I Watched The Newsroom!

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this and I have come to the following conclusion about Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom.

Strap yourselves in, because I don’t think anyone else has said this about it.

Here goes. This is my opinion, and it is mine and I do not believe anyone else has expressed this.

Meh.

Seriously, just that.

Meh.

I’m not a West Winger, I watched precisely thirty seconds of Studio 60 and I have no predisposition in either direction about Sorkin’s talents as a writer.

Some of his dialogue is great, whip-crack sharp and delivered by a cast I quite like.

Some of The Newsroom is painfully expositional and deliriously earnest in its intent.

Sam Waterston is perfectly cast for that role, given his long history on Law & Order delivering some pretty dumb lines for the benefit of its brain-dead audience segment.

“Show don’t tell” is what I learned about writing for television and the theatre, Sorkin does and awful lot of telling, mostly via statistics that make my head spin.

The cast, as a whole (and I include Waterston) in my assessment, is terrific. Everybody plays their part well and the male characters are well developed if, in a few instances, irritating.

The women, unfortunately, are not well-written or developed. This probably makes their performances even better, struggling as they are under weightily sexist storylines.

They mostly seem to be rushing about trying to impress the men in the office and this drove me a bit nuts. They certainly weren’t confection or eye-candy afterthoughts, they just seemed to be there to support the male stories and their egos.

I suspect that Sorkin just doesn’t know how to write women who aren’t subservient AND unbearably masculine.

I think the crux of my ‘meh’-ness was that it just doesn’t entertain me on a sustainable level. The episodes are really up and down and are only lent tension by the event that they are covering.

The Osama Bin Laden Assassination episode was very good but was utterly ruined by a wave of self-indulgent, cloying do-gooder moments from various members team in the direction of peripheral cast expressly injected into the story to support those moments.

I can handle sentimentality but it was saccharine and ruined the show.

And that’s kind of where I left it. I went to watch episode 8 but thought, why? I know what’s coming, I know Sorkin’s position about the events that are unfolding in a media that is free from responsibility and I agree with him.

It’s an extended attack on the hollowness of modern (read Fox) news, but we get it from Mackenzie’s first production meeting with the new team. We get it.

News is crap, and dumbed down and often riddled with lies. We know, we have the same problem in almost every single English-speaking Western country that has bought into the news culture of the US.

I can’t keep nodding and saying, “Yes, so true,” without then asking, “Can we move on now?”

It kind of turned into Q&A without the right-wing troll. So extra boring, then.

Also, I don’t believe for a moment that Jeff Daniels’ Will McAvoy is a Republican, not for one second. Not because I despise Republicans in general (many of them are very sensible people) but because he talks like the Democrat that Sorkin obviously is.

And that’s all the show has turned out to be – a mouthpiece for Sorkin, masquerading as balanced rhetoric.

So yeah.

Meh.

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I Watched Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Wife! (no spoilers)

Doctor Who Series 6, Episode 4: The Doctor’s Wife.

I’m not going to say too much about this but I will say this:

This story has been coming for 48 years and it’s a cracker. Written by Neil Gaiman it’s a self-contained story (like last week’s silly pirate one) but it delves into the history of the Doctor in a way we haven’t really seen since the New Series started.

It’s touching, emotional, funny and I loved it. This is one for the fans and also for the newcomers because it helps bring the new viewers up to speed on a very important part of the Doctor’s story.

I Watched Angry Boys!

And I really didn’t like it.

Look, there are some things that I don’t laugh at that I can see are funny to others. I get why people find Peep Show, The Office (UK), Jimmy Carr and a whole bunch of sitcoms, people and movies funny while I don’t. I’m caring and sharing like that. I get why people don’t find Miranda, Green Wing, The Inbetweeners and other movies, people, books etc. that I find hysterical.

But with Angry Boys, I was left completely mystified while Twitter almost bent itself out of shape with people praising the genius of Chris Lilley. I was left staring at the television asking, ‘Was that it?’

Granted it was episode 1 of 12. Twelve episodes is quite a number to fill and judging by the promos, this one is going to unfold very slowly. According to a review I heard on 702 ABC Sydney, it takes four episodes for all of the characters in the series to be unveiled. I hope it gets better from here for Lilley’s sake.

So, in episode one we were…um…treated to a redux of twins Daniel and Nathan who we met in We Can Be Heroes almost six years ago (wow…). These two teenagers were the subject of a storyline where one donated an ear to the other who was profoundly deaf. They’re a sullen, unlikeable pair and I really, really don’t see the humour. Daniel swears relentlessly, calls his brother a fag (among other things) and Lilley recycles every playground gag played against the hard-of-hearing. Ground-breaking, apparently. Genius, say others. Old, say I. So very old.

Then we met Gran. Gran is a guard in a juvenile prison who operates under the tough love theory. Racial epithets fly thick and fast, a boy is ridiculed for poor soccer-playing by his mother’s heroin addict being raised as a possible cause for said skills deficit. Confronting, apparently.

I find characters who are not ‘supposed’ to swear as funny as the next guy but there wasn’t much here for me.

The pre-show hype was all about how dark and confronting the show was, but it really isn’t. It smacks of Little Britain in both style and content, with the big exception being that the darkness isn’t absurd, it’s just uncomfortable. The promo for episode two relies heavily on the rapper with punctuation halfway through his name and it’s going to take some steely determination to sit through it because if there’s one thing that irritated me about episode one was this:

It was boring. Utterly, mind-numbingly boring.

First episodes are often hard because we’re doing something new, but Lilley isn’t. I’ve never considered his writing especially clever and found his strength to be his rock-solid, if stereotyped (or, well, racist) performances. He’s consistent and impressive at carrying the entire show on his shoulders.

I’m vaguely offended by poor writing and racist jokes being re-cast as confronting and edgy. I’ve seen edgy, this isn’t it. I’ve seen confronting and there was barely an f-bomb in six shows whereas Lilley’s short-cutting with a constant barrage of them became tedious. I don’t object to swearing in media, especially after 8:30pm when the kids are tucked up in bed, but it was dull.

The thing for me was that I couldn’t really see why people found it funny. The best it got from me was a wan smile and a half-finished ‘hah.’ I couldn’t work out where all this confronting and edgy talk came from but will happily agree he is an excellent performer.

He’s just in search of some quality writing.