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“The Newsroom” Is The New “Lost”

Weeks ago, when the pilot of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom was seen by critics/bloggers, there was an vicious outcry about how bad it was. Reviews were so harsh, especially given the hype surrounding the trailer for the series, that it seemed as if the collective Internet was calling for Sorkin’s head on a plate, just like people called for Damon Lindelof’s head at the end of Lost. Still, plenty of people have a polar opposite opinion of The Newsroom and enjoy it just like they enjoyed The West Wing. This is one of many ways in which a divisive joke reference is formed.

It’s not hard to imagine that, whether it be a comedian on stage or a friend at a bar after work in the middle of a story, someone might condescendingly say, “I mean, they’re the type of person who loves The Newsroom.” Some of those jokes or stories might be funny and some might be hilarious, but, undoubtedly, that reference would be poking fun at something that someone likes, which is, at least for a time, part of their identity and perspective.

Already, there are people who are not so much apologists as people who just apologize for watching The Newsroom like it’s a form of shame eating in which they feed of the ramblings of an alcoholic Sam Waterston. They just can’t wait for the next Sorkin-esque argument to follow the one that took place 5 minutes earlier, watching from underneath a blanket, under the illusion that they’re hidden, with nobody able to see them watch The Newsroom.

It’s a weird concept that watching an hour long drama TV series about a news show (hardly a snuff film fetish) is something for which you can be ridiculed, or have to be self-deprecating about. Yet, as this is an artistic product sent out through the medium of television for public consumption, whether The Newsroom is bad or good or something at which to vomit hateful words or have as a guilty pleasure becomes a matter of taste.

There are people that really loved Rob Schneider’s The Animal, which has held a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes for years. They’re real. I’ve met them and, then, never talked to them again. Similarly, there are people who probably dismiss my cinematic tastes because I throughly enjoyed The Tree of Life, like my little sister, who proceeded to scream at me for an hour about how “nothing happened” after we left the theater. From whatever show, movie, band, etc. you like, there’s going to be someone who hates it with a passion, and with that dynamic, there will always be a joke. That’s how humor works. It’s succinct commentary on two opposing sides of a concept that somehow exist in a reality of sorts (i.e. there is something that strikes someone as off within the context of a reality, fabricated or legitimate, or shouldn’t be, and yet, is).

In this case, The Newsroom could be a reference for people who have no discerning taste in what they watch, or people who like watching a bunch of screaming, or even people who have a Jeff Daniels obsession, as these would be the only reasons to watch a TV show so “bad.” In all likelihood, it’s a timely cultural reference that will pass, or maybe The Newsroom will become better and the context for the reference will change, but a joke about The Newsroom will alienate someone who likes The Newsroom just like a joke about Asians driving will alienate someone who likes good comedy.

As that’s the case, the idea of trying to not offend anyone with comedy is ludicrous. If a joke is almost across-the-board funny, it will still might be offensive to the people that are the butt of the joke, but they might laugh anyway because it was, above all, including their morals and values, just that funny.

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28 comments

  • I get that The Newsroom may come off as sanctimonious or highbrow, but that’s probably because it’s about a sanctimonious, highbrow, ideological news show… Also, this website’s called “Nerdist” – Sorkin’s clearly spot-on with the “mission to civilise”.

  • So wait, if all women aren’t written as super strong then it’s bad? There’s no perfect male characters on the show as far as I can tell, so why should the women characters be perfect?

  • I think Sorkin is doing an overall shitty job writing women having watched “Studio 60″ and “The Newsroom”. On “West Wing” I was pretty much ok with what was going on because I think he basically wrote women like he would write men. Strong, confident and standing their ground.

    For some reason on Studio 60 he made Harriet Hayes a religious whacko and the reason I hated the show with a vengeance. Back then I thought he simply wasn’t able to write a religious character and make the non-religious or maybe even liberal viewers feel for said character.

    Now on Newsroom he basically “gets it right” by writing a show that portrays how life for women must be today in a Newsroom – full of misogynistic assholes who only like themselves, where women are just there for the eye-candy and as sexual objects.

