So The Newsroom airs on Home Box Office. It is an Aaron Sorkin vehicle. He is liberal but smart and talented. He wrote two classics, A Few Good Men and Moneyball. It is worth a look-see. The first episode airs. It is Left-wing, but surely it will be watchable. By episode two, it is verifiably unwatchable. It is worse than a bad homework assignment. It is torture.
A little back-story. A Few Good Men falls in that category of films that, to paraphrase former Red Sox southpaw Bill “Spaceman” Lee, are “so Left-wing they are standing back to back with Chairman Mao.” Nobody really knows what Spaceman meant when he told the Orange Young Republicans that very thing in 1988, or when he said “I’m so conservative I eat road kill,” but back to Sorkin.
A Few Good Men, directed by ultra-liberal Rob Reiner in 1992, was meant to show what happens when a too-gung-ho militarist gets too power hungry. Only a liberal (Tom Cruise as Lieutenant Dan Kaffee) can stand up to Jack Nicholson’s hardcore Colonel Nathan Jessup. But Reiner/Sorkin were too talented for their own good. They put words in Jack’s mouth (“You can’t handle the truth . . . we use words like ‘honor, code, loyalty’ ”), that no matter how much they are meant to make him look bad, have become a staple of Officer Candidate School’s and West Point viewing parties for two decades.
This is not the only case in point. Hollywood turned liberal with Spartacus in 1960, but occasionally gets too cute for its own good. Take Patton (1970), written by the anti-war Francis Ford Coppola as a diatribe against Vietnam, but in the hands of director Franklin Schaffner and the Oscar-worthy charisma of George C. Scott, glorifies the art of battle. Coppola (with much assistance from John Milius) again tried to make Apocalypse Now a morality tale of Vietnam, but between Robert Duvall’s Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (get it: “kill . . . gore”) and the helicopter invasion of the VC village is used to fire up recruits. Or Oliver Stone’s attempt to say in Wall Street that capitalism is a “zero sum game,” which falls on the deaf ears of a generation of stock market whiz kids thrilled by the art of the deal.
Sorkin is reaching with The Newsroom, probably reacting against the very observations herein made, bound never to accidentally make something conservatives will cheer ever again. The result is all irritation absent the brilliance. It cannot all be blamed on Sorkin. The legendary Scott Rudin is also an executive producer.
So, episode one starts off. Jeff Daniels, the “smarter” friend in Dumb and Dumber, is Will McAvoy, the veteran anchor of a national news broadcast. He is quickly identified as a Republican. The rest of the season centers on his role as the so-called “voice of reason” in the Grand Ol’ Party. But first, in the opening scene, he is on a panel of smart media folks speaking to university students. A sorority girl asks what is portrayed as a dumbellionite question: “Why is America the greatest country in the world?” Will then melts down, and in so doing delivers a speech that can be used by every anti-American group worldwide for the next 20 years on:
Will spews a laundry list of factoids about America’s low rankings in education, pollution, and about 30 other miseries. He collapses. We are off and running.
Will then returns amid much speculation and controversy to his old position. We see that his producer is his old lover, Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer). Sam Waterston plays his boss, Charlie Skinner. He is an alcoholic, but apparently liberal alcoholism is tolerated. Jane Fonda (naturally) is the no-nonsense CEO Leona Lansing, who channels not Ted Turner but what Sorkin thinks Rupert Murdoch would be if he were a smart American woman.
We see the crew, and this is particularly hilarious. Everybody is under 30, Manhattan YUPPIES shaping the world news, as if these are the people who should be in charge of telling the people “out there,” as Theodore White described Richard Nixon’s “silent majority,” what should be news and how they should think about it. Many an office romance ensues. These arbiters of moral decency jump into bed with each other in appropriate soap opera style. Naturally, these are the women who need the federal government to finance their apparently impossible-to-pay condoms tab. Who has time to bare children when you are a 24-year old blondie sleeping her way up the ladder? Abortion was legalized to promote their media careers. Don’t we get that?
But the funniest aspect of this program is the sheer fantasy of it. Rush Limbaugh pointed this out early on. This is a world the liberals can only see in their TV and movie visions. It embodies what Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer calls the “wit of the staircase,” a French term about somebody leaving a cocktail party, only thinking of funny lines and repartee after they have left.
