Debug Your Mind

The NewsRoom

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on August 12, 2012

Aaron Sorkin, creator and screenwriter for „The NewsRoom” is one of the most appreciated scripts author in the last 20 years. Let’s just take into consideration his major awards and nominations:

6 Emmy Awards, personally received for the TV political drama series „The West Wing”(1999-2006).

Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA for the best screeplay, The Social Network (2010).

Oscar & Golden Globe nominations (and a few other nominations and awards) for the screenplay for „Moneyball”.

Golden Globe nominations for other 3 screenplays: A Few Good Men (1992), The American President (1995), Charlie Wilson’s War (2008).

Almost every script of his, either for cinema or TV, has been awarded or at least nominated.

So you can figure out that he’s a master in turning political and economical subjects into a tense spectacle, with a natural blend of tragedy and comedy. This drama does not lack the main characteristics of a Sorkin created universe (consider he wrote all the first season – though with collaborators, sometimes):

1. It’s very intelligent: if your IQ is lower than 120, take my advice: just give up! There’s the risk that you’ll understand something very, very wrong, so if „The NewsRoom” seems too easy, either you didn’t pay any attention, either you do not have the intellect to watch it. It may seem cruel to say so, but just take into consideration some of the things this TV show assumes that you already know, for example:

  • the whole political & electoral system in the USA and especially the funding procedures or legislation for parties and candidates

  • when „AP” means „Associated Press” or „Associate Producer”

  • what is the difference between a producer and an executive producer in television news – and how it’s different to what the same jobs do in cinema

  • how USA’s geography influences the news broadcasting schedule

  • what happened in the spring of 2011 in Tahrir Square

  • how corporate media works in USA

And these are only examples from the first 5 episodes.

2. There are a lot of characters and they all talk a lot and very fast. And they talk about politics, economics and journalism in a very complex and advanced way. If you studied economics and geopolitics AND you’re well documented at least on half of the major stories from the previous 2 years, you might get the most part of the hints.

3. The humor and the drama. The characters are sometimes funny, the situations are sometimes funny, but the whole thing is a very serious show. For example, „The Social Network” can be classified as a tragicomedy. Although there are funnier scenes than in „The Social Network” (including slapstick, verbal gags, embarrasing humor, character humor), the balance inclines towards drama.

4. The idealism. All the Sorkin-written films are tear-jerking, at the tipping point between cheesyness and great humanitarian messages. Many of the characters’ heroic gestures can be interpreted as plain stupid. And of course, the patriotism and the „can-do-better” message, in spite of the common facts which are layed out by Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) in the first 10 minutes of the pilot. The idealism often decays into propaganda, in my opinion – which did not happen with all the Sorkin-scripted productions. But, at least, it’s not cheap idealism. It’s expensive idealism – the kind of idealism you can afford when being a millionaire.

5. The professionalism. As usual, the ones who work the hardest, the best and the more, are glorified: they are, as Will says: the elite. The others are villains to walk on. Anybody who stand in their way is threatened. There seem to be no gray sides for „The NewsRoom”, and when the mistake happens, it is always pardonable for the stars and condemnable for the villains.

6. The romance. Walking in an Aaron Sorkin universe makes you feel like a little kid who enters in a candy store where (s)he can eat everything desired. It feels so magic that you seem never to want to go away, Here, everything is possible. There are at least 2 romances which dramatically sustain the whole first season and watching them sometimes feels as a rip-off: „in how many movies have I seen this before” – but Sorkin makes it feel so real, so possible, that it may seem to you as taken from real life. And it may very well be. But the way it’s presented makes it feel rather a soap-opera.

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Maybe both the big trouble and the big success of „The NewsRoom” is that it tries to be a bit of everything, and that is sometimes too much. Yes, the result is solid, but how could it be otherwise?

The producer Scott Rudin: Oscar + Emmy + 8 other wins + 20 other nominations.

The creator Aaron Sorkin: Oscar + 6 Emmys + 46 other wins + 37 other nominations.

The lead actor Jeff Daniels: 3 nominations for Golden Globe + 8 other awards + 11 other nominations

Supporting actor Sam Waterston: Oscar nominee for The Killing Fields (1984) + veteran of three „Law & Order” TV series + Golden Globe winner (+other 5 nominations, including 2 for The Great Gatsby”) + other 4 wins + other 27 nominations.

Co-witer and co-executive producer Paul Redford: won Primetime Emmy & Humanitas Prize together with Aaron Sorkin for „The West Wing” (1999-2006) + other 4 nominations.

Casting director Francine Maisler: almost 100 titles in portofolio, among others: The Usual Suspects (1995), The People vs. Larry Flint (1996), Gattaca (1997), Spider-Man (2002), Collateral (2004), Rendition (2007), Moneyball (2011). 8 awards + 20 nominations.

