If a work of fiction is going to try and tap into real-life emotions, it needs to be better than “The Newsroom.”
“The Newsroom” has many problems. For every entertaining moment and every moment filled with dramatic tension, there are moments of head-scratching stupidity and soliloquies preached in empty cathedrals.
In particular, the fourth episode of the Aaron Sorkin-created series about a fictional cable news network (the fifth aired last night) was borderline unwatchable.
The main character is supposed to be a swell guy despite everyone literally throwing drinks in his face. The women in the show, while they have power, are constantly ordered around and constantly flub up. And then there are the never-ending mentions of “Don Quixote” and Bigfoot.
The episode ends with the news team, assembled on a Saturday (for reasons that don’t make a ton of sense), reacting to the attempt on Rep. Gabby Giffords’ life in 2011. In a vacuum, it’s gripping television, a bit haunting, and shows that Sorkin can still deliver a powerful scene.
However, in the context of the show, the tragedy — in which six people were killed and another 12 were injured — serves as a vehicle for the characters to pat each other on the back.
They did not succumb to the peer pressure of reporting that Giffords had been killed. That’s the major victory in this episode.
This leads to lead anchor Will McAvoy getting pretty jacked up and dishing out compliments left and right. It leads to two characters with a lot of unresolved sexual tension between them sharing a knowing look. It’s an event that allows them to feel better about themselves and the work they do.
Sorkin sets his show in the past and it gives his characters the advantage of looking very smart and responsible when serious news breaks. “The Newsroom” features a show that plays like “The Daily Show” in trying to keep folks accountable while attempting to say something of the times à la “Mad Men.”
Maybe in this environment, their reactions are normal, but watching from the outside, these characters seem emotionally hollow and selfish.
A show like “Mad Men” will take the Cuban Missile Crisis and throw it in the background to show a heightened sense of paranoia around the main characters. Perhaps what’s happening in the world around them accelerates the characters’ needs to act upon their emotions. And make no mistake about it, the characters on “Mad Men” are entirely selfish — but not hollow.
Four episodes into “The Newsroom,” it all seems much more self-serving. They report on tragedies and politics in the manner they do because they feel it’s righteous. McAvoy’s “mission to civilize” is selfish.
He’s doing the news not for ratings, but, in his view, to educate. But we’re not necessarily getting an education. We’re getting lectures, as if Sorkin himself is trying to civilize us with his theatrics.
From what we’ve seen early on, however, the show doesn’t do a great job pulling in the real-world feelings that fester during a tragedy.
When something awful happens in the real world, we see anchors choke up on live television. Even hours after the theater shootings in Aurora, Colo. this past weekend, I highly doubt Brooke Baldwin was doing fist pumps during commercial breaks over her network’s coverage.
If there are celebrations, we don’t see them and maybe that’s for the best.
Friday night, I spent over an hour reading pieces about Jessica Redfield. I didn’t know her and, admittedly, I hadn’t even heard of her until Friday afternoon.
But one of the powerful (and potentially scary) things about social media and the Internet is that in a short span of time, I was able to find out a lot about her, including what others thought of her. The praise is high.
There are only two posts on her personal blog, but combine that with her Twitter feed and you get the sense that she’d be someone you could easily hang out and watch a game with or something.
When someone your age passes away unexpectedly, it can make you step back for a moment and look at things in a different way. From what I’ve been able to tell, Jessica was someone who, like me, had interests in hockey and journalism. I, too, was in a theater early Friday morning watching “The Dark Knight Rises.” What happened in Aurora really could have happened anywhere.
Like I said, I didn’t know Jessica, but her memory can serve as a source of inspiration. From everything I’ve read, Jessica was someone who was doing it right. She was traveling, making connections and doing good work. There’s no telling when someone’s big break will come, but it sure seemed like her break was going to come at some point.
Here’s someone who went out to live her dream and was well on her way to accomplishing it. It’s more than a shame that a senseless act of violence took her and nine others from us.
I really don’t know how to finish this, and maybe that’s because some feelings can’t be written down no matter how hard we try. So I’ll end this with a link to how others are feeling. Maybe they can express themselves better than I can.