by Larry Brody
Once upon a time there was a new series called THE NEWSROOM. Its reviews were so terrible that even I had trouble making myself watch it.
All the BigMedia critics panned it.
All my friends panned it.
All my colleagues here at TVWriter™ panned it.
But a funny thing happened when I forced myself to rev up my DVR and have a look for myself. “Self,” I said, “we’ll just watch for 10 minutes, enough time so I can join the crowd and weigh in on everything that’s wrong with this show.”
I didn’t just watch for 10 minutes. Or 15. I watched for 72 minutes, and for every single one of those 72 minutes one thought was uppermost in my mind:
The BigMedia critics, my friends, and my colleagues are
morons. totally missing the point.
This show is good. Good in ways that no television show has been good in 50 years.
Because it’s not a television, not really. At least, not as we know television today, which is as mini-movies with, maybe, a little more point but much less imagery and imagination than the real thing.
THE NEWSROOM is television from the era of PLAYHOUSE 90. Live and wonderful – except, of course, for the live part.
But it’s shot as though it’s live. Acted as though it’s live. And, most importantly, it’s written as though it’s live.
THE NEWSROOM is NETWORK’s shining, eager, idealistic younger sister. And even though it was a movie, it also was shot, acted, and written like a play.
This show is the victory of words and intelligence and the need to demonstrate the very best that words and intelligence can create. No one talks. They sing. Gloriously and unrealistically, after the manner of live television masters like Rod Serling and Paddy Chayefsky. And Broadway geniuses like Clifford Odetts, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams.
The characters in THE NEWSROOM all speak from their souls. They say the things that, in life, we all struggle to hide. They say them effortlessly with words that soar off the screen, the way the characters in great stageplays do. None of this movie-style, “I’ll say it with a look” crap.
In the early ’60s there was a war on for the hearts and minds of the television business as well as the audience. On one side we had Hollywood. On the other we had Broadway. What was it going to be? Pictures or words? Stars or actors? Speed of light car chases or speed of soul meaning?
But now Aaron Sorkin is here to fire one last salvo. Writing a series about the need for intelligence and heartfelt belief. And demonstrating everything his words advocate by giving us exactly that on the screen.
For that he and those who are backing THE NEWSROOM will have my eternal thanks. For bringing television back to life. For bringing my love for TV back to the forefront of my brain.
Hold on. Now that I think about it, THE NEWSROOM does remind me of one particular film after all.
To me, what I saw today was THE AVENGERS, with all the pulse-pounding heroic moments, one after another after another.
Illustrated not with action, but with language.
Time to flick on my 56″ plasma and watch it overwhelm even that perfect screen – again.