I’m an Aaron Sorkin fan. I grew up on The West Wing and, since then, have devoured pretty much all his other shows and movies. So, needless to say, when The Newsroom came out a few weeks ago, I was thrilled.
The negative reviews struck me immediately, but I have this theory about being too popular an artist or producing something too good or ground-breaking early in your career: if you set the bar too high, everyone expects you to keep evolving and being ground-breaking, and that obviously can’t happen. Sometimes, the first thing wasn’t even all that great, but it was better than expected, and so expectations for everything after get inflated. So, of course, everyone is disappointed.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that, after watching the first episode of The Newsroom, having read a number of harsh critiques, it became clear to me that people were expecting something new, edgy, different, and, well, ground-breaking. Needless to say, that’s not what Sorkin delivered. He delivered standard Sorkin: smart, intense stories with witty characters, fast dialogue, and a heavy dose of idealism and romanticism. In other words, he delivered quality entertainment. As a fan of quality entertainment, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I have been quietly telling off (or, really, ignoring) critics for the last few weeks, but last night’s episode didn’t quite hit the right chord for me.
Most disappointingly, I found Maggie annoying and stopped rooting for her and Jim. After the initial shock wore off, I actually wanted Jim to date Lisa. After all, Maggie can’t be with Don and still hold the super-awesome Jim back. I also kind of liked Lisa, despite her clearly being written to be a little dumb and unidimensional.
But then, as soon as I realized I wanted to smack Maggie and tell her to shut up, and that I wasn’t enjoying the puppy dog eyes Jim was making at her, I found myself desperately missing Josh and Donna. Part of what made their relationship so compelling was the fact that nothing ever happened; their smart, flirty banter kept you coming back for more, and while you kind of wanted them to get together, you also were afraid that if they ever acknowledged their attraction, it would fall apart.
But Jim and Maggie have dived right into this within four episodes, and everyone in the office knows they like each other, and even Don doesn’t really think Maggie’s going to stick around with him much longer, so the suspense is gone. It’s now just annoying, and I almost want them to get together just so that they can realize maybe it won’t actually work and then Jim can go on and date better girls, and Maggie can stop being annoying. Which really isn’t what I was hoping for from their relationship, as a viewer who loves quality entertainment.
As for all the other criticisms I’ve read, well, it’s not worth getting into all of them, but I will agree that this last episode felt more misogynistic than most. I don’t think Will speaks directly for Sorkin, as many critics seem to, but this episode did certainly portray women as more stupid than it normally does. Though my frustration with Maggie certainly didn’t help.
Needless to say, I won’t stop watching, but, Sorkin, get with it. Please.