The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    The Newsroom: A stupid, poorly acted show with an extra serving of sexism

    Here's hoping Dev Patel survives the monstrosity that is "The Newsroom."

    What if all your dreams of a responsible, honest media came true? What if, for once, reporters asked the right follow-up questions and were informed on the day’s events? What if the media took responsibility for reporting the truth rather than some twisted form of he-said, she-said equivalency? What if the media took journalistic integrity seriously? Really, really, really, really seriously?

    Such is what Aaron Sorkin is trying to accomplish with HBO’s “The Newsroom.” I know this, because it’s mentioned roughly 135 times each show.

    Newsroom is essentially a show about what would happen if a group of gung-ho college kids took over a cable news show. Check that. “Newsroom” is essentially what would happen if you gave a group of gung-ho college kids an hour a week on HBO to make a show about a cable news show taken over by gung-ho college kids.

    If “The Newsroom” were any more preachy, it would have to change its name to the 700 Club.

    In Episode three of the series – after having Anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) publicly apologize for everything he’s ever done while hurling the rest of the media under the bus – Sorkin takes on the Tea Party.

    Aside from getting the creation of the Tea Party wrong (this was not some spontaneous grassroots effort that was hijacked by corporate and political interests, it was corporate interests creating a a “grassroots movement.”) the show makes the exact same mistake the U.S. Media has long made with the Tea Party – it gives them far too much credit. The irony is not to be missed – in a show that will tell you every five minutes that journalism should be about facts and not ratings, it shakes the Tea Party tree as strongly as possible to give the show buzz.

    By the way, “The Newsroom” is a show about the moral integrity of being a journalist.

    While the show pounds you over the head repeatedly with its message, the acting is even more over-the-top. It is a credit to Sorkin that he’s somehow put together a formidable cast but has directed them to act as though they are all rank amateurs blasted on crystal meth.

    While the show itself seems to be done by college kids, with high-school level acting, the storylines are broad enough to have been drawn by grade schoolers. While consistently mocking the stupidity of the media and conservatives, “The Newsroom” treats its own audience like idiots, spoon feeding them every moment of the way.

    Oh, and in case I haven’t mentioned it enough, “The Newsroom” is about journalistic integrity. Seriously. Ask Sorkin, he’ll tell you. Forever.

    More than anything, though, it is “The Newsroom’s” treatment of women that take it from being just a preachy, poorly acted fantasy to the all-out train wreck that it is. In the first three episodes, Sorkin has burnished his oft-commented on misogynistic cred. Basically, Sorkin’s treatment of his female characters could only be worse if he had each of them scream “I Need A Man!!” several times a show.

    There is Executive Producer Mackenzie McHale (played by Emily Mortimer in the worst performance of her career), a “highly respected executive producer,” who is also the ex-girlfriend of McAvoy. We are to believe that McHale has thrived with an embedded crew in Iraq, but falls completely to pieces when around McAvoy. When McAvoy has a date (three dates, actually. With women who may of well just had “Bimbo” flashing above their heads.), McHale suddenly becomes a desperate housewife.

    There is Associate Producer Margaret Jordan (played by Alison Pill in what might be the worst performance on HBO since Gallagher.) Involved in an inner-office relationship, Jordan falls apart four or five times an episode because of relationship problems and needs to leave meetings due to panic attacks.

    There is up-and-coming host Sloan Sabbith (played by Olivia Munn, who may escape this dreck with a career). As of now, all we know about her is that she’s whip-smart and was promoted because she has great legs.

    There is Leona Lansing, owner of the entire cable giant that runs Newsroom. Played by Jane Fonda (who was apparently cast to guarantee that no Conservative will ever watch the show),  Lansing gets talked down to by  President of the News Division Charlie Skinner (played by Sam Waterson as a cross between Uncle Billy Bailey of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and every last wise older male in every movie ever made) . Skinner gives Lansing a general lesson on media ethics 101, which is something we hadn’t heard in more than three full minutes.

    For the record, “The Newsroom” is about the media and the importance of being a true journalist and the moral integrity it takes to tell the truth by standing up to the spin with integrity and showing integrity in the face of integrity of journalism. In case you forgot.

