The Truth About HBO’s ‘The Newsroom’

On the level of storytelling, HBO’s The Newsroom is abysmal. Remember Basil Exposition from the Austin Powers franchise? Well, on this show, everyone is Basil Exposition. And Aaron Sorkin should be deeply and abjectly ashamed of this. If, of course, Sorkin were in the storytelling business in terms of this project–which he isn’t.

The Newsroom is nothing less than porn for media critics–and in this narrow mission it entirely succeeds. An entire cast of fictional characters consistently speaking in painfully self-aware and sledge-hammer explanatory ways is, well, as unbelievable as a pizza delivery guy having instant, hot, three-way sex with a well-endowed customer and her equally blessed friend (who may or may not be a younger sister). This is not a failure in dramatic construction–it’s the whole point. Rule of thumb: if you’re perusing porn (or Sorkin’s show) for the story, well, you are so watching the wrong thing . . .The Newsroom has the precise dynamics of an X-rated film for the specialized audience it’s targeting–those who care about news and the news business, and who are appalled by its abdication of mission and authority. What the fans of The Newsroom are exclusively waiting for is The Money Shot–the rants about what news once was, what it’s like now and what it could be. The manner in which we get there, lamentable as it may be, is ultimately of no concern. Go ask a porn aficionado whether believable characterization and realistic psychological motivation regarding pizza delivery guys are needed or even necessary. All that wooden failure to convey the quotidian is simply breath-catching filler between the ongoing tangled limbs and orgasms–put up with by the audience because sex (or its analogue, intellectual validation) is bound to pop up sooner than later.

Aaron Sorkin is to media critics what Russ Meyer was to fans of impressive breasts. Full stop. End of story. Fade-to-black with the cold-bloodedly soaring theme music.

No one loathes The Newsroom-as-failed-dramatic-vehicle as much as I do. But after three episodes, I find myself still watching–a slave to the cheap intellectual thrills and release of its glistening and throbbing media critique.

I’m not proud of this, but there you have it.

Sue me.