5 Reasons We’re Hate-Watching The Newsroom

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The Newsroom opens with a montage of black-and-white images frozen in time–staid newsrooms and the (mostly) white men who ran them–your first clue that Aaron Sorkin’s new show is nostalgic where it should be visionary. The idealism behind the HBO series is noble (painfully so) but it’s also condescending and oddly regressive. The same guy who explained Facebook to people over 50 is now explaining journalism to people under 30. According to Sorkin, Americans need a paternalistic Edward R. Murrow figure to lead us down the path of righteousness. That’s one idea. Despite this risible conceit, we keep watching the show. After all, we’re journalists (whatever that means in this new century), so there’s nothing we love more than seeing attractive versions of ourselves onscreen. The Newsroom is a trainwreck–and we can’t bear to look away. Instead, we’ve refined our vitriol by cataloguing the show’s five most hateable elements.

5. Olivia Munn

When Olivia Munn has the most gravitas of any female character on the show, you’ve got a problem. As economic analyst Sloan Sabbith (Does she front a Spinal Tap cover band in her spare time?), she’s the most professional and articulate woman in the room, which is to say she manages to complete two sentences without descending into hysterical blathering about her personal life. For the record, we don’t believe she would be alone on New Year’s Eve. Ever.

(An Aside: While many critics were bothered by the scene where Mac tells Sloan she wants her to cover economics on Newsnight, partly because Sloan has great gams, we weren’t. This is an accurate reflection of how media executives — including women — often think. Last time we checked, Anderson Cooper wasn’t an overweight, hook-nosed, hunchback, and news anchors of both genders were a collection of conventionally attractive human beings. Next thing you’ll tell us, the real A.D.A.’s of New York City don’t look like supermodels.)

4. Emily Mortimer

MacKenzie McHale is supposedly a top-notch producer and reporter who has spent years dodging bullets in Middle Eastern war zones. Yet she’s so hapless she can’t work a whiteboard or send a personal email without blasting it to the entire staff. Sure, smart people do dumb things. We’ve all been there. But the email snafu was a ridiculous plot twist designed to propel a contrived storyline — and viewers knew it. While much of the writing on this show is cringeworthy, Sorkin and his underlings (most of whom he reportedly fired) are at their worst when it comes to the female characters. Mac, in particular, seems to have only three modes: piously domineering, faux-contrite, and desperately needy. Through it all, she exudes a “Look at me! Aren’t I cute when I’m being pushy?” attitude that’s like nails on a chalkboard.

3. Allison Pill

We’re not sure which is worse, Maggie Jones when she’s sober or Maggie Jones when she’s drunk. With the former, Allison Pill is flustered, over-eager, incompetent, self-righteous, and obnoxious. With the latter, she’s slurring hamfistedly. In either mode, her character is always grating. It’s not all her fault. The dialogue and plotting don’t do her any favors. Maggie seems like a 13-year-old girl trapped in an adult woman’s body. Even her predictable crush on Jim is drained of all tension because Sorkin telegraphs it from 8 billion miles away.

2. The Speeches

With all the speechifying these people do — no doubt rife with soon to be Sorkinisms — it’s amazing they get any work done. If you’re too annoyed to hate-watch the show, here’s a summary: Truth is good. Journalism is noble. Money corrupts. Want to hear more of Sorkin’s nuanced worldview? Reality shows and tabloid magazines are evil. Get your gun; Sorkin’s got a barrel of fish.

1. The Mission to Civilize

Yes, this is a real phrase that’s used in the show. Repeatedly. With very little irony. Where to begin? It’s creepy. It’s loaded with horrendous cultural baggage. It has all the myopia and zeal of the Spanish missionaries who forcibly “converted” Native Americans. Maybe Sorkin figures that if he has doughy but still handsome Jeff Daniels say it often enough, it won’t sound quite so obnoxious. No such luck. This one phrase is the crux of all that is wrong with The Newsroom: a cultural, gender and class-based cluelessness epitomized by Sorkin’s self-congratulatory notion that rich white guys will save us all.

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Comments

  1. Pickyazhel

    July 25, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    I love this show.. it’s not a 10 ten but its way better then most of the other junk on TV. It’s by far a keeper.

    Reply

  2. Chase

    July 26, 2012 at 1:44 am

    You’re writing a “5 Reasons WE HATE *insert name here*” piece so I wouldn’t really call you a journalist.

    Reply

  3. Larkin

    July 26, 2012 at 3:14 am

    I think this show is great, and the writing is excellent. Quick humor, and Jeff Daniels is fantastic in this role.

    Reply

  4. Dennis Horlick

    July 27, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Fantastic show for all the reasons you think it stinks. And don’t give me that crap about watching a train wreck. You like it too, its just not cool to say you do. Bunch of phonies.

    Reply

  5. Bob

    July 27, 2012 at 1:41 am

    Honestly I’m luke-warm on the show based on the couple episodes I’ve seen, but “Hate-watch” is such bs. You’re watching the show, so you evidently find it compelling. To put some ironic excuse or condition on it is disingenuous. “I watch it but I’m clearly too intelligent and cool to really actually admit to liking it and its inherent flaws and cheesiness.”

    And you really think “Mission to civilize” is said with very little irony? I think you’re missing the dry humor of the delivery. Jeff Daniels keeps saying it and it’s become a running joke because of the absurdity of that mission. He’s said it after he’s botched some personal or professional relationship by lecturing someone with one of those high-minded speeches, which do get annoying.

    The show is trying to have it both ways by both poking fun at those lectures but then also having plenty of speeches in earnest. But “Mission to civilize” is pretty clearly a self-deprecating joke.

