July 16, 2013

The Newsroom came back last night. How do I feel about this? Kind of great!

“Kind of great” isn’t super emphatic, I know. But I have such, such mixed feelings about Aaron Sorkin’s latest series that it’s all I can really muster. I love it and I hate it and I think it’s brilliant and I think it’s just so annoying. Let me explain.
Love – Will MacAvoy
I love Will MacAvoy. His character is complex, and excellently-written so as to make me care. From the moment we met him, we watched him struggle with his moral compass, but we’ve always known he’s a good guy. He’s the perfect helm for News Night and the perfect helm for the show. But…
Hate – McKenzie McHale
I hate McKenzie McHale, and herein lies a much larger problem with the show as a whole: while the men are mostly great, the women are all terrible. Sorkin has given us a group of female characters who, while technically very smart, or they wouldn’t have the jobs they have, are bluthering idiots in their day to day lives. In the final episode of the first season, McKenzie accidentally disconnected an important hospital cord, beat up hospital-ridden Will with a pillow, and had one of her classic verbal meltdowns — all in the span of ten minutes. The woman is a mess, and I resent Sorkin for making her so.
Hate – The Women
Like I was saying — why are they all such disasters? Why is Maggie so spiteful and spineless? Why is Sloan so socially incompetent? Why are they all klutzy? With this crop of female characters, The Newsroom seems to be saying: yes, women can be smart and professionally successful, but they’re still so CRAAZZY!
Love – The Premise
The fact that this show is set in the recent past makes it uniquely positioned for cultural self-examination. After the fact, we the viewers now have a chance to re-evaluate important events that we’ve already lived through, and to see them in detail from different angles. This is very cool.
Hate – The Speeches

We knew going into this that Sorkinese is a specific kind of diaologue — that is, self-important and long winded while still being quippy. This worked perfectly in The West Wing, but here it doesn’t hit in quite the same way. Everything is just sooo dramatic and sooo perfectly said. For a while when the show first aired, the hashtag #possiblenewsroomtweets was trending on twitter. Michael Ian Black had some of my favorites, including this one:
“Bill’s having a heart attack.” “Keep rolling.” “But he could die!” “So could democracy. Keep rolling.” #possiblenewsroomdialogue
[Source: @michaelianblack]
The thing is, that really COULD be dialogue from the show – it’s just that SORKIN.
Love – The Morality 
Despite the fact that the dialogue is so often overdone, the show moves me. If only real newscasters behaved this way! In the same way that the fantasy of President Bartlet inspired a nation to believe in something better than Bush, the fantasy of the News Night team makes me yearn for truth and justice in reporting.
Love – The Drama
Again, even though the dialogue is annoying and the women are so incredibly goddamn irritating I could scream, I’m invested in the drama. I want to know what’s going to happen with Maggie and Jim (or as I think of him, Jim Halpert, from The Office). I care about the weird twisted shit between McKenzie and Will. I’m interested in the possibility of Sloane and Don. I’m hooked.
The Newsroom is certainly good television. In the light of this past weekend’s news about the Trayvon Martin case, it’s even more clear that the show plays an engaging part in an important dialogue about the role of “the news” in this country. So listen — I’m gonna hand this one to Sorkin. I’ll be watching Season 2, but I”ll be doing it with my eyes open, fully prepared to feel a passionate combination of love and hate. Starting with last night’s episode, I’m already right on track.

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