Three episodes is the standard hook-me-or-I’m-out window I give new shows. That’s about all the time I’m willing to spare for something unproven. My attention span shrinks by the day, but some of my favorites, old and new (The Wire, Girls), took more than the first 8 seconds to convince of their merit.
Last night, I hit the three-episode mark with Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, and ladies and gentlemen, the jig is officially up. It’s not that the show is irredeemable, it’s just that my time is better spent on Next Food Network Star. Yes, The Newsroom is that bad.
There are many problems included but not limited to epically long and boring monologues, terrible musical selections, a distorted nostalgia for a past that doesn’t exist, and not a single likeable persona among the bunch. But the biggest problem, which I’m not the first to note, is Sorkin’s attitude towards The Women.
In the world of The Newsroom, women are shrill, spastic, pathetic, manic, melodramatic, jealous, petty, technologically incompetent, unprofessional, obsessive, preoccupied with “saving” men, frantic, disorganized, bossy, irritable, and above all, frazzled and desperate. They exist as two-dimensional paper dolls onto which the men can project their opinions and reinforce their own (admittedly limited) identities.
After I finished episode 3 last night, I returned to Season 1 of Friday Night Lights, which I have been rewatching because I miss the Taylors and summer sucks for television. This is how emotional drama about the American experience is done. The character that would be the easiest to pigeon-hole, the sweet and sassy coach’s wife, is as robust and multi-faceted as the rest (a credit both to the writer and the insanely talented Connie Britton).
I’ve talked about this before regarding Game of Thrones and I’m going to quote myself, because today I’m just that cool:
Despite the confines of their societal roles, the women and girls in Game of Thrones have lives as ethically complex and emotionally difficult as the knights and swordsmen. The roles of wife, mother, sister, daughter are never one-note labels, but mere pieces of very nuanced portraits of human life. Just because these characters are limited by the inequality of their environment doesn’t make their stories any less rewarding.
This is a lesson Aaron Sorkin seems to be forgetting. In the most recent episode, the nervous, manic Maggie suffered a panic attack, from which the heroic Jim rescued her. The panic attack could have been a window into Maggie’s mind and experience, instead it was used to showcase Jim’s skill and to teach us about his history as a reporter embedded with troops.
Sorkin has already chosen which characters he finds independently interesting, and surprise of all surprises, they look a lot like him.
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