Why can’t I hate The Newsroom?

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Damn you Aaron Sorkin. Damn you.

All I wanted to do was hate The Newsroom. All I wanted to do was be like most real journalists I’ve read and cynically dismiss the show as unrealistic or nowhere near reminiscent of an actual newsroom. Not only that, I thought The Social Network was one of the most pretentious, overrated movies — I’d imagine I should probably call it a “film” ­— in recent memory, so I went into watching the show fully expecting to hate it.

But that didn’t happen. Within five minutes, I had checked any notion of comparing the show to real life at the door and was enjoying some damn good entertainment. The operative word being “entertainment.”

I think CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, — one of the few professional journalists I’ve seen that hasn’t been overly critical of the show — put it best when he wrote “to me it’s what it’s supposed to be — entertainment.”

Maybe it’s because I’m not a real journalist, and have never worked inside a real newsroom, but I agree with Mansbridge — and come on, he’s Peter Mansbridge. Why does it matter if the computers in the fictional newsroom are different than the ones in most real newsrooms? Who cares  if the producers wouldn’t actually put that much emphasis on the colour codes of news alerts?

Let’s remember, it is a television show. Its purpose is to be enjoyable.

I’m pretty sure there’s no island in the South Pacific where a mysterious group of “Others” travel through time and wreak havoc on survivors of a plane crash (Lost was damn good TV, I don’t care what anyone says). I’m relatively certain a real hospital doesn’t have the same amount of drama as ER. I highly doubt that mob hits were quite as regular (though probably still somewhat usual) in 1920s Atlantic City as they are on Boardwalk Empire. But if television were the same as real life, let’s face it, it would be boring as hell. Well, either that, or the abomination that is Jersey Shore. 

Does The Newsroom have its flaws? Of course.

For starters, the base for Emily Mortimer’s character Mackenzie McHale, might be one of the lamest on television. She’s the daughter of British immigrants to the U.S. who’s uber-patriotic (when it comes to the States, not Britain) and believes that through journalism, she and anchor Will McIvoy (Jeff Daniels) can restore America to the great nation it once was! (The exclamation point was meant to illustrate just how lame some of her speeches are). I should say she makes up for these idealistic, ‘no-one-would-say-that’ rants, with her performance orchestrating the newscast on the BP oil spill of April 2010.

Speaking of speeches, let’s remember, this is still an Aaron Sorkin-written show, so the opening episode had more than a few of his standard epic, ‘look how many facts I can rhyme off’ monologues, and several pretentious ‘listen to my clever reference’ moments. While those things were largely what turned me against The Social Network, when those speeches are coming out of Harry Dunn from Dumb and Dumber’s mouth, they just seem somehow less pompous.

My apologies, I had to get in a Dumb and Dumber reference somewhere. The truth is, Daniels is fantastic. Again, as much as Sorkin’s trademark pontifications usually make me roll my eyes, Will McIvoy’s outburst on the deterioration of the United States to open  the episode is, in a word, brilliant. Maybe it’s just the developing cynic in me talking, but the way he so perfectly described the stupidity of everything on both ends of the political spectrum really spoke to me.

So whether you’re a journalist, ‘real’ or aspiring, or not, go into The Newsroom with an open mind and don’t be too nitpicky. Because after all, it’s a TV show.

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