THE NEWSROOM is still Controversial

Five episodes in, THE NEWSROOM is still driving critics nuts. (Which is such a cool thing that maybe we should start loving on this show just for that.)

First the Good:

‘The Newsroom’ Halts Its Death Plunge With Its Least Terrible Episode Since The Pilot by Oliver Lyttelton

So far “The Newsroom” has had two major problems sitting on top of a whole bunch of minor ones. Firstly, Aaron Sorkin’s often-questionable approach to female characters has reached something of a zenith here. His shows have often featured strong powerful women undone by their love lives, but the leads of “The Newsroom” feel particularly and offensively bird-brained, and unlike CJ in “The West Wing,” Sorkin’s finest creation to date, haven’t been shown to be particularly competent at their jobs either, mainly out of Sorkin’s desire to show Will McAvoy to be right about everything. And some of them have been shown to be actively devilish, like Hope Davis’ gossip columnist last week.

The other issue so far, is that while “The West Wing” was an unashamedly and gloriously liberal fantasy, but one that was capable of presenting both sides of an argument, “The Newsroom” has pretensions of being centrist and even-handed but is principally a series of Sorkin rants on some of his favorite subjects, but written and delivered in an especially smug and condescending way (not helped in the least by Jeff Daniels failing to make his character particularly likable at any stage). And it’s made worse because, rather than using fictional events, the show’s set in the recent past, using big stories from the last couple of years, making some episodes feel like the world’s longest “told you so…”

And yet just as we were starting to switch off on the show, it came back with “Amen,” which while still problematic, is the best and most satisfying, episode of the show to date, the first time it’s really been firing on something close to all cylinders, and suggested that it’s not worth giving up on Sorkin and “The Newsroom” just yet.

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Now The Bad:

The Newsroom Recap: Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! by Chadwick Martin

In Rudy, each member of a football team offers to sit out so an unheralded benchwarmer can play in a game. In The Newsroom, each member of a news team offers to pay a little money so an overpaid millionaire can afford a $250,000 check.

Rudy is a metaphor that does not work in an episode that did not work on a show that does not work. But what a fascinating calamity The Newsroom is turning out to be! Did Aaron Sorkin warn HBO in advance that The Newsroom was going to be a show in which everyone eventually made the right professional decision without fail? This is television scripted with a 4-year-old’s understanding of justice. The good guys always win.

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Hmm, that’s odd. Both the good and bad reviews sound strangely the same. Maybe it would help if everyone who watched was in agreement about what “good” and “bad” are. But if people agreed on that there’d be no need for this series and its constant good versus evil bravado.

Or war. There’d be no need for war.

Waitaminnit, we’re getting an idea. We need a “Just and Right Definitions Project.” Something that positively (or negatively) identifies good and bad in a way the whole world can accept. And then we can accept our Nobel Prize. Wonder if Aaron Sorkin would like to whip up a Kickstarter proposal for this. Work closely with, oh, say Rush Limbaugh. We’d know they got it right if, when they were finished, they both emerged, alive and unscathed (and unstoned) from the room.

Well, maybe not unstoned.