats. Stupid people are still saying stupid things on national television that other stupid people are buying into. Newsroom wants to affect the real world by wanting to affect its fictional world. But that can’t happen in the fictional world because it’s using events from the real world.

Another example: McAvoy wants a new debate format for the Republican debates. His staff practices for hours. He shows the RNC his new format (which pretty much consists of him yelling his “liberal demagoguery couched in a Republican shell” at them). The RNC, passes on the format. Yay, another failure of the show within a show to effect change.

This central premise is flawed. When the show is simply reporting on events and how those events affect the characters, it’s good (The Osama Bin Laden episode, while pretty trite in that Sorkin way, was exactly the right sort of trite that Sorkin does so well). But when Sorkin wants to change the world and uses this show taking place in the past to do so, it fails.

The entire writing staff has been fired (well, except for the one Sorkin is sleeping with. I mean, that would be crazy). Maybe next season it has the potential to turn itself around.

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