Last night, a colleague of mine and I got into a discussion about The Newsroom on Twitter. He suggested that anyone that spends their time watching Aaron Sorkin’s show is “wasting their lives” noting at one point that, “where the show loses me is in its lack of tension, logic, character, enjoyability, nuance, plot, momentum, and originality.” He’s not wrong, really, except for one point: Enjoyability.
Last night’s episode was just such an example: Aaron Sorkin nearly frittered away the biggest news event of the last five years on a somewhat amusing, but — given the subject matter — weirdly comedic episode of Newsroom. In the end, however, Sorkin managed to land some really nice moments by personalizing the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death to a few individuals. It was not subtle (it reminded me of some of those hoo-ra Jingoism moments on The West Wing), and it was a little clumsy in getting there, but it still managed to be powerfully affecting. In the end, that’s why I still watch The Newsroom, because despite the lack of originality, nuance, momentum, plot, etc., when he hits those high, soaring notes — and he still does, at least once an episode — few are as good at manipulating our emotions with earnest appeals to our better natures than Sorkin. Plus, the patter. I love the patter.
In real life, Sorkin is also trying to turn the corner with critics, first by showing some actual humility. Remember “Sorkinisms: A Supercut,” the video that mashes-up of clips in which characters from The West Wing, Social Network and other Sorkin projects recite nearly identical lines?
Sorkin has seen it, had a very friendly exchange with the editor (who is a fan), and even admits: “I have a very limited imagination.”
That may be the first time I’ve seen the usual sanctimonious Aaron Sorkin say something honestly self-deprecating. According to the NYPost, for season two, Sorkin has also hired consultants to help him offset his preachy, liberal dialogue. That’s kind of huge, too: The first step to to solving a problem is to admit it.
Newsroom is still a wildly uneven show, but I think it’s finding its feet, rounding off the rough edges, and coming in to its own. The best thing Sorkin can do in the future is try to separate his Newsroom characters from the characters in his other shows, and the best way to do that is to stop them from doing and saying the same things. If he can add some new moves to his repertoire, watching Newsroom may not be such a waste of our lives.