    That might be the way it is in some or maybe most of the newsrooms in the US (but I doubt it, for instance read Ken Levine’s account of how he promoted his news book – the author, not the computer game maker, see kenlevine.blogspot.com, where he writes about the two women anchors in the LA local TV station basically working on their own in front of the camera – no cameramen, no makeup people and they even pin the mics on the guests themselves) but instead of writing a show like “Will & Grace” or “Queer Eye” that did wonders for the acceptance of gay and lesbian citizens, Sorkin writes a show that’s basically been stuck in the 90s.

    And the “Hey Internet girl” shit he pulled (just google it) basically confirms that.

    He furthers a misogynistic world view and that’s why I think the show sucks. Ok I admit it: I also think HE sucks but it’s because I saw the show first and then tried to find out what others think on the net and stumpled upon the Hey Internet girl BS.

  • I wasn’t referencing you Sebastion, but wouldn’t your issue be with not liking Sorkin? (or his writing to be more specific). Or are you seeing his writing of women differently in this show than his other shows? Seems the same to me.

  • The problem with reviews of this show is that they’re coming from butt-hurt media people, right wingers and band wagoners. Other than that, if you are hating on the show, you just don’t like Sorkin. I can at least respect the latter. I am enjoying the show and no it’s not a guilty pleasure, it’s an actual genuine one but I don’t work in the media so I don’t have to write douchbaggy condescending articles about it.

  • Let me rephrase. “Bashing on the people for enjoying something.” You can make jokes about something I like being bad, but bashing on me for liking something is about as anti-nerd as it gets.

  • @Jake Kroeger
    The Nerdist website is supposed to be a place of openness and acceptance. Almost everyone on this site grew up a nerd liking something and being ridiculed for it. Now, I have to come here and read a Nerdist writing bashing on something I enjoy. That’s ridiculous. I get that it’s Chris’s website and he can do what he wants, but this is the kind of article that makes me want to stop coming here.

  • Love the show, and love the characters in it. It evokes why I got into journalism so many years ago, feelings that were long dead. It’s like watching a fantasy world where journalism was still alive, one I wish I lived in. A parallel universe where profit and sensationalism never throttled integrity to death.

    Oh what a world like that would have been like.

  • Not only do I have no shame what so ever in loving this show I have singing it’s praises to people ever since the premier. Sorkin tends to write with a very particular voice so I can understand completely how some people might not like it, but some of these comments have been baffling to me. Chief among these are the repeated allegations of misogyny on the show. I’m mot sure where this is coming from. A good portion of the cast are women including but not limited to a prominent AP, the EP of the show (you know the person who runs the show), a super smart economist with two postgraduate degrees and oh yeah the president of the entire company! All of these women are strong in there own right. Just because the anchor is a man doesn’t mean the show is predigest against women!

  • Here’s my interpretation of the “I-I-I-A” for this blog post ;)

    Is this information we need in the voting booth? No. Not even if we were voting to keep the show on the air.

    Is this the best possible form of the argument? Nope. Irrelevant headline to grab attention and incites dramatization on the subject that may not really exist.

    Is the story in historical context? Sure. As much as it can be, I suppose.

    Are there really two sides to this story? Absolutely. However, if the story is about a supposed conflict, there is no attempt to include the opposing viewpoint regarding lack of said conflict.

  • “The Newsroom” is a great show that fills the time with a good story and likable people. Not every show has to have a deeper message, in fact the best shows are the ones that can get a message across and be enjoyable without the message being the be and end all.

    Is there a “message/view” ……. Yes
    Do I need to agree with or get the message …….No
    Do I enjoy the show ……. Yes

  • I most certainly would not describe The Newsroom as misogynistic. Any time there is a strong male lead and there are women working under him, people always say that its misogynistic. Frankly I think Emily Mortimer’s character is one of the strongest female characters I’ve seen in a while and Allison Pill, although sometimes stunted in the emotional department, is taking charge of her career the way we all want to see women do in film and television.
    All in all, I think this is a pretty great show, and the entire cast is genius.

  • There’s a lot about the show I enjoy, such as Sorkin’s unrealistic-but-wildly-entertaining dialogue, Dev Patel’s performance, and really how much the entire cast is doing their best to sell Sorkin’s script.

    That said, The Newsroom has massive problems at a conceptual level, from inconsistent character development, to it’s downright awful portrayal of women (and men for that matter), and it’s essential re-writing of broadcasting history which thumbs its nose at news outlets for not having information not available to them.

