[[note: I wrote this last week in a quasi fit of rage. After watching episode 2, I figured it was still relevant, although I'll admit it is growing on me.]]
An HBO drama about the industry I love. Created by SU alum Aaron Sorkin (who gave us one helluva commencement speech this year). Dev Patel in a supporting, yet crucial role.
I was so ready to have a new favorite show.
The Sunday pilot episode of “The Newsroom” had so much potential. And yet it was largely underwhelming. Here are my first four reasons.
1) A superficial interpretation of impartiality.
I understand the need to make McAvoy the anchor whose politics are “right down the middle”. You don’t want to alienate viewers. I get it.
But “the middle” means nothing to me. It’s overly simplistic to think that all opinions fall on some two-dimensional spectrum between Democrats and Republicans, and that accuracy falls somewhere in the middle. There is a wealth of information, sides, interpretations, angles and personal accounts that we try to muddle through to get something that resembles the truth. (Note: The EP addresses this in episode 2, thank god)
A reporter that I greatly respect once told me that the longer you work in journalism, the more you realize that both political parties are corrupt. They’re just corrupt in different ways. That’s why we’re in the business of information, not persuasion.
2) I don’t like the show’s show.
I mean “News Night with Will McAvoy.” From the beginning, an anchor without a teleprompter is a liability. At the very least he should have a list of bullet points to avoid fact errors. As the show progresses, he asks leading, even rhetorical questions to the point of being verbally abusive. Of course cable news anchors do that sometimes… but not the good ones. Not the ones you admire and respect.
Strategically, I don’t think that a anchor-driven cable news show is conducive to a story about a full newsroom. You’re missing out on the stories of reporters who are in the streets, chasing down a lead. The mystique of a newsroom studio can be glamorous for a bit, but there is so much that goes into the news that is far more interesting.
3) Your characters… they’re boring.
There are so many newsroom archetypes you could have cashed in on; the earnest reporter from a small town, who gets in too deep on a dangerous undercover assignment. The dedicated producer working ridiculous hours, who should be on air but isn’t. Or the hotshot that looks good on camera but can’t relate to the communities he’s supposed to be reporting on. There’s always the seasoned cameraman that feels constantly unappreciated by yappy young reporters who get all the credit. What about a single mom struggling to meet the demands of her newsroom job and pay for daycare? Or a reporter who can’t handle the pressing deadlines of a declining newsroom and pushes the ethical line just enough, until he gets caught?
The journalism industry is in turmoil… for the few jobs that exist, the competition is fierce. But we do it because we truly love it. In my openly biased opinion, that dedication is absolutely worth writing about.
…and as a sidenote, all of the characters of color seem to be in small supporting roles. In my book, that doesn’t count as diversity.
4) Everyone talks too quickly.
Yes, it’s realistic because news people hardly have time to think, let alone speak clearly But if this script is witty and endearing, I honestly can’t tell.
Granted, some shows need to take a couple of episodes to get the ball rolling. I’m hoping for the best, because I want so badly to like this show. My friends in advertising have “Mad Men.” After a hard day of work, I need something more than The Daily Show and PBS Newshour to keep me going.
Maybe, just maybe they should hire one out-of-work reporter to help them write this script. Or at least get someone who knows what they’re doing to help draft realistic interview questions.
UPDATE: This guy had a pretty good column in Newsweek that opined differently and perhaps more eloquently: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/06/24/the-newsroom-aaron-sorkin-s-flawed-new-hbo-drama.html