I finally watched a few minutes of HBO's docu-screed The Newsroom the other night and found it even worse than I’d imagined it would be.
For those of you smart enough not to watch it, I’ll save you the trouble. In The Newsroom, golden boy/producer/writer/czar Aaron Sorkin uses a fictional network anchorman as his proxy to revisit real recent events - the Gulf oil spill, the Arizona immigration bill, the Times Square Bomber - to educate us on the real important lessons supposedly buried by the lede.
It’s Sorkin’s self-important vision of how the news should have been reported and shaped to result in a more comfortable narrative (for Sorkin). By making the anchorman a supposedly staunch Republican who is “evolving,” the show's creators think they’ve given themselves some cover. And how should the news actually be covered? Apparently, with epic monologues about taking truth to power and confronting the man, with witty banter no real person has ever used, and, most of all, with lessons that should be learned. Future episodes – each one reads like one of those “special episodes” we’ve always dreaded -- have enticing titles like “Bullies” and “Mock Debate.” Gee, I’ll bet they’ll be good. Woo, boy.
But this is not a post about how the entertainment industry leans left. That’s a given. The Newsroom is so awful it actually makes me optimistic. Seriously.
In the past, the center-left narrative just sort of took care of itself. The New York Times, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, or Peter Jennings would tell us what the news was and what it meant. There were few alternatives to their monolithic Upper East Side Democratic world-view. Hollywood didn't need to slap sloppy movies or television shows together -- think Game Change (Sarah Palin as Caribou Evita), Good Night and Good Luck, Nixon, Recount, Rendition, Green Zone, In the Valley of Elah,The Iron Lady, Fair Game, Lions for Lambs, and now the limpid and pathetic The Newsroom. The people, they thought, were with them. They had to be.
Now, there is a stink of panic in the air.Who even remembers Fair Game? (Trivia Buffs: It was the Valerie Plame thing.) Would the Hollywood left feel the need to rush out these revisions so quickly if they were confident history would vindicate them? I don't think so.
I'd contend it simply no longer works. No one cares, no one watches, and no one believes them anymore. We're on to them.
What do you think? Is my optimism misplaced?