Why The Newsroom is no The Newsroom
Do yourself a favour and press play.
“Are you in or are you out?” These are the words that Mackenzie Machale (Emily Mortimer) says to Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) near the end of episode 2 of the new HBO series The Newsroom. She could have been talking directly to me. Those were the exact words I was thinking while I was watching the show. Am I in or am I out? Can I really sit through an entire season of this plucky vs earnest banter?
The thing is, I can just about watch anything. I’ve sat through every season of Rock of Love and even a season of The Bachelor Pad but HBO’s TNR might be too much for me. The only thing I love more than bad TV is good TV. The one thing I can’t suffer is bad TV masquerading as good TV. The first rule of media is that all media are constructions. Every aspect of every show (ever) has been conceived and executed by a committee. Nothing is left to chance. There is no room for ‘that’s so random’ moments. The difference between The Bachelor Pad and HBO’s The Newsroom is that The Bachelor Pad wears its manipulation on its sleeve where HBO’s The Newsroom tries to pawn its manipulation off as clever, all the while talking down to its audience. The Bachelor Pad never talks down to its viewers because its already at the bottom and has nowhere to go but up.
At this point you’ll have noticed (or if you pressed play) that I will refer to the new show as HBO’s The Newsroom and not just The Newsroom. The reason for this is that there was already a show by that name; a far superior show. The show was written and directed by Ken Finkleman. The original The Newsroom ran for 13 episodes in 1996-97. Mr. Finkleman plays George Findlay: the news director of a local news program. George is a self-centered but savvy newsman who has a wonderful way of becoming his own worst enemy. Where Aaron Sorkin tries to write an idealized version of what a perfect news broadcast full of conviction and integrity would look like complete with its foibles, Ken Finkleman goes in the opposite direction and reveals the underbelly of sensationalizing headlines and manipulating the facts. The latter is a more satisfying and honest portrayal because its foibles are what drives it and not what is supposed to put a human spin on an unattainable premise.
So am I in? Probably, if I didn’t like being manipulated I wouldn’t own a Television. First though , I think I’ll go back and watch the original 13; just to see how well it can be done.