I never knew with children, and I know even less so with strangers.
Does Aaron Sorkin need a spanking or a hug?
Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk!
Take a breath, will ya?
You know how I wrote recently that watching westerns lowers my blood pressure? The Newsroom does the opposite. I had to turn off the second episode in the middle, because I was starting to hyperventilate.
“I don’t understand, Doctor. He was fine. Then suddenly, he exploded right before my eyes!”
“Was he watching The Newsroom?”
“How did you know?”
“That’s the fourth one this week. They really ought to put a “Health Warning” on that show. ‘Speed kills!’ Including fast talking.”
In Sorkinland, fast talking equals genius. I say, not always. Will Rogers was a genius. And he always took his time. Chewed gum. Twirled a rope. And said some of the smartest things to come out of an American person’s mouth.
“Fast” doesn’t necessarily equal genius. “Fast” may equal frenzied. “Fast” may equal desperate – “You don’t like that Mensa-inflected wisecrack? There’s another one coming in two seconds.”
“Fast” may also equal hurried. I once read where, during the letter-writing era, a guy wrote to his friend, “Please excuse me for writing such a long letter, but I did not have time to write a shorter one.”
You put everything down. You don’t edit. You ignore outside input, telling you your dialogue needs to be more comfortably paced.
You get The Newsroom.
“Hey, I won an Oscar for The Social Network.”
“We know, Aaron. And Newsroom has exactly the same energy. It’s just nowhere near as good.”
Caveat Auditor – Let the audience beware. In the Sorkin oeuvre, fast talking inevitably comes with the territory. As does insight, at least of the “hit-and-run” variety. And intensity. And thinking the right thoughts, if you’re a fan of fairness, rather than winning at all costs.*
* That’s probably why my greatest concern about The Newsroom is not, as with other reviewers its preachiness. I’m preachy along the same lines.
It’s interesting. The things that bothered other reviewers bothered me less. And what bothered me the most, they didn’t mention at all.
That being, the show’s concept.
A fictionalized representation needs to feel real, to serve as an anchoring jumping off point for wherever else you want your show to go. For me, an admitted addict to cable news programming, The Newsroom is a jarring fabrication.
Following The Newsroom’s premise, the show called News Night, which aired before this series began, was a safe and successful cable news show. Anyone familiar with cable news can tell you there are no such thing as a safe and successful cable news show.
Successful cable news shows are loud, contentious and polarizingly partisan. Safe cable news shows run on CNN and are unsuccessful, consistently finishing last among their competition in the ratings.
Fabrication Number One: That there is or has ever been a safe and successful cable news show. There has not. Aaron Sorkin made that up.
News Night – both the earlier and what will become the revamped version – takes its structural format from Nightline. Nightline was not a cable news show, but rather a network news show, specifically on ABC. Being a network news show, Nightline’s ground rules and objectives differ significantly from the ground rules and objectives of cable news.
Fabrication Number Two: That a show like News Night ever appeared on any cable news network, even on safe and unsuccessful CNN. It did not. Aaron Sorkin made that up too.
The “conceit” of the show is that the formerly safe and successful cable news show will transform itself into an issue-oriented, balanced, truth-telling cable news show, which may or may not end up being successful. This premise cannot be tested, as no program of this nature has ever been attempted on actual cable news. But considering the current cable news viewing environment…
Give me a break!
The Newsroom is premised on the concept of a show that never existed evolving into a show that is unlikely to exist in the future.
And this is supposed to feel real?
In the two reviews I read, The Newsroom was pilloried for being smug, condescending and self-righteous. I can see where they’re coming from. When the most idealistic character in the show talks about “speaking truth to stupid”, I had to stop for a second and ask myself, “I watch cable news. Does that mean I’m stupid?”
With its relevant subject matter and a perspective I support, The Newsroom is, overall, a worthwhile undertaking. But if they’re going to insult me in the process, there’s a good chance I’m not going to watch anymore.
A show, using as its template a cable news show that has never existed, whose idealized version is unlikely to exist in the future, and whose machine-gun rhythms send my blood pressure into “call the paramedics” territory…
Yeah, I probably won’t be watching anyway.