Musical theme composer: Thomas Newman, nominated for 10 Oscars + 1 BAFTA + 1 Emmy + 2 Grammys + 27 other awards + 26 other nominations.

Visual effects supervisor Sam Edwards: known for Star Wars (II), Star Trek (Nemesis), Pirates of the Carribean (The Dead Man’s Chest), Iron Man (2), Avatar, Peter Pan (2003), War of the Worlds (2005).

Make-up effects artist Michael Mosher: worked for Titanic (1997), Pulp Fiction (1993), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and other 72 titles. Also, a film director.

No point in going on. This TV series is made by the best, for the best, about the best. Professionally speaking, of course. The show is reaching for the stars and it may very well get them: Golden Globes, Emmys. Not to mention that HBO is the producing studio and what that means.

This is not just a show to watch. It’s a show to study. I would strongly recommend professors from university to strongly take into consideration this TV series as study material in the following fields:

  • Journalism. Passing over the idealism, it shows very well how a team should work.

  • Television. Passing over the US specifics, it can be applied in a lot of markets where professionalism is highly regarded.

  • Film. All the members of the crew are artists at conceiving a high-paced, extremely complex and relevant drama with a great mix of visual and dramatic means.

  • Economical Sciences. Learn about the business of corporate broadcast television and the history of the economic crisis.

  • Political Sciences. The political subjects issued in each episode can provide a frame for debate (if the students have a knowledge of American politics).

The good side is very good. Now the bad side. The TV show has a series of moral implications, considering the fact that the newscast in the film is portrayed as „the good guys” against mediocrity, incompetence and corporate money-grabbers. If the viewers do not use critical thinking, then messages such as these mentioned above can be understood (and are ment to be understood, by framing). They are very cinical and twisted:

  • if you have enough money, you can decide what is news and what is not

  • if you can’t get a real specialist on your show, improvise: check your phone agenda: your brother, your sister, your friends or your lover might be exactly the right experts on anything and everything. Don’t get upset if you creamed in the air – just hope it won’t happen.

  • When other are lying, it’s lack of professionalism. When a reporter is asked to lie in order to keep her job and to save an incompetent’s job, it’s honor and being human.

  • If you have a bullet-proof contract with a TV company, you can say as many stupidities on air as you want.

  • The news editor is actually taking on the „important” subjects that the producer dictates, either through consent or through manipulation (see the example on the smeering campaign against the Tea Party).

  • When a republican sympathiser is objective on the air, it’s „mediocrity”. When he’s attacking the opposition it’s called „courage”.

  • It’s not enough to be an underpayed journalist. You also have to be humiliated in front of everybody for uncovering the truth (see episode 6).

  • If you’ve betrayed a source’s trust about „off the record”, just say it’s been a misunderstanding and hope you’ll get your credibility back.

  • „America” refers to USA. The rest of the countries on the continent don’t matter.

  • If you use your logic against a black homosexual, it’s hurting feelings. But when you say the Ku Klux Clan was a Christian organization it’s politically correct.

And on, and on it goes. The series’ agenda is very devious. If you are not mentally equipped for watching this show, you’d better stay off it. The characters in the film and the crew behind the scenes of „The NewsRoom” really ARE the elite. But, if you are aware of the politics behind the politics and the agenda behind the entertainment, this might prove an extraordinary study material for civilization manipulation.

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2 Responses to “The NewsRoom”

  1. […] Pentru început, trebuie să vă spun că nicio cronică serioasă a acestui serial nu poate fi scurtă. Redacţia este unul dintre cele mai bune şi inteligente seriale pe care aveţi ocazia să le vedeţi la TV de multă vreme încoace. De fapt, este atât de inteligent, încât e de-a dreptul periculos! Periculos pentru că dacă nu ai suficiente informaţii şi nu arunci un ochi critic la spectacol, s-ar putea să te numeri printre cei manipulaţi! Dar nu am de gând să reiau argumentele extinse pe care le-am prezentat prin cronica pe care vă invit să o citiţi în engleză pe Debug Your Mind. […]

  2. […] Pentru început, trebuie să vă spun că nicio cronică serioasă a acestui serial nu poate fi scurtă. Redacţia este unul dintre cele mai bune şi inteligente seriale pe care aveţi ocazia să le vedeţi la TV de multă vreme încoace. De fapt, este atât de inteligent, încât e de-a dreptul periculos! Periculos pentru că dacă nu ai suficiente informaţii şi nu arunci un ochi critic la spectacol, s-ar putea să te numeri printre cei manipulaţi! Dar nu am de gând să reiau argumentele extinse pe care le-am prezentat prin cronica pe care vă invit să o citiţi în engleză pe Debug Your Mind. […]

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