Thursday, August 30, 2012

I know I'm late to the party, but here are some thoughts on The Newsroom Season 1

Like many people, especially critics, I wasn't a big fan of Aaron Sorkin's new HBO show 'The Newsroom'. After two great movie screenplays ('The Social Network' and 'Moneyball'), I was starting to warm up to Sorkin's fast-talking style in a way I hadn't before. I was genuinely excited for this new project to be his next 'West Wing'. I was obviously disappointed.

Much of the criticism comes from the pretentious way in which Sorkin seems to be giving a shot of reality to the news media. It's true that the media is, in many aspects, doing some pretty terrible work, but the crusading air he gives his characters is shattered when they come up with something as obviously train-wrecky as the mock debate they staged a couple of weeks ago. But these are concerns I actually could set aside if Sorkin insisted on expressing his mind so openly, but did it on the high quality level he showed in 'The West Wing' or 'The Social Network'. Even with the convenient 20/20 hindsight on news events Sorkin got for his show by setting it a couple of years in the past, the biggest problem with the show was with the characterization of its protagonists.

In the season finale that aired on Sunday, Maggie (played by Allison Pill), in a stressful moment of despair proceeds to give a big rant on 'Sex and the City'. Yes, 'Sex and the City' is a hugely superficial show, but it not only aired on the same network 'The Newsroom' is airing, it is also very similar to Sorkin's show. What has he offered us besides shoving his political views into all the episodes? A bunch of romantic misadventures that result as shrill and unengaging as the worst moments of the show he was criticizing.

A lot has been said about the poor characterization of women on the show, where every female character is a complete nervous wreck incapable of holding it together in moments of stress. Even, Emily Mortimer's character McKenzie, who was introduced to us a woman who had been to war, gets incredibly stressed out by any minor inconvenient regarding the production of the news-show. Not only are women incompetent, it seems the only reason they're on the show is to be romantic interests for the male characters. Too much of the show has focused on Will (Jeff Daniels) and McKenzie's past relationship as well as a completely uninteresting love triangle between Jim (John Gallagher Jr.), Don (Thomas Sadoski) and Maggie. Not only was Don so unlikable since the first episode that we couldn't possibly root for him, soon enough Maggie and Jim followed a similar path after their flirting quickly became annoying instead of cute.

For most of the show's first season, the thing that kept me going was Olivia Munn's performance as Sloan Sabbath. Who would have thought that in a show starring the likes of Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Allison Pill and Sam Waterston, she would be the stand-out? Some of it might have to do with the fact that Sloan was the one female main character that wasn't in love with someone in the office. But credit where credit is due, and Olivia Munn acted the hell out of some pretty crappy material to make Sloan a character compelling enough that partially made me stick with a mediocre show.

Sadly, even that was taken away from me when it was revealed last Sunday, that Sloan is, in fact, in love with Don. Now, not only does this development come completely out of nowhere, but also brings the fear of Sorkin turning the best character of the show into another unbearable Maggie (that he has make me not enjoy the lovely Allison Pill when she's onscreen could only be called a crime).

All this being said, I'll probably be back next year to watch the new season. It sounds weird, but I have to say that no matter how irritating the show is, it is still watchable. And it is also somewhat entertaining (and interesting) to see the ways in which it is bad, kind of like 'Glee' was before it became unbearable. I wouldn't like to call this 'hate-watching', but maybe I'll be doing just that.

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