    I wouldn’t feel alienated by someone making a joke at the show’s expense because I know what’s good about it and what’s bad about it, and I suppose it’s on the joke-teller to understand these things too in order to tell an actually good joke. Same goes for pretty much anything where the reference is the joke.

  • To add to my review of the show I did on my site (http://theaveragemovienerd.com/2012/06/27/the-newsroom/) what they are showing behind the camera in ‘The Newsroom’ is pretty factual. The majority of news people are type A personalities and with that comes a certain amount of, not really misogyny, but an alpha male attitude. It isn’t true of every Anchor, I am not going to make that gross overgeneralization, but it is a good percentage of the old school newsmen.

    Regardless of what I say everyone is entitled to and encourage to have their own opinion. Thank you for letting me give you mine.

  • I work an office full of Republicans who hate the Newsroom. They watched the opening of the first episode, got pissed because Daniels ranted that American isn’t the greatest nation and stopped watching. They love to complain about the show they don’t watch which I freaking love (minus all the annoying will they/won’t they romance story lines). My coworkers are conservative because they prefer to ignore the news whether it’s real or on a scripted show and get seriously angry if you try to discuss the reality of where our country is socially and economically. True or not, I like to think of non-fans as akin to these people. Maybe that’s my own twisted reality but at least the dialogue is more interesting.

  • Forgive me but I fail to see how ‘The Newsroom’ is the new ‘Lost’. A very poor comparison if I’ve ever seen one. It seems like an attention grabbing headline just to get a story out there.

  • Like most of the above commenters, I was totally unaware that there was a mass hatred of The Newsroom. I heard that reviews were about evenly mixed and would have guessed that it would catch some flack from various news commentators crying foul, but other than that I was just under the impression that those who didn’t care for it just simply wouldn’t watch again and never give it a second thought. There are plenty of things I like that I get would generate antipathy, but aside from the few I mentioned, I don’t see why anyone would hate The Newsroom.

    One final thing: how badass is Sam Waterston?

  • Newsroom is super-Sorkin-y – which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your opinion of the guy’s work. Personally, I love almost everything he writes, I find the stories engaging and not misogynistic at all, and I love the quick pace. That said, I can see how people who generally aren’t fans of his would really hate Newsroom.

  • I really like “The Newsroom”! I also really loved “Tree of LIfe.” And so far I haven’t been annihilated from existence in a matter/antimatter-style reaction. Honestly, I think this is mostly a matter for bloggers to argue about. And incidentally, I remember when being a nerd (or a nerdist?) meant enduring the condescension of people who hate the things you love…

  • I F-ing LOVE “The Newsroom”! I had no idea anyone was trashing it. I think it’s the best thing on TV right now. (‘Right now’ being summer where there are precious few shows putting on new episodes.) It’s both emotionally engaging AND funny. And the people talk in that Aaron Sorkin way that smart people actually talk. What it has that the West Wing lacked in abundance is the romantic-comedy vector. And what it has that NO other show I can think of is actual historical context! It’s not a parallel universe where Jeb Bartlett was president instead of George Bush. The news stories that drive the story (usually toward the 3rd act or so) are real things that we can remember actually happening.

    I would suspect any negative press on this show is motivated by its unapologetic political stance. If I was conspiracy minded, I’d say this de facto negative zeitgeist on “The Newsroom” of which you speak was engineered by Fox News. Good thing I’m not conspiracy-minded.

  • I want to know if anyone bashing the show is actually watching it. Its one of the better written shows on tv. The characters are great, the skewing of the news media is very jon stewartesc and its very witty dialog. About the only critcism ill understand is if you say its a show too full of itself…to which i say who cares.

  • It would’ve been less of a problem if Sorkin wouldn’t have treated some reporters like shit (“Hey Internet girl”) and/or had fired his whole writing staff except his Ex.

    The comparison with “Lost” is really off. It’s one thing not to answer any questions, it’s another to propagate a world-view on a show in which women are portrayed the way life currently is instead of how it could be.

    Sure, there needs to be an “Angels in America” for every “Will & Grace” but this isn’t the self-aware show that laments the role of women in news.

    So if by “maybe it will get better” you mean it will get less of a misogynistic piece of garbage, yeah THEN maybe you will have to feel less ashamed for liking it.

    And don’t get me started about Harriet Hayes.