In Defense of: The Newsroom

Aaron Sorkin’s latest series The Newsroom returns tonight for its final season on HBO, and I, for one, am excited. The Newsroom faces a lot of scrutiny and has had some pretty not nice things said about it, some of which I agree with. And yet, I still love it and I’m looking forward to its return.

I really admire what Aaron Sorkin does, and I haven’t even seen his most well-loved show yet. It’s been on my list for a while, but I never watched The West Wing when it aired, and I’ve been hoping to catch up with it now that it’s on Netflix, but I haven’t had time. Hopefully soon.

I do enjoy his movies too, especially Charlie Wilson’s War, and I even liked his short-lived show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I also adore Sports Night, his two-season 1998 show with Felicity Huffman, Peter Krause, and Josh Charles leading a stellar cast in creating a fictional sports news program. I didn’t think I’d like Sports Night because I don’t care at all about sports, but I remember coming across it years ago while flipping channels at around one in the morning, and it instantly grabbed me. The show really has nothing to do with sports, and there was something so engaging about it. And of course the romance between Natalie and Jeremy, not to mention Dana and Casey, hooked me completely. I eventually got the DVD set, and have been itching to watch it again lately (though that’s also because I miss Josh Charles).

Sorkin’s shows, especially when we look at them side by side, are pretty much variations on the same theme, with their “walk and talk” armchair politics and attempts to make the world a smarter, better place. Perhaps Sorkin never felt like he made the product he’s hoped to make, and keeps trying again and again. If so, I’m fine with it.

The Newsroom, despite its problems (and it definitely has some problems) is another of these classic Sorkin projects, and it has the same effect on me as Sports Night. There’s something instantly engaging about it. Actually, the opening scene of the pilot had me slightly tuning out, because it’s such a long time until he tells off the young student. But when they finally get into the newsroom and you hear the events of the BP Oil Spill unfold before their surprisingly knowing eyes, each new reveal is more exciting than the next.

And that’s before the potential, and largely contrived, romance between Jim Halpert—I mean Harper, and Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill). I know it feels like The Office, right down to their names, and I know it’s rather clichéd, but I don’t care. I love John Gallagher Jr., and I don’t really have a problem with clichés. I’d rather a little clichéd romance than no romance at all. In fact, I often expect clichés in my romance, or even hope for them.

Margaret Lyons wrote in Vulture about why The Newsroom was doomed to fail. I agree with her that the show is definitely very preachy and feels a bit like your family member who won’t shut up about politics and is trying to teach you a lesson. For me, though, I like to learn what the show is teaching me, and I feel I can benefit from it. It’s all recent enough history that I remember it, but I probably didn’t know enough about some of the detail, so there’s still stuff to learn. Plus I’m absolutely on the same side of the political divide as Sorkin, so I appreciate and agree with what he has to say. He says it so much more eloquently than I ever could. What’s not to admire about that?

I agree that his women could use a little work sometimes. It’s pretty humiliating when MacKenzie can’t figure out something as basic as sending an email, but I also appreciate that she’s slightly flustered at times, yet can still absolutely handle her job and her pain-in-the-butt employee slash love interest.

Because of Sloan, I have a much stronger appreciation for Olivia Munn than I did before, and I also like her friendship with Neal (Dev Patel). I don’t care for her relationship with Don (Thomas Sadoski), because it feels out of nowhere and, again, contrived. Plus, they took such pains to paint him as a terrible boyfriend to Maggie, so why subject Sloan to the same treatment. But I’m willing to see where it goes.

Lyons also wrote that the show fails because “there is no virtue in cable news,” and here’s where I disagree. She’s right, there is no virtue in cable news, but it’s for that reason that I agree with the show’s overall premise: I would love to see someone, anyone, try to make cable news better. I probably still wouldn’t watch it—let’s be honest—but I feel that cable news has done way too much to destroy society and television, and it deserves to be shut down, or at least regulated in some way so that it’s not spewing harmful baloney to all the gullible people who watch it and blindly believe every word of it. I don’t know if that’s really possible, but I like living in a world where I could pretend that it is.

How about you, readers? Will you be watching The Newsroom tonight? Are you sorry to see it go after this final season, or do you say good riddance?

2 thoughts on “In Defense of: The Newsroom

  1. […] I genuinely love The Newsroom, despite its many flaws (and I know it has many). Smash I also mostly enjoyed, especially the first season. Yes, there were problems there, specifically with Julia Houston’s (Debra Messing) affair and with Ellis, the most love-to-hate character of the season and part of why the hate-watching phenom began. But I loved what they were trying to do, and as a musical theatre fan, I really enjoyed the musical numbers. I didn’t think it was as awful as others thought, so when they tried to “fix” it in the second season—only to make it a thousand times worse, I was truly disappointed. But I still watched it in earnest, investing (as best I could) in the characters, hoping it would improve, and enjoying the musical numbers. […]

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