    I don’t know much of Sorkin’s previous work on television, having never watched “West Wing” or “SportsNight,” but it’s entirely possible Sorkin has extreme problems with women. Or maybe he’s never actually meant one. It’s really something he should look into.

    Overall, “The Newsroom” is an awful, preachy, sexist show that encapsulates the stupidity it tries to berate. A fictional show about a cable news station is, in itself, a nice idea. Maybe Sorkin should try doing a show like that after this monstrosity is cancelled.

    To be fair, there are two bright spots to “The Newsroom,” in my opinion. For one, Dev Patel is a likeable actor. Two, “Breaking Bad” starts next week, so we can stop talking about “The Newsroom” once and for all and enjoy a show that doesn’t think its viewers are morons and doesn't feel the need to smash its message over viewer's heads 14 times a show.

    Journalistic integrity.


    Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles


    I guess I'll stick to reruns of Lou Grant.

    I think real life Rachel Maddow does a better job of  addressing the Koch brothers and the Tea Party than the fictional show. "Newsroom" character do seem somewhat brain dead. I do admit that I started listening to a broadcast of new jazz songs via satellite radio because "Newsroom" became boring.

    I kept wondering if Sorkin had to pay royalties to Keith Olbermann for the use of the curmudgeonly Liberal anchorman on the verge of a breakdown stereotype.  This show might succeed ... but only because after watching an hour of sex-crazed vampires and fairies, viewers will mistakenly assume this show is more realistic.

    On the other hand, there is something fascinating about watching a train wreck in the making.  Will Sorkin pull the show out of its death spiral in time?  Will those good looking, but semi-tortured characters ever get together and have sex and become happy? Will ... hey, is that water-polo on ESPN?


    I agree, the story about the show might be more interesting than the show itself. I save stuff for the 10 o'clock hour with the goal of not going to bed too early and hitting the 3:00 a.m. circuit. Newsroom qualifies for the try-to-stay-awake hour, not to exclude, "Who the bleep did I marry" and "Memphis Police Women".  Newsroom is something like the gong show, how awful can this get? An interactive comment facility on the T.V. would be fun.  Among other lessons, the show seems to prove that you can't take a bad actor like Bridges and make him whole by giving him a role as a bad actor.

    I love navel gazing media stuff and even I find The Newsroom unwatchable and kind of embarassing.  "You want us to design our news program around your corporate agenda?"  Maybe people should talk that way but nobody does, ever.

    Well, shoot, I really wanted to like this one, too.  I don't get HBO but was about to go looking for it somewhere online.  I think the first three seasons of "The West Wing" were brilliant, and I've been a Sorkin fan ever since. 

    I admit "The Social Network" didn't live up to my expectations, but I was hoping "Newsroom" would be Sorkin at his best.  Too bad.

    But about the women:  They came very off well in "West Wing".  Some of the female characters were remarkably complex, including the First Lady (Stockard Channing), but Allison Janney's "C.J" is unforgettable. (She was the president's press secretary.)  The sexual tension between Josh Lyman and Donna Moss was subtle--never overboard but never dull.

    There were a few "hit you on the head" moments, particularly with Martin Sheen as President Bartlet, but for the most part it was smart and grown-up and completely satisfying.  The opening music still makes my throat tighten up.

    So, too bad about his women problems.  I guess it happens to the best of them.

    Okay, the gremlins were in residence last night.  Scratch "they came very off well" and insert "they came off very well."

    I, too, was really wanting to like this show - esp after the preview scene where he launches into the college kid about how America isn't number 1.  But the whole rant he has on stage also pushes another failing notion that underlies the show: that Americans used to be better informed in the good old days when news shows told the news.

    Americans, back when Walter was telling them the way it was, were just as uninformed as they are today. (how long were we in Vietnam before most Americans knew we were in Vietnam) The difference with today was that they didn't have as much misinformation about the way things are.  One could say that they not very informed about the world, but at least they accepted the fact they were not very informed about the world.  Today people assume they understand the working of international finance and the deep motivations of each of the world leaders that they are aware of.