Here is Sorkin’s great trick. He replays the news events of the Obama Presidency. What a story line, huh? We get all the events of the past years absent the actual reality of them, but in each case – the BP oil spill, Obamacare, the Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street, the brutal economy – spun beyond recognition into what Mr. Sorkin wishes they could have been, absent those pesky conservatives actually describing what in fact happened. As if the mainstream media did not have enough power and all anybody ever hears is Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Come to think of it, MSNBC’s and CNN’s rating are so horrid maybe . . . anyway, according to this show those eeeeeviiil Republicans have besmirched the good names of those patriotic, intellectual liberal giants of the modern Democrat Party.
Where to start? A naïve couple from Utah of course are brought in to defend the Tea Party, which they say is just good old-fashioned patriotic citizens trying to make for good government. They are not “like George Soros.” At that point, McAvoy shows clips of Soros bragging about bringing down the English pound, declaring himself an atheist, and happily stating that he turned in his fellow Jews to the Nazis “because if I didn’t do it somebody else would have.” Oh wait, sorry. Instead McAvoy tells the couple the Tea Party is funded by the Koch brothers, who in reality are just rich, decent patriotic American citizens (observation of fact, but not McAvoy’s) . . .who wish for better government. He tells them they could “buy and sell George Soros.” This might be true, but the possibility that Sorkin simply chooses to lie to make this point remains as possible as all things found in the universe. We move on.
By episode 10, the season one finale, we find them still bashing the Tea Party no end. These people must keep Mr. Sorkin awake night after night. All those white folks in their funny Revolutionary War garb dancing through his head. McAvoy plays endless clips of conservatives not compromising, as if Barack Obama were just begging to do a deal. Nary a word about how, when the “anointed one” had all the power of Congress at his beck and call in 2009-10, he said the Republicans could take their place “at the back of the bus,’” and pushed Obamacare through at the expense of American will and the economy.
We get revised “statistics” about Obama’s vacation days vs. Ronald Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s, absent the fact their “vacations” were heavy with work load at the respective personal homes in California and Texas. Obama’s are ridiculously expensive trips to exotic locales, complete with heavy spending on alcohol and gourmet items, with his wife carelessly, as if a Queen, coming separately at great extra expense. A trip to India consumes The Newsroom. Conservatives made great hay of this trip and their “exaggerations” of its cost are treated like the acts of Benedict Arnold.
Episode 10 is in August, 2011. We get a jobs number that indicates Obama is getting the economy off the ground. Sorkin’s political heroes must be Machiavelli or the guy who invented the Potemkin villages in Russia. We get him “explaining” his fantasy of a Standard & Poors downgrading of the Obama economy as really being a conservative conspiracy; that the austerity riots are the real reason for the Dow Jones’s tumble. This is like a snapshot of the 1962 New York Mets baseball season, in which a single double-header sweep they managed to accomplish is supposed to represent what really was a 120-loss season.
We hear McAvoy pontificate about the phoniness of . . . of course . . . the Tea Party. He disputes the notion of America as a “Christian nation.” This is a most pernicious concept, and leads the deep thinker to wonder whether there is some darker force at play in modern media-liberal political circles. Some ancient enemy that simply does not wish you to accept Christ as your savior. Christians are viewed here as “radical fundamentalism.” Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama are depicted – literally via a mural of Jesus - as Christ-like because they “always pray in private.”
No, there is no mention of Jeremiah Wright literally and actually advocating America be damned to eternal hell because “it’s in the Bible.” No mention of the fact that since Obama left Wright’s “church,” reports of his attending any church are as numerous as those reports at the Democrat National Convention of his doing good deeds throughout his life . . . oh wait, those deeds apparently do not exist on the crust of the planet, but we are supposed to believe that this arrogant fellow does it, like his “prayer,” in private. At a golf course.
No, there are no clips of Obama telling people conservatives “cling to their guns and religion,” or advocating we “spread the wealth around,” or perhaps Mr. Sorkin, so long as he deals in fantasy, could have produced Obama’s college records, and how he got into Columbia on a special affirmative action scholarship pointed out to him by an ACORN-type social worker, reserved for Muslim, foreign-born students . . . sorry, that was my . . . educated guess. No clips of Occupy Wall Street cretins crappin’ on public lawns or gang rapin’ their women, either.
No, we do not see McAvoy lambaste, in any of his diatribes on why America is not a great country, the fact 60 million babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade (1973), or get footage of Illinois state senator Obama advocating an act of legal infanticide in which he calls babies “unviable tissue matter.” But somehow Sorkin has seized upon the fact Republicans stop liberals from accomplishing their ancient pipe dream of gun control as meaning Obama is the “best friend the gun lobby ever had.” One must hand it to Mr. Sorkin, he has chutzpah.
