Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Newsroom Closes Its Doors

As long as it's taken me to write this (the show itself ended on December 14th), it's obvious I'm beyond behind on my writing. But there was no way in hell I was going to let the ending of one of the smartest shows of the last few years pass by without comment.

And yes, I said it was one of the smartest shows of the last few years, and I meant. Beyond all the controversy of things like Sorkin's depiction of women, which I think was mostly misunderstood, or the "rape episode," which, okay, even I can't really defend except to say we all mess up sometimes, this show was smart as hell. Which is no surprise, because it's Sorkin, and his writing has ALWAYS been intelligent, going all the way back to A Few Good Men. And it's always been snappy and funny, two qualities that were definitely in attendance here. Sorkin crafted a show that was, underneath it all, a smart, funny look at the lives and struggles of people who strive to do something noble: they strive to honestly and fairly educate the rest of us.

And yet, the show came under almost constant attack from detractors who brandished a laundry list of, in my opinion, absurd complaints. And my route to praising this show, in lieu of saying that the people who hated it just weren't smart enough to get it, will be to knock those criticisms down a little.

1.) The bumbling description of women. Yes, Sorkin wrote flawed characters. Yes, they fell in love and weren't all Miss Independent. Sorry folks, not every woman on TV can be the Scandal, Madam Secretary brand of superwoman. They're flawed. Like the rest of us. And not for nothing, but his men weren't exactly perfect either. Just look at all the ways James Tiberius Harper screwed up his relationships...

2.) The story lines meandered. So does life, but they always came back around.

3.) No newsroom is that idealistic. So let me ask, is the flaw that the show was too idealistic for reality, or that reality isn't idealistic enough? I mean, when did idealism become something to be derided instead of lauded, instead of strived for? The truth is, if more news shows were like News Night with Will McAvoy, I might actually watch the news more often.

4.) All it felt like the show was doing was chastising the modern news industry. Well, sure it was chastising the modern news industry. If you don't think that's an industry that needs to be chastised, your brain might not be connected to... well, anything. But beyond that, if you thought that's all this show was, if you didn't get that, more than anything, it was about people connecting and an utterly broken person fixing himself, I can't help you.

Because, underneath it all, the Newsroom was about Will McAvoy, played to perfection by Jeff Daniels, not trying to fix the world as it seemed from the show's brilliant, oft-replayed opening scene, but using that quest to civilize as a mask for the ways he was trying to fix what was broken about him. From his father issues to his disconnectedness to the people around him to how heartbroken he was over how things went wrong with the woman he loved, this show was his journey to heal himself. Along the way, we watched the lives of the rest of the characters grow: we watched Don and Sloan grow into an amazingly entertaining couple; we watched Mackenzie achieve everything she strove for; we watched Neal become a real newsman of the internet age; we watched Jim and Maggie finally grow together after three years of being stupid. The cast was topnotch, and they took Sorkin's legendary dialogue and positively owned it. And, most of all, we got to watch Sam Waterston play frequently-drunk news department president Charlie Skinner, one of my favorite characters of the last few years.

And he did it all while wearing a bow tie. Bow ties are cool.

I will miss the Newsroom. I could have watched this show for years and years, laughing and being touched the whole time, my thoughts being wonderfully provoked. But instead I'll settle for loving the twenty-five episodes we got. If this is, as he says, Aaron Sorkin's last foray into television, well, thanks for all the entertainment, sir.

And as one of Will's heroes would have said, good night, and good luck.


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