    During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Americans watched the news to see the latest developments, knowing things were going on behind the scenes of which they will never know about until a made-for-tv-movie explains it to them twenty years later.  If the same event happened today, people would listen to the news to get the inside "truth" about who on the other side was at fault, why someone else in charge would be doing a better job, and why it was all really the fault of liberal regulations on financial markets.

    When one stops to think about for just a moment, just how can a news show five nights a week for 30 minutes (minus the minutes for advertising) lead to a truly informed nation.  At best it could shed a light on what was happening somewhere.  But briefly gazing upon something briefly illuminated does not lead to a deep understanding of what it is one is actually seeing. 

    Even after all the news casts that talked about the Vietnam War, most Americans remained uninformed about the conflict as a whole - what led up to it, how we became more enmeshed, etc.

    When it comes to the majority of Americans and truly informative news programing, there are no good old days.


    I am surprised at the reception I find here to The Newsroom . It seems, consistent with the direction programming in general has taken towards mindless, non-thinking, de-complexed reality shows and brainless lame comedies, that a show as well written, as quick witted, as politically charged and requiring a comprehension level of english beyond the third grade should be so under appreciated.   This is an excellent show, carefully written for a terrific ensemble cast who introduces debate and argument for viewers to consider in a very engaging way.  I hope the show finds its audience among those who actually like to think, to engage in debate and good conversation, regardless of their political point of view.

    Let me guess - you're part of the cast?

    Or part of the promotion team to make sure it gets good word-of-mouth on the intertubes?

    Wolfrum deconstructs the program in very specific terms to describe why it's preachy, inaccurate and misogynistic. 

    And you come on implying that he's a fool for mindless de-complexed reality shows written in elementary school English. And doesn't like to think. Oh and by the way, the show is g-g-g-r-r-rreat!!!!

    Have you considered a career doing cereal commercials? Hear Tony Tiger's in retirement.

    By the way, your conclusion: " I hope the show finds its audience among those who actually like to think, to engage in debate and good conversation" is rather ironic, since you don't engage in debate (or seem to even know how), and instead of conversation simply assert for the billionth time it's an "excellent show...terrific ensemble cast".

    Well, my mother loves me and encourages me this way too (though in private she does tell me to stand up straight & comb my hair - a bit of tough love in your comments instead of gushing enthusiasm might help?)

    So, how about address Wolfrum's points - or at least 1 of them - or toddle off to some other venue to drop unwavering support for your pay-pals?

    So, how about address Wolfrum's points - or at least 1 of them

    I must have missed it; where was this new rule posted where one has to address the blogger's points before one can address what other commenters said?

    or toddle off to some other venue to drop unwavering support for your pay-pals?

    I must have also missed where was it announced that you were now in charge of who is an appropriate commenter here?

    I don't care if the guy is an astroturfer for the show, do you have any idea what seeing this kind of flaming does to lurkers considering participation? Are you gunning for this site to forever be a sort of private chat room for the same 10 people to argue the same things over and over again? Cause that's where this kind of nasty snarky commenting to newbies (on something as inconsequential as an opinion of a TV show, yet) eventually takes you; I've seen that happen more than once.

    Oh just read the posting for fuck's sakes. He didn't address what anyone said, he just praised the show to kingdom come. It was a drive-by, probably paid by Hollywood.

    If lurkers are considering this kind of mindless participation, I prefer they don't. 

    However, if you recall, I defended new people that had right wing or otherwise considered noxious opinion - because they had opinions. (Bulldog,Iron Bruce, maybe Resistance, forget who else).

    Really, re-read his comment and see if there's one bit of sincere value in it, one actual detailed praise of the show, or if it just reads like a glib faceless press release or promo piece.

    [this site has been hit be robo-pieces before, BTW - all they have to do is search for a keyword like Newsroom and do an insert]

    I find it interesting that Dan Rather does not agree with most here.  You can read his comments here  I wish we did have more straight news reporting like found at Democracy Now or what we used to see more of on PBS.  I also like BBC; just news with no hype.

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