( Warning: written while under the influence of Flu (Not Vertigo) Medication. Read at own risk)
There has been a maelstrom of missives mailed around the tubes of the Internet since this show first aired, not since Girls have we ever seen its like, but until now my words have not been among them. The one thing that all critics seemed to agree on, be they corralled for or against the show, was that it changed as it progressed, that by the end of episode three you would think differently than you did at the end of episode one. So I waited and watched the requisite number of episodes before attempting a review, though I’m really not sure why. Everything everyone says about the show is true ( so i will try not to repeat it) except for that one statement: you’re either sold by the end of the pilots closing credits or you didn’t care enough to get that far in the first place.
Now you may well be wondering how everyone can be right in such a divisive argument, to me the answer is in the distinction between facts and opinion. Yes Sorkin’s scripts are smug, lecturing and lacking in subtlety ( those who threw that criticism at Mad Men need take note, this is what blunt really looks like) but they’re also smart, learned exactly what TV needs right now. Some say that the protagonist is a chauvinistic arse, others that he is a compelling arse and I don’t see that the two need be contradictory, watchable and likable are two very different terms. So too for the way in which the show depicts real events; yes ripping headlines from real stories into your scripts re-casts your plots in a new light, but it also lends them a potent relevance; with this show Sorkin isn’t just trying to tell a good story, he’s also trying to help shape that of the United States as a whole.
Whenever the show or one of its characters make a mistake – especially in regards to technology – everyone was quick to jump on it, but then seconds later they would bemoan the apparent perfection of the program; to me these are the contradictory ideals. There are a number of problems both in and with the show, so perfection can not be one of them. These people aren’t perfect and if their work is, then maybe that’s because it is something that we should aspire to ( also, how is this any different than it is with every crime show in which the case is closed by the end of the hour?). Jeb Bartlett wasn’t a realistic depiction of a world leader, he wasn’t representative of real life, he was the utopian ideal, the perfect president; so to the News Hour here. Sorkin is simply showing us what we could have done then so that we will better know what to do in future.
Now that is certainly a superior sort of goal and one that he doesn’t exactly succeed at, yet, but the way critics have faulted him for trying seems a little cynical to me. Like America itself Newsroom is not perfect, but it could be. And if the worst thing it does is get us talking about the state of journalism or inform you to a new fact here or there, than isn’t that more than most shows do? I sincerely think that though they may not like it if everyone where to watch this show then they would be smarter for doing so, even if only a little. Shouldn’t that be a great thing even if the drama used to convey the education is only OK? Eh, I think I’m slipping into a Sorkin-esque lecture now ( the show is strangely self aware of everything it is criticized for: look out for lines like this is every episode). So watch the show or don’t, it won’t change your life either way (despite what Sorkin may have wanted); just try and stay away from the vitriol if you do.