We do not get McAvoy, by virtue of brilliant reporting and detective work, uncovering the role of Robert Roche, the co-founder of . . . get this . . . ACORN International in Shanghai! No mention that Mr. Roche has visited Obama 19 times at the White House, and shared a table with him and about five other top corporate titans. No mention of how this man has illegally funneled $1 billion from China and other foreign sources into the Obama campaign, not unlike the way Chinese and Indonesian criminals funded Bill Clinton in 1996. But no, not in Aaron Sorkin’s world. In his world, Clinton was the perfect human, depicted by Michael Douglass in The American President (1995). No mention of “fast and furious.”
Instead, we just get “Christian intolerance,” all fed us via Sorkin’s view of McAvoy as what he wishes Republicans were: compliant liberals, mere loyal opposition to the ruling Democrats, and for God’s sake not actual combatants in the rough ‘n’ tumble of electoral politics. Just McAvoy’s so-called “research” indicating that George Washington, John Adams and the Founding Fathers were somehow not Christians. What then, Buddhists? Wahabis? He keys on language they used advocating that we not have a national church like England, which is entirely different. Where did he think “endowed by Our Creator” comes from? Somehow this newsroom tells us that despite 240 years of history telling us virtually all the Founders were deeply Christian, only now Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels are here to disabuse us of this parochial notion.
The dialogue is the most irritating aspect of this and all Sorkin vehicles. People speak in ways no humans speak; fast, staccato, Walter Winchell witticisms. It tires one to follow all this sharp repartee. God, stop already. This was the problem with The West Wing, which instead of showing a bunch of Clintonistas drinkin’ and smokin’ pot, as they in fact did, depicted devoted young Democrats working day and night, seven days a week, in pursuit of a Greater Cause than themselves.
The Republicans, who McAvoy is “ashamed” to say are a party he ostensibly belongs to, “Deny science . . . have a fear of progress . . .” and have “a need to control women’s bodies.” Nothing on the 60 million aborted babies, or the 120 million murdered by Communism.
No, the Tea Party is “the American Taliban.” The Republicans “cannot survive if Dorothy Cooper is allowed to vote.” Who is Dorothy Cooper and how is she used to make a point in this least believable TV show ever?
Thus do we have the plot point of the final episode, “The Greater Fool.” The episode revolves around a tabloid story that has McAvoy hospitalized, half mental illness, half physical. He has been found passed out with a bleeding ulcer. It looks at first like a possible suicide attempt.
Was McAvoy “high” the night he reported on Osama bin Laden’s death in the spring of 2011? A sexy gossip columnist with a conscience and the hots for Will has the story but is holding it. Enter Jane Fond as Leona Lansing. Ah, the chance to get a dig in at Murdoch. Her son hacked Will’s phone and got the “story” illegally for one of their tabloids. Of course a black voice of conscience kills himself after getting the hacking info to Charlie Skinner.
A black nurse – again, of course she’s black - complains to Will while he is hospitalized that her mother, Dorothy Cooper, cannot vote because of voter ID laws. This spurs Will into action a la Don Quixote.
But Will never asks how Dorothy Cooper gets blood work done at the hospital without an ID. He never asks how she accomplishes any of dozens things regularly done in the act of living that require ID. He tells us only 86 voter ID fraud cases exist in America, as if the vote by illegal Mexicans for Democrats lacks existence. He does not inform us that any state will happily provide all Dorothy Coopers ID at no cost. Simply proceed and get one, but no; she does not drive and therefore such a thing is a hardship akin to the Solidarity movement against Communist Russia.
Nor does Will inform us that Dorothy can avoid disenfranchisement by virtue of absentee balloting, which requires requesting one, looking at it, voting, sealing the envelope, affixing a stamp, and placing it in a mail box, which in Sorkin’s view is the march on Selma.
But the Republicans cannot achieve electoral victory in a Democracy if Dorothy Cooper is allowed to vote.
The funny thing, in Sorkin’s little world, such a brutal lie is not understood to be a lie. Theirs is a fantasy existence.
For his role in such “truth-telling,” McAvoy needs a body guard – of course, a black guy – to protect him from Right-wing kooks; the ones Homeland Security told us in 2009 would be a threat to President Obama, except the threat also lacked existence then or now.
The only good part of this wretched show is the use of The Who’s classic “Baba O’Riley” as the motivating tune leading Will to go on his Quixoteesque quest for truth, which in the end sees him hire the actual sorority girl who set him off with her “why is America the greatest country in the world?” diatribe. Now, apparently wise and no longer prone to such stupid notions as American Exceptionalism, she applies for a job, which McAvoy grants her, recognizing that she is “the kid at the end of Camelot.”
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism