Monday, July 02, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: The Newsroom

I never really watched Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing and the reason I didn't is sort of embarrassing to admit, but where better to embarrass myself than here on my blog? I never really watched The West Wing because Cranky Boss Lady loved it from the very first episode. My choice to not watch was not based on the disparities between her taste and mine--there was no logical calculation of "if she likes it, I'm unlikely to enjoy it." No, it was a pouty, petulant thing--practically my entire reason for not watching it was that my watching would give Cranky Boss Lady some small measure of joy.*

I've had reason to doubt the wisdom of my decision to abstain from The West Wing over the years--six gazillion positive reviews in addition to the popularity of the show, just for instance--but never more than I've doubted it while watching the first two episodes of Sorkin's The Newsroom on HBO.

The show takes place, aptly enough, inside the offices of a primetime news show. News Night is the fictional show within this show and it is attempting to be unlike any other news show currently on television by setting out to inform viewers rather than merely entertain them--to put public service ahead of ratings and ad sales. This concept is intriguing to me since I find it terrifying that the information available to us is to a great extent influenced by markets and demographics and corporate interests rather than by what may actually be important to know as voters and citizens. There are any number of things I feel should not be "market-driven," but information, the "news" is at the top of that list--not least because figuring out how to fill out the rest of the list requires information unlikely to be willingly provided by the interests driving those markets.

So Sorkin begins with a concept close to my heart and adds solid actors like Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston and a whole group of others whose names and faces are vaguely familiar if at all, but who flawlessly deliver the challenging dialogue Sorkin has written for them. The apparently signature Sorkin dialogue is fast-paced (breakneck, even), intelligent and witty, which has its drawbacks--there was an exchange in the second episode that was hilarious, but so rapid-fire that I was afraid to laugh for fear of missing a line. In an interview on The Colbert Report last week, Sorkin responded to criticism that no one really talks that way in real life by pointing out that the high schools most of us attended in no way resembled the one on Glee. A good point, to which I would add, wouldn't it be great if sometimes, just sometimes, people really did talk like that?

Only sometimes, of course, because I could see how it might get annoying after a while if everyone talked like that all the time. The internet is full of professional and amateur critics (the line is blurry) who are apparently deeply tired of Sorkin's feats of (unrealistic) dialogue. Perhaps that is the silver lining of my pointless and long-regretted boycott of The West Wing--Sorkin's dialogue is a revelation to me, a true pleasure. It's like watching a hyperintelligent high school debate team--one whose members are under the influence of copious quantities of caffeine and refined sugar--and ending up with a vicarious buzz yourself.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Entertaining.

*For more on Cranky Boss Lady, who is no longer my Boss, but is still in my life on a fairly regular basis, check out this post, the conclusion of which is perhaps worth mentioning: "Which brings me to the real crux of the problem here--I guess it's not really Cranky Boss Lady who's the problem, it's the horrifying things she brings out in my personality that frustrate and, frankly, terrify me."