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Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: The Newsroom

The Newsroom episode 3 excerpt

Aaron Sorkin played it smart this time, not wishing to take a chance with the networks for his latest effort, The Newsroom, which premiered Sunday on HBO. Like all his work, this is another feelgood, liberal circle-jerk, where Sorkin essentially has conversations with himself through the guise of his characters.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what it is about Sorkin’s work that I find so… obnoxious. It’s more than just the smug, self-righteous politically correct content, which is just his stock-in-trade.  It’s more than that. There’s something nauseating about his characters and how they interact. The dialogue. From the snap-crackle gay repartee between like-minded liberals taking gratuitous potshots at conservative straw-men to the supposedly sexually-charged dueling between principal characters, there’s something really ... obnoxious about it.

Perhaps this contributed to the early demise of Sorkin’s last “opus,” Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which quickly sunk in the ratings despite “critical acclaim”—not just the repellent, smug, self-righteous liberal politics embedded in everything Sorkin writes.

News anchor Will McEvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, is the “good” Republican, a standard device Sorkin uses so we can tell the good ones from the bad. In episode 3, “112th Congress”, even “good” Republican McEvoy finally balks at the extreme danger posed by the Tea Party, and turns his nightly news broadcast into a crusade to educate his audience on the perils of sincere but gullible Tea Partiers who are manipulated by their evil paymasters. The Tea Party doesn’t merely threaten the viability of his party, if the public isn’t educated in time, they can destroy the nation as we know it!

In his wisdom, Sorkin reluctantly acknowledges the necessity of an opposition party. No, no, a one-party (Democratic, of course) system would not ultimately best serve the Republic, he charitably concedes. He seeks to save Republicans from themselves. Hence, The West Wing’s “good” Republican presidential candidate Arnold Vineck (played by Alan Alda, in a truly inspired bit of delicious irony) and now The Newsroom’s Will McEvoy. 

Note, Sorkin finds no need to clutter up his narratives with good and bad “progressives”. You won’t find any racist African-American Al Sharptons or man-hating lesbian feminazi versions of Hilary Rosen in his dramatis personae to confuse the storytelling.

Like Studio 60, The Newsroom will undoubtedly reap “critical acclaim” from the Hollywood elites. Because it’s on HBO it isn’t subject to the brutal bottom-line ratings metrics that routinely kill the vast majority of all new major network shows, even the occasional good one. Will poor ratings be sufficient to kill it on HBO? I hope so.

The supposedly charged dialogue between McEvoy and his ex-love newly installed as his producer, doesn’t just not work—it makes me cringe.

I watched The West Wing to laugh—not with it, but at it.  But I won’t be watching any more of The Newsroom even for laughs.  I can laugh at the transparent liberal politics, but I can’t sit through watching these characters talk.

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