Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Newsroom: I Tried to Hate It, Really.

The first thing you should know about The Newsroom? I shouldn't like it. But I do.  

The opening scene of the pilot is evidence enough of the void that was left following the end of The West Wing. The kind of television that evokes a reaction and pinches the audience so that they jump at the harshness of the opening dialect. The kind of television we didn't notice we were missing  until it was right in front of us. The scripting that appeared in that opening scene set up the rest of the pilot to be very well written, and very Aaron Sorkin-like.

Onto the main character, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). I want to hate him, like I want not like The Newsroom. But Sorkin manages to make him tolerable, despite the fact that Will McAvoy is an arrogant grumpy bastard who gives up $1million of his salary for the opportunity to be able to fire his ex-girlfriend Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) at the end of every week. An embarrassing situation for Mackenzie, but the things a girl will do for a job. Oh, and for the good of journalism, apparently.

Ideologically, I shouldn't like this show. Especially with the now famous Sorkin encounter with a reporter he degradingly dubbed 'Internet Girl'. He then told the reporter to 'write something nice' in response to the show. Internet Girl herself, actually known as Sarah Nicole Prickett from The Globe and Mail, responded with this brilliantly executed and dignified article about the whole debacle, and about the show itself. So here it is, an ideological reason I shouldn't like Sorkin's work. But I do, I own all of The West Wing and the idea of The Newsroom itself sent me giddy- because not only am I a sucker for anything to do with journalism, but generally speaking HBO pleases me. I will try, very hard to actually sit and consume the show without being dumbfounded by it's one dimensional female characters. Mackenzie is a character who tries to appear as a strong female character but has the potential to be moulded into one, she is an ex war correspondent who strives to put together a good news show not driven by ratings but by content.

Women issues aside Aaron Sorkin is a machine of sharp and flowing dialect, and the overall feel you get from The Newsroom is that it's trying to preserve some integrity in the profession of journalism. The same way The West Wing created a human approach to the Presidency.

Will McAvoy: What does winning look like to you?
Mackenzie MacHale: Reclaiming the fourth estate. Reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession. A nightly newscast that informs a debate worthy of a great nation. Civility, respect, and a return to what's important; the death of bitchiness; the death of gossip and voyeurism; speaking truth to stupid. No demographic sweet spot; a place where we all come together. 

Although the show does have it's chinks in the armour such as it's obvious gender issues, it does want to do good things. It does have the potential to do good things, if it can find it's way through the growing pains. That's the charm of it, it does want to revitalise the reputation of journalism. In light of the past year in the industry with phone hacking scandals and all that jazz, the industry needs all the help it can get in piecing together a positive image. It may only be a reflection on traditional broadcast journalism, but it's a start.

The Newsroom premieres in the UK on Tuesday, July 10th on Sky Atlantic.

Side note: Sorkin can make me like Newsroom, but Sorkin can't make me like Sorkin. Internet Girls unite.