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TV is fiction – Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” is TV. What’s the problem?

Aaron Sorkin’s: “The Newsroom”

A lot of reviews and comments about “The Newsroom” occupy themselves with the realism of the show. They have a very strong sentiment about how a “real” newsroom “should” be depicted in TV fiction.

Newsflash: “The Newsroom” is a TV show. The truth remains that TV is fiction in one form or another; which includes Superman, mutants and yes, actors and actresses, made up events and fake blood.

TV allows the exploration of all kinds of ideas – and every conceivable story “deserves” a shot. Idealism (a central theme in Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom”) is as good a starting theme as any. That’s what Aaron Sorkin’s great “The West Wing” (1999-2006) was about for instance.

Unfortunately, sometimes the plots become excruciatingly or at least numbingly one-dimensional, as in “Weeds” (2005-2012) and “The Newsroom” (2012). All the characters are carbon copies of one personality type; who in addition is stuck in one gear and as an end in itself. In Weeds, everyone on screen takes turn regarding who can be the most dysfunctional. On “The Newsroom”, if one central character is childish, then all the other characters re-enact their versions of “17 Again”. While characters of “The West Wing” had their moments of “youthful” behavior and the overall tone varied between light banter, heated but learned argumentation and passionate speeches, “The Newsroom” goes overboard with non-stop tantrums. It’s as if Sorking decided to compete with Gossip Girl — the elementary school years. It gets old — fast.  (Perhaps this is why rumour has it that Sorkin is shaking up the writing staff).

At the same time, the crew has big shoes to fill. Rare and magical productions such as “The West Wing” comprise “lighting in a bottle”: Everything is aligned. Not only the lines but also the timing, chemistry and interaction between the cast members has a charmed aspect.

“The Newsroom” cast is excellent. Jeff Daniels owns his “Will McAvoy”, etc. Yet the overall delivery of the cast is very close to a table-read in every episode. Be it the writing, directing, delivery, an attempt to get high school kids interested in the affairs of the state, or all of the above… at the end of the day — it’s not quite working.


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