If we would just *listen* to the media elites and do what they say, why everything would work out so much better!
Confession time: I don't like the West Wing. I haven't watched much to be sure, but what I have seen struck me as smug and condescending and part of the problem in that the characters always talked down to the American People and treated them children or pawns to be manipulated.
Am I supposed to respect these people and believe that their tactics are justified because we are ostensibly on the same side? If the characters were largely the same but the politics were flipped, would it be as popular?
Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. I couldn't choke it down in the Bush years. But between the West Wing and Sorkin's painfully unfunny show about a comedy troupe (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) I don't have confidence in his long game. I'm sure the Newsroom will have some really stellar performances and some riveting speeches, but when taken as a whole will it be another show about a white old man telling us youngsters The Truth in a very shallow, simplistic, jingoistic way?
Review: Aaron Sorkins The Newsroom too sanctimonious for its own good
Like the cable news industry "The Newsroom" relentlessly critiques, Sorkin's work tends to preach to the converted. His characters speak about issues with such passion and eloquence that you're meant to feel smarter and better about yourself for agreeing. But he often pushes things so far that even if you happen to agree with him politically — as I suspect I do on most issues — it can be uncomfortable to watch the deck being stacked in your favor.
And as strident as "The West Wing" could be in crafting its cartoonish Republican villains (let me remind you of Republican presidential nominee Robert Ritchie, who once so eloquently said, "Crime. Boy, I don't know."), that's nothing compared to the feeling created as Will McAvoy lectures Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, et al.
It doesn't matter that, again, I agree with much of what the show is arguing — even more about the toxic state of the TV news business(*) than about our combative political system — because the arguments are placed in the mouth of a smug, preening jerk whom the show (or, at least, Mackenzie) keeps insisting is secretly the best guy in the world, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.
(*) "The Daily Show" has been effectively attacking the media, and politicians, for years and years, and managing to do it in a way that rarely seems like Jon Stewart and company are patting themselves on the back as they do it. "The Daily Show" is also comfortable critiquing both sides of the aisle, where in the four episodes of "The Newsroom" I've seen, the targets are all conservatives.
Sorkin tries to make a case for know-it-alls on many occasions — when Will introduces his viewers to the show's new approach, he tries to reclaim the phrase "media elite" as something to be proud of — but there's a way to be right without coming across as every bit the bully as the people you're attacking, and "The Newsroom" struggles to find that.
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