Preview: Media Buzz Tackles "The Newsroom"
Since we’re all absorbed by the fake filibuster and a fake budget crisis in Washington, I thought this would be a good time to talk about a fake anchorman.
Yes, we will debate the coverage of a possible government shutdown and political maneuvering and Ted Cruz talkathon Sunday on Media Buzz. But I’m really looking forward to our segment on The Newsroom.
Jeff Daniels, as the smug and self-absorbed anchor Will McAvoy, stunned Hollywood by winning the Emmy for best actor this week. Kevin Spacey’s candidacy crumbled like a house of cards (sorry).
What was especially surprising about the Emmy upset is that what should be the HBO show’s core constituency—media people—are not exactly on board. In fact, The Newsroom is the show that journalists love to hate.
Why is that, exactly?
Well, there are the usual grumblings about the fictional television network not being realistic. What, you don’t think we rush around juggling world-class breaking stories, giving self-righteous speeches and carrying on office romances? Or that an anchor would hire the ex-girlfriend he dumped as his executive producer?
Hey, Aaron Sorkin isn’t making a documentary here. Life in the White House doesn’t exactly mimic The West Wing, either.
For a long time I struggled to like The Newsroom, but it was just kinda…dull. The first season was so talky, with the characters delivering these long, impassioned monologues to each other. Having them cover real news stories like the BP oil spill didn’t quite work. And the endless subplots often seemed like tangents.
But in the middle of this season, Sorkin, who admits a tendency to be too earnest, listened to some of the critics. The writing got tighter and the narrative moved more quickly. The episodes were built around a takeoff on a story I once covered, CNN’s Tailwind debacle, an inaccurate report that U.S. troops had used nerve gas in Southeast Asia. The colossal mistake not only raised the dramatic stakes as Daniels and his boss and ex-girlfriend struggled with whether to resign, it cast a harsh spotlight on how journalists made a colossal screwup.
Aha. Could that be the underlying reason that some people in the biz don’t like The Newsroom—it makes us look bad?
Or is it harder to be entertained by a show that’s about what you do every day?
I’ll give you a real anchor’s view on Sunday at 11a ET.