Newsroom: A stupid, poorly acted show with an extra serving of sexism
July 9, 2012 by William K. Wolfrum
What if all your dreams of a responsible, honest media came true? What if, for once, reporters asked the right follow-up questions and were informed on the day’s events? What if the media took responsibility for reporting the truth rather than some twisted form of he-said, she-said equivalency? What if the media took journalistic integrity seriously? Really, really, really, really seriously?
Such is what Aaron Sorkin is trying to accomplish with HBO’s “The Newsroom.” I know this, because it’s mentioned roughly 135 times each show.
Newsroom is essentially a show about what would happen if a group of gung-ho college kids took over a cable news show. Check that. “Newsroom” is essentially what would happen if you gave a group of gung-ho college kids an hour a week on HBO to make a show about a cable news show taken over by gung-ho college kids.
If “The Newsroom” were any more preachy, it would have to change its name to the 700 Club.
In Episode three of the series – after having Anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) publicly apologize for everything he’s ever done while hurling the rest of the media under the bus – Sorkin takes on the Tea Party.
Aside from getting the creation of the Tea Party wrong (this was not some spontaneous grassroots effort that was hijacked by corporate and political interests, it was corporate interests creating a a “grassroots movement.”) the show makes the exact same mistake the U.S. Media has long made with the Tea Party – it gives them far too much credit. The irony is not to be missed – in a show that will tell you every five minutes that journalism should be about facts and not ratings, it shakes the Tea Party tree as strongly as possible to give the show buzz.
By the way, “The Newsroom” is a show about the moral integrity of being a journalist.
While the show pounds you over the head repeatedly with its message, the acting is even more over-the-top. It is a credit to Sorkin that he’s somehow put together a formidable cast but has directed them to act as though they are all rank amateurs blasted on crystal meth.
While the show itself seems to be done by college kids, with high-school level acting, the storylines are broad enough to have been drawn by grade schoolers. While consistently mocking the stupidity of the media and conservatives, “The Newsroom” treats its own audience like idiots, spoon feeding them every moment of the way.
Oh, and in case I haven’t mentioned it enough, “The Newsroom” is about journalistic integrity. Seriously. Ask Sorkin, he’ll tell you. Forever.
More than anything, though, it is “The Newsroom’s” treatment of women that take it from being just a preachy, poorly acted fantasy to the all-out train wreck that it is. In the first three episodes, Sorkin has burnished his oft-commented on misogynistic cred. Basically, Sorkin’s treatment of his female characters could only be worse if he had each of them scream “I Need A Man!!” several times a show.
There is Executive Producer Mackenzie McHale (played by Emily Mortimer in the worst performance of her career), a “highly respected executive producer,” who is also the ex-girlfriend of McAvoy. We are to believe that McHale has thrived with an embedded crew in Iraq, but falls completely to pieces when around McAvoy. When McAvoy has a date (three dates, actually. With women who may of well just had “Bimbo” flashing above their heads.), McHale suddenly becomes a desperate housewife.
There is Associate Producer Margaret Jordan (played by Alison Pill in what might be the worst performance on HBO since Gallagher.) Involved in an inner-office relationship, Jordan falls apart four or five times an episode because of relationship problems and needs to leave meetings due to panic attacks.
There is up-and-coming host Sloan Sabbith (played by Olivia Munn, who may escape this dreck with a career). As of now, all we know about her is that she’s whip-smart and was promoted because she has great legs.
There is Leona Lansing, owner of the entire cable giant that runs Newsroom. Played by Jane Fonda (who was apparently cast to guarantee that no Conservative will ever watch the show), Lansing gets talked down to by President of the News Division Charlie Skinner (played by Sam Waterson as a cross between Uncle Billy Bailey of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and every last wise older male in every movie ever made) . Skinner gives Lansing a general lesson on media ethics 101, which is something we hadn’t heard in more than three full minutes.
For the record, “The Newsroom” is about the media and the importance of being a true journalist and the moral integrity it takes to tell the truth by standing up to the spin with integrity and showing integrity in the face of integrity of journalism. In case you forgot.
I don’t know much of Sorkin’s previous work on television, having never watched “West Wing” or “SportsNight,” but it’s entirely possible Sorkin has extreme problems with women. Or maybe he’s never actually meant one. It’s really something he should look into.
Overall, “The Newsroom” is an awful, preachy, sexist show that encapsulates the stupidity it tries to berate. A fictional show about a cable news station is, in itself, a nice idea. Maybe Sorkin should try doing a show like that after this monstrosity is cancelled.
To be fair, there are two bright spots to “The Newsroom,” in my opinion. For one, Dev Patel is a likeable actor. Two, “Breaking Bad” starts next week, so we can stop talking about “The Newsroom” once and for all and enjoy a show that doesn’t think its viewers are morons and doesn’t feel the need to smash its message over viewer’s heads 14 times a show.