Sorkin has a fine line to walk with “Newsroom.” See, he’s at his brilliant best as a writer when he’s bombastic and self-righteous, putting eloquent fury onto the tongues of actors who can channel their old college pretensions of Shakespeare. So when I see the interwebs start to backlash against the latest trailer with commentary that it just sounds like a writer wanting to hear himself talk, or that every character is speaking in the same voice and the voice is Sorkin, I want to get contrary. Sorkin’s television is not drama of characterization, it is drama of the spoken word. It is four scenes of walking exposition and two scenes of mild comic sidebar in order to tee up three minutes of cathartic poetry.
Sorkin gets criticized for just being a mouth piece of liberalism. The hell if that’s a criticism, but it’s just inaccurate. Sorkin is pornography of spoken word. Writers watch his shows and smoke cigarettes afterwards.
Here’s the latest trailer for “Newsroom”:
The problem that Sorkin is going to run into very quickly is the same one that “West Wing” veered into on occasion. His talent is in the eloquent tirade that says everything that we wish we could say, but the only setting that allows that week in and week out is one in which nothing ever gets any better. Because the moment that you are responsible for actually fixing things, the words become a lot harder. Remember the decent into absurdity when Toby fixed Social Security in three days over the course of an episode, with plenty of time for side plots to spare? It had none of the power that so many other episodes had.
Changing gears, remember the very first time that Keith Olbermann had one of his special comments? It was a breath of fresh air, an explosion of honesty piercing the festering boil of cable and network news. And then the one after was a little less, and lesser still, until the rage became a parody of itself. Self righteous rage is an addiction, and every time it take more and more to get to the same high.
That’s the problem suggested by this trailer and previous ones. So Jeff Daniels flips out and tells it how it is. Sam Waterson gives him a platform for it. They’re underdogs, but by god they’re going to fix television journalism. So what’s the end game here dramatically? In “The West Wing” you always could just have the other party be obstructionist douchebags in new and creative ways. But in the news setting? If your “fixing” of the news actually works and gets ratings then either it should have happened in reality, or it doesn’t work and your characters are caught on an endless hamster wheel of impotent rage. In fact, that’s just so nihilistic that it might be a perfect planned overall arc of the series.