    Reply

  6. MichaelI_3431

    July 27, 2012 at 2:35 am

    This is a great show! Its obvious this review is written by a frustrated want to be screen writer.Who couldn’t carry Sorkins dirty underwear…just another liberal ,who knows more then anybody, hides behind freedom of speech as way to entertain. LA Magazine shame on you for allowing such a pompus, self -righteous review.

    Reply

    1. Peter

      July 29, 2012 at 11:49 am

      Hah, you’re calling the writer a liberal as an insult? Aaron Sorkin–you know, the guy whose dick you so desperately want up your butt–is as liberal as they come, you retard.

      Reply

  7. LuAnn Goldstone

    July 27, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I thought the concept made perfect sense….reliving American history from the newsroom. Why not? Too often we were busy with our own lives and pressures at the time and missed some of the facts. I definitely enjoy the recap of events, and the individual opinions just add personal character. I may disagree with some of their perspectives, but I certainly prefer the subject matter over a lot of the junk on TV.

    Reply

  8. LeonardJ

    July 27, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    And the Mona Lisa is a painting of a chubby girl, and the painting is kind of small.

    Reply

  9. RickG

    July 28, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    I was hoping The Newsroom would be a West Wing version of broadcast news. It isn’t quite there. That said, it is a lot better that most of the offerings on TV. The frenetic pace of the dialogue that is not broken up by commercials does make for a challenging show to watch.

    Reply

  10. Nancy Dickerson

    July 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I love this show. Finally some truth. Maybe you could learn something.

    Reply

  11. jimharpery

    July 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    You claim to not give a fuck about watching the Newsroom (“hatewatch” could be a new term), but clearly you do give a lot of fuck about watching this show. I wish you’d known how great this show is compared to other soapy, trashy series out there.

    Reply

  12. Lars

    July 30, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Newsroom is an attempt to manipulate and convert us? Kind of like this article? If this show is a train wreck, then you must not watch 95% of what TV has to offer.

    Reply

  13. Erin

    August 3, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Elina, are you upset because instead of writing news stories you are writing critiques of a TV Show? A TV show that’s pointing out how ridiculous a large portion of our news programs/journalists have become? Are you feeling like a puppet? Maybe it’s time you started reporting on real events? Not fictional ones? You can do it! Go stand for something.

    Reply

  14. jon bingham

    August 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Funny how nearly every one commenting on this silly article that you have written is in disagreement.
    If this is a train wreck, whats “Real Housewives of New Jersey”? A holocaust?
    This is a very good show. You my dear, are wrong.

    Reply

    1. alex

      September 14, 2012 at 3:15 am

      i’d love to see a response from the “journalist”/ author of this article

      Reply

  15. alex

    September 14, 2012 at 3:12 am

    its a great show…. The idealism is noble, period. It’s something to strive for. And you write for LA MAG – not sure that makes you journalists.

    Reply

  16. rmarie

    October 5, 2012 at 1:44 am

    where to begin? i guess right at the beginning, where the first clue to your readers is that this article will lack any great insight as to what makes The Newsroom a hit or miss, and is instead a transparent attempt to meet a minimum-word requirement by presenting starkly simple interpretations elaborated by pretentious words and statements predicated on out-of-touch assumptions. here we have you opening your review with, “a montage of black-and-white images frozen in time–staid newsrooms and the (mostly) white men who ran them…” are we to assume that a nostalgic look at american media broadcasting is more a visit to a time when anti-diversity and anti-feminism ruled the news waves and less a look to when broadcast news was more in line with the basics of journalism and a diminished interest in viewer ratings?

    you go on to state that “your first clue that Aaron Sorkin’s new show is nostalgic where it should be visionary.” ms. shatkin, if your writing is any indication of journalism to come and that writers like you would consider yourselves journalist, that visionary newsroom will only work to make the remaining supporters disillusioned by what journalism has become. i think this return to understanding the basics of journalism is called for, especially when articles like this are published and considered a contribution to journalism; where strict guidelines of omitting oneself from a story is disregarded (“[we're journalists], so there’s nothing we love more than…”) and bias is well established. not only is this return to the basics is needed, it is highly relevant, given the current political climate and a growing number of citizens who see that the government today is solely based on agenda-biased interpretations of the fundamentals of democracy. “The Newsroom is a trainwreck–and we can’t bear to look away.” so far, ms. shatkin, you’re the only one witnessing a “trainwreck,” and that makes you the only “we” in that statement.

    “If you’re too annoyed to hate-watch the show, here’s a summary: Truth is good. Journalism is noble. Money corrupts. Want to hear more of Sorkin’s nuanced worldview? Reality shows and tabloid magazines are evil.” ms. shatkin, i fail to see the nuance in these statements, specifically. i do not think it means what you think it means. if you’ve already interpreted the “nuance” from the show and have just listed your findings, we are not hearing (we’re actually reading) Sorkin’s nuances, we’re reading your interpretation of them.

    well, unlike you, i have no minimum-word requirement and i have grown tired of this article and the disastrous direction your type of journalism is headed. thankfully, there is a show i can watch on HBO called, The Newsroom, which is an homage to basic broadcast journalism and a return to the knowledge, although basic, that has been so easily forgotten – truth is good. journalism can be noble. money can most definitely corrupt. and, as we are so horrifyingly aware of today, reality tv shows and tabloid magazines ARE evil. and this article is, well… i’ll let you think about it.

    Reply

  17. KenD90027

    November 29, 2012 at 11:39 am

    We are not amused at your annoying use of first person plural. Sounds like a FOX News tactic. Perhaps they are hiring, Ms. Shatkin. Sounds like a better fit for you.

    Reply

  18. yes

    July 15, 2013 at 5:59 am

    This is a great show. Focus your attention towards actual garbage like Keeping up with the Kardashians.

    Reply