When I heard about Newsroom, I was as excited as I was disappointed when I learned that Studio 60 had been cancelled. That is to say, plenty. And journalism! If Sorkin could turn sports into The Most Important Thing Ever on Sports Night, and sketch comedy into The Most Important Thing Ever on Studio 60, he was bound to turn journalism into… You get the point.
And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I’ve become inured to Sorkin’s style, because every damned episode of Newsroom feels like it’s just colour-by-numbers plot and dialogue with a cookie-cutter Stirring Moment at the end. I don’t care about the alleged lack of strong female characters and I don’t care about the stereotypes of “insensitive guy” and “fumbling romantic interest guy” and “misunderstood hero guy”.
What I care about is that I know exactly what every one of them is going to do because it’s so boringly obvious. And when you’re setting everything against the backdrop of very recent history, there’s already quite a lot of knowing-what’s-about-to-happen going on.
And to add insult to inury (thank you), there’s this untempered patriotic bullshit. If the romantic plots have me expecting someone to yell “WE WERE ON A BREAK!”, the dramatic plots have me waiting for the cast to start stamping their feet and chanting, “USA! USA! USA!”
Now, no Sorkin fan can be too sensitive to patriotic bullshit. We sat through the West Wing, didn’t we? That had its fair share of handwringing over whether the US was God’s perfect gift to the planet or maybe just God’s almost perfect gift to the planet. But this isÂ untempered patriotic bullshit.
You promised so much, Sorkin! “It’s not, but it could be.” Fair enough. Great.
But that Bin Laden episode. For fuck’s sake. We have the United States militaryÂ assassinating a man on foreign soil. Yes, allegedly the mastermind behind the World Trade Center crimes, but even Nazi war criminals got trials. Right or wrong, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to show some of that Sorkin brilliance and get a little debate going? Get some viewers thinking?
Our principled heroine tells us something like: “Right now the American people think that Bin Laden is alive, and if I can make him dead one minute sooner, it will have justified my entire career as a journalist.” Are you fucking KIDDING ME?!
And then I see it. After the announcement in the newsroom, everyone cheers (stopping short of “USA! USA!”) at the assassination. Almost everyone. A few people aren’t applauding. They look uncomfortable. Is this it? Is this where we hear another view on a government’s military popping into another country and shooting alleged criminals dead without trial?
Nope! It’s just that one of the characters didn’t feel quite as happy as they expected. The lesson is that vengeance, while awesome, is not a panacea for grief. Presumably.
So maybe I could sit through the obvious romantic plots culminating in hints of future love and the obvious dramatic plots culminating in Stirring Moments where we Reflect On The Day. Maybe I could, if I wasn’t used to Sorkin at least trying to show us real things the way they’re supposed to be. With the West Wing, we saw a President and his staff at leastÂ trying to do things the right way. With Studio 60, we saw people trying to use comedy as a vehicle to both make people laugh and think. Here we see American journalists doing increasinglyÂ exactly what American journalists already do, and we haveÂ actual journalists for that if we want it.
So I’m done. Â I’m out. I’ve bit my fist through enough of Tall Floppy and Wet Indecisive making eyes at each other while Not That Bad gets sad about it. I’m done with Slurred Speechy telling Misunderstood Hero that he’s got responsibilities, and I’m well over Misunderstood Hero being misunderstood by everyone but Too Well Understood Heroine.
Not even a proper damned walk-and-talk. I leave you with this.