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Thursday, July 12, 2012

News-Like Substance

My Lovely Wife and I are fans of Aaron Sorkin's new show, The Newsroom, which follows the inner workings of a cable news show hosted by studiously bland anchorman played by Jeff Daniels. He has a Howard Beale moment at a college lecture which goes viral, inspiring him to do a newscast that actually does informative news rather than reports on the new iPhone. Plus, Sam Waterson plays the crusty producer!

I'm a bit suprised I've enjoyed it so much. Aaron Sorkin has always been a little hit or miss for me. I've never seen an episode of West Wing, SportsNight was OK, Studio 60 was god awful (although he had the good humor to parody himself on an episode of 30 Rock). 

His movie work (Moneyball & Social Network) has been fantastic.

Best. Breakup. Line. Ever.

The common thread in all of his work is that the characters are consumed with their work. They are working on very important things and why can't you understand that? Sometimes those things are important - like running the free world. Sometimes, not so much - like a wacky Gilbert & Sullivan sketch comedy bit! 

At his best, Sorkin gets you inside these very specialized careers and makes you care about the minute details - like Billy Beane working the phones to make a trade for a middle reliever. My mother cares not a whit for baseball, but she was captivated by Moneyball. 

At his not best, you find yourself going, so what? Why should we care about that?

Suprisingly, to me, a lot of critics have found this more on the "not best" side of things. 

Sniffed the New Yorker, "The Newsroom treats the audience as though we were extremely stupid"

Yeah, what kind of news organization would do that?

This is the cover of the Daily News from last Sunday. There are five stories on the cover, but only one could be called news. They are:

  • TomKat's Divorce
  • Mets & Yankees win
  • Spider Man movie review
  • Alec Baldwin's wedding
  • Con Ed lays off 8,000 as contract talks falter
And the Con Edison news might be slightly imporant, what with New York in the grip of a two week heat wave and every AC unit going full blast. It's in the smallest type. 

And this is widely considered the BETTER of our two tabloids. The New York Post has been a hack comic punchline for decades.

Apparently, the news media is not fond of a show that points out that the news is run by a bunch of idiots who would rather feed people gossip than information.  Someone doth protest too much.

Maybe not surprisingly, Dan Rather has given Newsroom some of its best reviews. (You know, an actual newsman who had to put up with this stuff on a nightly basis.) He thought the last episode concerning the network president trying to have the news desk soft peddle a critique of the Tea Party because she had business before congress hit very close to home. He called it "something every American should see and ponder."

But, you know, we could just read about the latest in the TomKat saga! Scientology! Secret apartments! What? Bain Capital? What's that about?

1 comment:

  1. I don't think this is the journalists' fault, but a combination of corporate interests and the general public's seemingly bottomless interest in things that don't matter.