by Dan Gibson
I realize now what a colossal waste of time this was, but I spent a somewhat significant amount of time this week fretting about the episode of HBO's The Newsroom that aired on Sunday, largely because I was bracing myself for the show's Sorkian retro-vision view of the shooting here on January 8th, 2011. At least I wasn't alone, since the Star wrote a remarkably imprecise preview of the episode on July 7th.
There is one obvious question, however: Why did I set time from my Sunday evening to watch a show that I was fully convinced would drive me temporarily insane? I have no idea, but when I heard the fourth episode would contain a reference to the shooting, I felt like I should give the show that much time. I generally like Aaron Sorkin's work, I have the general self-absorption to think shows involving my own profession are inherently interesting, and there isn't all that much to watch on TV in the summer (I had already watched this week's Burn Notice, anyhow).
So, how did the show deal with the story? By jamming it into the very end of an episode dominated by stuff about dating and one character's obsession with Bigfoot (including actions that might have gotten him fired in some newsrooms). Oh, and a soundtrack by Coldplay, like nearly every other emotional TV moment over the last few years.
Yes, Sorkin takes the opportunity to make his fictional newsroom a place of honor and integrity that refused to give in to the pressure to repeat NPR's erroneous report on Giffords' condition, but he also creates a highly-unlikely scenario where the entire show's staff happens to be in the office on a Saturday to make calls, putting everything together in mere seconds of TV time. I didn't find the last seven minutes or so of the show offensive, just blandly unreal. I hope I never have another news day like that and I never saw any of my co-workers that day, but I doubt I would have exchanged smiles in the midst of trying to process the flood of information coming in that day, like the show's star-crossed, yet inevitable couple Maggie and Jim did. I recognize that the fictional construct of the show means the truth gets bent to create drama, but somehow they managed to remove the core of what was interesting/tragic/heartbreaking/unforgettable about working in the news that day. Maybe it's different on the national level. Maybe Sorkin just plain got it wrong.