Some of the bitch-slappy critics have gotten it wrong about Aaron Sorkin‘s The Newsroom. I’ve watched all four episodes (last night’s being a comedy of tabloid embarassment called “I’ll Try to Fix You”) and I’m convinced that the messy personal relationship aspects are not the most problematic or irksome stuff but possibly the best so far.
Jeff Daniels‘ Will McAvoy isn’t just a mouthpiece for Sorkin’s views about journalism and politics — he’s almost certainly a projection of Sorkin’s snappy, mouthy personality and (probably) his own messy, lurching tendencies in the personal realm, past or present. I know guys like Will McAvoy — guys who know what they know and should stay away from alcohol. I’ve never been into bimbos, but a friend told me last night that in my drinking days she could imagine me over-emphasizing a point in a party chat with a lady and getting a drink thrown in my face (which is what happened last night to McAvoy when he insulted Hope Davis‘s Page Six-y gossip reporter).
For all their anger and awkwardness, these scenes are real and riveting and sometimes funny. Perhaps not all that substantial or even necessary at the end of the day, okay, but “fun” and entertaining.
I’m also persuaded that The Newsroom‘s high-minded, speechy argument scenes about journalistically manning up and speaking truth to Tea Party idiocy and Republican loons (and with dialogue, yes, that is unrealistically eloquent and incisive) have never been fair-minded attempts to portray real-world, real-deal journalism as it’s actually experienced and struggled with out there. The characters, we all realize, are at best incidentally related to actual, sometimes fretting, constantly pressured journalists as they exist at CNN or MSNBC or wherever. And I’m fine with that.
The Newsroom is about what Sorkin thinks and feels about everything in the political news reporting realm that offends and agitates him — simple. He’s got this show and this HBO forum and this power to say all this stuff (most of which I agree with 100%) to tens of millions, and he’s letting go like a man possessed. What’s not to like? The Newsroom is a truthful playtime series for angry lefties and people who are sick of absurd, delusional rightwing views and contentions being reported about in a fair, mild-mannered, business-as-usual way by the MSM reporters, anchors and commentators. You can’t say Sorkin isn’t making a necessary point here.
There was a sequence last night about how rightwing shriekers (Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Bachmann, NRA exec vp Wayne LaPierre) went on a tear in 2010 about Barack Obama being anti-gun — a virtually baseless, bullshit, non-factual contention. But they did it anyway because it excites the base and attracts political contributions. These people aren’t wrong — they need to be put on trial and if possible penalized as strictly as possible.
And you can’t tell me, by the way, that the mano e mano face-off between station owner Jane Fonda and Newsroom editor-boss Sam Waterston wasn’t damn good and reflective of what many, many owners have said (or certainly meant to say) to many, many journalism vets over the decades.
Hope Davis‘s Page Six reporter: “Are we going to go back to flirting, or are you going to keep putting me down?”
Jeff Daniels: “I’m not putting you down. I’m just saying that what you do is a really bad form of pollution that makes us dumber and meaner and is destroying civilization. I’m saying with all possible respect that I would have more respect for you if you were a heroin dealer. I’m speaking professionally, not personally.”
Davis: “Ok, well, I’m speaking personally when I say fuck you — and you just passed up a sure thing.”
It’s my non-alcoholic view that rudeness should be avoided, but it also means something to politely call a genuine monster a monster to his/her face. In a genial roundabout way, I mean. If you decide to do that, it’s usually because of brass and intemperance or that last drink. If you get a drink thrown into your face as a response, you just have to take it. Say “okay, I get it,” get out a handkerchief, withdraw and move on.