We journalists aren’t exactly the most tolerant people in the world. We think we know everything. We think everyone else knows nothing. We talk only to one another and make mighty assertions based on our conversations — with one another.
We’re often accused of being out of touch with Main Street USA — and I won’t deny it.
So, when Aaron Sorkin presented HBO’s new series The Newsroom last year, we were, naturally, skeptical that the show could repreesent our exalted profession. Skepticism hardneed to cynicism before the credits finished rolling at the start of the first show.
We should be loving the idea that a big-shot writer/director thought enough of broadcast journalism to base a series on the profession. I mean, mobsters reportedly loved The Sopranos. America’s real housewives love Real Housewives. But journalists have to cause trouble. It’s our nature, I guess.
Season two launches on July 14. It should be interesting.
Non-journos, aka normal people, hailed The Newsroom as an engrossing, true-to-life, fast-paced television show, no more, no less. They didn’t care if the decor was true to life or if the stories were contrived or if the characters radiated the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde all the time.
The viewing public wanted to be entertained — that’s it.
But cranky journalists are a lot tougher to please. Here are 5 reasons, fair or not, why the Fourth Estate hated the show.
1) Say whaaaat?
It DID seem like the characters, taking a page out of the movie Juno, only said pithy, sage, fascinating things to one another 100% of the time. I’ve been in many newsrooms over the years and have yet to meet a group of people as flowery as this bunch. We’re more along the lines of a story attributable to Kurt Vonnegutt Jr. before he became an acclaimed novelist. He worked for a new magazine called Sports Illustrated in the 1950s. He had the not-so-daunting assignment of writing a caption for a horse jumping over a fence, while he stood at his desk because they apparently couldn’t find a chair for him. Vonnegutt’s thoughtful caption was “the horse jumped over the fucking fence.” (See pages 72-73 of a book called After the Gsme, containing the piece Lunches with Luce).
2) The anxious anchor.
Jeff Daniels, one of my favorite actors going back to Terms of Endearment, did a terrific job of making us care about his Will. But do we know too much about his screwed-up life than we need to? Is Sorkin trying to create a Don Draper-like mystique about a guy whose primary job is to read headlines and say earnestly, “Thank you,” to whatever correspondent has just risked his or her life for a Peabody?
3) The obligatory newsroom near-romances.
Lose the soap opera tease and get down to it. These people should be sleeping with and waking up next to one another. Make the show true to life. Go for it, folks! In a real newsroom, there would be much more s-e-x-x-x than we apparently saw on season one. It’s not to titillate — it is to enlighten!
4) More Jane Fonda!
As the boss, Jane Fonda injected a whiff of Pure Meanness in the show that was the most real-life aspect of The Newsroom in year one. Was she trying to be a version of Kay Graham? Was she supposed to be representing the style of Rupert Murdoch or Sumner Redstone (or, dare I say, her ex- Ted Turner)? It was fun to watch her on the screen — plus, she can still act, to say the least.
5) Switch to de-caf, please: Can’t we see a few lighthearted moments of ordinary newsroom frivolity? Is every story the end of the world? Don’t these folks ever sit at their desks and open their mail or call their mothers or make a reservation at a spinning class at a New York Sports Club?