Eating Vegetables, Part 1
The Newsroom Season 1 Episode 8 recap
This was the line that struck me, last night, in what was easily the best episode of The Newsroom so far. Though there were still problems, the show took the time to focus on what it does, and wants to do, best: examining the difference between the news that should be reported, and that which is instead.
People in the entertainment world often get called narcissistic – and while this can be true, there is so much talk about the viewer. Will the viewer respond to this, will they like it, will they understand it, will they be able to follow it, will they care. It’s about ratings, sure. But also about straight-up storytelling – how do you keep people paying attention to what you’re doing, and how far is too far – if such a location exists?
Don’s speech breaking down the Nancy Grace broadcast was supposed to be seen as “despicable”, at least in that he knew what he was talking about. But trash TV – especially that which masquerades as “news” – is HUGELY popular. No matter what that means for you, whether it’s shows about Hoarders or Weddings or Bachelors or Nancy Grace, people are watching. Probably you are watching. I’m not criticizing, I’m just saying there’s nobody who doesn’t consume something that someone else finds distasteful.
So I appreciate that NewsNight needs to acknowledge that its adherence to the “real”, honorable news is a nice fight and all but could lose them their jobs. I further appreciate that we don’t yet see how, exactly, covering the case will compromise Will – not that he’s not already doing a good job of that by consorting with the likes of “Sandy”, whose production I could have stood to see a little more of. Someone printed those tweets for her and got her all those news appearances, and the way she was talking, she didn’t seem terribly self-motivated, so an appearance by the “agent” we were hearing about would have been welcome.
The balance of the tacky-and-delicious with the important-and-worthy is the hardest thing to do in any type of TV. Scripted or not, “hard” news or lifestyle or entertainment. There are tried-and-true go-to segments that are crowdpleasers every time, even if they are derided by the professionals who run them. The show is doing a great job at pointing out the dichotomy of having “control” over the airwaves – A, you don’t really, because everyone has a boss and bosses have self-interests and so on, and B, even if you do the best reporting of your life, the most salacious, splashy, flashbulb-transition-laden piece is often the one that gets the eyeballs.
But it’s OK, because watching the characters at ACN have this debate was eminently watchable. Much more so than having to watch that awful, pointless scene with Neal and Sloan. I guess the conventional wisdom is that it’s OK – we don’t think she’s shallow for caring about her ass because she’s working so hard on economics? (Or, for that matter, that people still have to explain trolls to others?) I can buy that, of course; there is no corollary between being an intelligent person working at one’s job who also has body issues. But why is it necessary to see it in the same episode? Is this the “candy” we’ve been warned against elsewhere? “I know it seems a little dry that this woman’s railing about the importance of reporting on economics, but she’s just like you, she worries about her ass.” Is that it? Or am I missing something? Didn’t the show just finish skewering this very point when they looked at the Casey Anthony footage and talked about how it was engineered to appeal to women, even “smart” women?
Speaking of skewering – I don’t think it will be a surprise to anyone that I am thoroughly exhausted already at the discussion of The Affair. Mac Cheated. She Cheated. She Can See The Life She Almost Had 30 Feet Away. Oh my God already with the flagellation of this point.
Here we go with the personal: I’ve made some bad decisions, because I am human. I’ve even made bad decisions that I had to keep up a brave face on, continually, for some time later. Not gonna lie, those are some big winces I winced, for awhile there. Lesson learned – painfully.
But – am I the only one who thinks those things fade after time? That with everything else going on, grinding axes about who cheated on whom when FOUR years ago is a little passé? I get that continuing tensions and resentment between Will and Mac are all that’s keeping them apart but I think it’s bullsh*t. Will is trying to punish Mac, yes, though I could really have skipped the therapy scene (and bonus points if you think of what I do every time that therapist comes onscreen), but doesn’t that mean he’s not worthy? In four years, neither of them moved on an inch, learned a thing? I’m not saying they couldn’t still be attracted to one another but they act as though they’re picking up right where they left off. Wouldn’t it be potentially MORE interesting if one was less interested than the other? If one had all these feelings and the other really was totally over it? Wouldn’t you then feel like you were left holding the bag?
Would a show about the news, that didn’t also make me walk through what are obviously ridiculous relationships, consist of all “vegetables”? Is the junk food of romantic shenanigans made better if the people involved in the romances are high-brow intelligent folks? I believe Sorkin knows, on some level, that having a taste for the “good stuff” has its own merit because – obviously. Look at the body of work. But sometimes it seems like contradicting oneself is the lesser of several evils.
We’ll come back to this in Part II. Oh, and Maggie is a Christian. By the way.