Dark Light

The first television series I actually cared about was The West Wing. I enjoyed it enough to watch all of Sports Night, and one day I will wade though the dirty-laundry of Studio 60 for long enough to watch the season finale.

The new Sorkin series, The Newsroom, ended its first season recently.

It’s not real.

Attacking a TV show, novel, or any other kind of non-documentary for characters whose dialogue is far from real life has never seemed to me like a fair thing to judge it on. In real life workplaces, people very rarely monologue on the theme of Don Quixote and now it relates to their life (News Room), have arguments in iambic pentameter (West Wing). In fact, while I take a great delight in very occasionally acting like a character written by Aaron Sorkin, a month in which I get to do it twice is a big deal. It’s not real, it’s not supposed to be real, it’s high contrast, and it’s televison. I’m not going to hit Batman over the head with how very quickly he recovers from losing a fight *really badly* in the Dark Knight, either.

There’s stuff I’d like to change. He’s not great at giving the women the articulatory high-ground (When he does it in the last News Room, it’s notably on the subject of living up to Sex in the City), his non-white characters could do with a bit more limelight (Dev Patel, in particular, deserves a little less comic relief), and the stuffing is poking out of a number of his favourite strawmen. His “Honourable Enemy” republican spends more time bashing his own side (Who may deserve it, and I don’t expect balance, but still). I still like it a lot, though.

The season finale feels very much like a series finale, which is a good act of anti-hubris, wrapping up – or at least drawing a “for now” line under – most of the story arcs of the season, but the weaker areas of the storylines aren’t magically fixed – the four-way interpersonal complexigon becomes five-way for no apparent reason – the series is at its strongest when it’s dealing with the fallout and the decisions of the making of an actual News program, and the biggest “this is awesome” moments of the series have all revolved around those, but with any luck the 10 months until the next season will give the writing team (Who am I kidding, I mean Sorkin) a chance to react to the biggest criticisms of the last ten weeks, shore up on the strengths, and come out swinging with the new series in the spring. Until then, I can always rewatch The West Wing and Sports Night, again.

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1 comment
  1. Good points, sir. I’ve really enjoyed this new series so far, even though it kind of cements Sorkin’s bread and butter as “behind the scenes” stuff: behind the scenes of a military courtroom, behind the scenes of a sports TV show, behind the scenes of a Presidential administration, behind the scenes of a Saturday night entertainment TV show, behind the scenes of the building of a social networking website, behind the scenes of a news commentary show.

    The main thing that concerns me about The Newsroom so far is, as you touched upon, the almost immediate introduction of not one but three Josh-and-Donna, Matt-and-Harriet, will-they-won’t-they relationships. What next, will Charlie and Leona start flirting?

    Oh, and Sorkin has already come out and said he’s chucking the team he used for season one. Wheee! Although he’s admitted he uses his team more as researchers than anything else, so that he can write relatively authoritatively about the events occurring in the timeline rather than try to bluff it.

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