I want to get into the meat of how I love the direction this show has taken and how it carried it out on the first episode. But let’s look at some criticism first, and use that as direction. Scott Shackford from reason.com wrote this article. He’s not a fan of a number of parts of this show, including the paternalistic nature of the show, misguided nostalgia, and a failure to provide a realistic view of our nation’s newsroom/political situation.
I agree with a number of his statements (putting aside his self-righteous and pompous attitude that works with all of his rhetoric might to cast the show in an inane and uninformative light). What I disagree with is his approach to the show. It’s called The Newsroom. It’s not a news room.
The show starts with a girl asking a rather ridiculous question “Why is America the greatest country in the world?” What Shackford fails to understand is that this question was not spoken on the belief that a self-respecting college student would pose such a question. Like any successful story, this show is based on a character. It’s not trying to imitate reality, it poses as reality that is centered around the very real and human struggles of the character’s life. This question didn’t arise because it should have happened, it’s because it needed to happen for the main character at that time.
Shackford also points out “[Sorkin's] tendency to want to write about important issues and say important things without having to take any sort of responsibility for getting anything right.” This takes me back to the point about posing as reality. Sorkin has made a daring leap to use real news in the show. It risks such criticisms. But what it also does is draw the viewer into the show and make us more open to the struggles of this newsroom. If Sorkin had created half-veiled fake news stories that clearly aim at real news stories, I wouldn’t believe for a second that Shackford would accept that. He is only concerned with the classical, pure-reason and fact driven news reportage. I’m surprised that he would even turn on a television to watch a bit of fiction.
Sorkin, like any writer, lives in the realm of the romantics. In this realm, it’s not facts or reason that matters. It’s the humanness that reigns, the ideals and bigger questions that are too subjective for facts and logic to dig their claws into. Sorkin has decided to meet the subject of political turmoil and general bickering and the effect it’s taking on the youth of our nation (as I’ve noted in past posts).
While I believe Sorkin is the master of screen writing for his precise and measured use of dialogue and the settings he chooses for these series, his expertise lies being able to confront the world we know through characters who struggle through every bit of it. It takes this kind of stepping back from real life to get a view of what’s going on.