Don’t Trust A Critic or: Why Everyone Criticizing ‘The Newsroom’ is a Moron and a Fool

*In response to the feedback for this article, the author has written a follow up. Please click here to view it.

It’s been exactly half a year to the day since I first wrote that no one should trust a critic. I have said it many times since then, but it’s become a hot topic in the last month since the premiere of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom. Critics, blogs, newspapers, and podcasts have all been talking non-stop about how The Newsroom is the worst series on television. Some of the complaints that have been going around say that the show is insulting, fake, overly-sentimental, and poorly written, acted, and directed. One critic even went so far as to suggest that Aaron Sorkin’s Academy Award for The Social Network should be revoked because he has created such an abomination of a television show. Let’s ignore the fact that this makes absolutely no sense and assume that this person actually believes that because they did not enjoy this particular television series, an Oscar that Sorkin won for a previous and unrelated script should be taken away. That must mean that the show is pretty bad, right?

Because of this overwhelmingly negative press for the show it’s logical to think that many people have stayed away from The Newsroom expecting only bad things. News reports of terrible ratings have only served to hurt the show even more, and having just aired its fifth episode last night, critics are already calling for people to quit watching the show and boycott all future episodes.

But like the staff of the fictional newsroom in The Newsroom, I’m here on a mission to civilize and bring truth to the media.

Firstly, The Newsroom’s ratings are not bad and are in fact very good. The premiere episode attracted 2.7 million people to their televisions to watch the show. This makes The Newsroom HBO’s third-highest premiere of any television series since 2008. Despite a slight dip in episode two, the third episode actually bested all previous ratings and attracted even more viewers than the pilot.

Secondly, those who have been critical of the series seem to miss the entire concept of the series. When reviewing the pilot episode and discussing why many critics hated it, Dan Rather — one of the most famous living journalists — had this to say:  “I just don’t think they ‘get it.’” And he’s right. They don’t get it.

When those that outright hate the show and devote their time to criticizing it say that it’s “overly-optimistic,” they don’t understand that it’s supposed to be overly-optimistic. When the media criticizes the show for it’s fast-paced dialogue and intelligent characters, they don’t seem to understand that that’s why The Newsroom is a good show in the first place. Yes, the dialogue is fast, smart, and sometimes unlike how most people talk, but who would want to watch a television show that imitates exactly how people talk?

If such a show existed, it would sound an awful lot like this:

“Dude, did you get that fucking email I sent you?”
“No, you sent me an email? That’s fucked, man. I didn’t get it.”
“Oh shit. That sucks. I’ll send it again.”

Yes, the above sounds eerily familiar to a conversation that most of us had or overheard last week, but why would we want to watch it on television? Basic TV shows are meant to be an escape from real life. Good TV shows are an escape from real life while simultaneously being entertaining and saying something important about real life. Great TV shows are an escape, an important message, an outlet in which to discuss the human condition and current events, and home to a fictional world where characters and events can be funny, dramatic, romantic, ironic, and intelligent all at the same time.

If The Newsroom wanted to do an exchange between two characters talking about email, it would probably sound like this:

“I just sent you an email, did you get it?”
“I get about 230 emails a day, 192 of which are from people in Nigeria trying to take my money, 15 are from fake companies trying to sell me Viagra at a reduced cost, 8 of them are from a mailing list that I never signed up to be on, and another 15 are from people I know sending me things that are important, so to answer your question —what was your question again?”
“Did you get my email?”
“That’s a negative.”

Is this not monumentally more interesting than the conversation between the two idiots that you read earlier?

So yes, critics are attacking The Newsroom, but what’s the reason? Well, like Dan Rather said, a lot of them just don’t get it. That’s not to say all of them don’t get it, but the majority of people saying that the show is too smart for its own good or too fast-paced or too ambitious clearly don’t understand good storytelling. From there, critics or even regular viewers that see other negative reviews will watch the show with a pre-conceived bias and find their own reasons to hate the show. “The characters are too smart, no one talks like that, everyone is too morally righteous.” But again, why are these reasons to hate something?

The simple fact is, The Newsroom is the best television show currently on the air.

And if you just read the above sentence and believed it, shame on you. Me saying that it’s the best show is no better than other people saying it’s the worst. Make up your own mind. You may like it, you may hate it; but as long as you are the one to decide it’s a fair assessment.

The one thing that is abundantly clear is that The Newsroom, like so many movies and television shows these days, is a victim of critical abuse. It has gotten an unfair wrap by everyone with a keyboard and a website, and because of that, hatred has spread throughout the media and made everyone think that this show is one that is universally hated. The fact is… it’s not.

Dan Rather and I like it, so shut up.

Update: This article seems to have sparked a Twitter campaign to #SaveNewsroom from critics and undeserved negative press. If you want to join the mission to civilize, please share the article with the hashtag #SaveNewsroom. Let’s get this viral, people!

Jake Horowitz is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Ontario with his TV and computer. His favourite food is milk steak, his hobbies include magnets and ghouls, and he dislikes people's knees. He also obsessively quotes movies and TV shows as a means of interacting in real life.

Around The Web

  • JoAnn Null

    Jake,
    Just want you to know that I decided, all by myself, to LOVE The Newsroom. So tired of hearing morons speak to each other, or talk at each other or whatever the heck it is they are doing.
    Thank you for this article!

    • Jake

      Glad that at least one person made up their own mind about something. Keep fighting the good fight.

  • rick

    Sorkin did SportsNight in the same pace and style. West Wing was similarly paced in the early years. I LOVE the pacing. I LOVE that when I re-watch an episode i find something cool that i missed (like a good movie). Hands Down the best show on TV. To bad its on HBO….well, no I am glad it is on HBO or else it would have been dumbed down. What I really mean is too bad more people wont have access to it. I hope it survives for a few seasons in spite of that.

    • Jake

      Well it got renewed for a second season so at least there will be that. It’s up to people like us to let people know that it’s not what the media is making it out to be, and that it is in fact an incredible show. Spread the word.

      Let Sorkin be Sorkin.

      • Louganzo

        Hello – the reason they don’t like it in the media is because it tips the secret of all the bias. They don’t want people thinking about how the propaganda machine works. It’s like sausage – only with politically correct organic tofu and bean sprouts.

  • Diane

    Jake, good piece, I really love this show & I do not normally watch television other than news & sports.

  • Chris J

    You know what Jakey boy? YOU’RE RIGHT! I saw an ad for this just before it aired and I thought I’d give it a go. 4/5 episodes in and it’s fantastic. Witty, smart and a joy to watch. I hadn’t read anything about it online so the hate for it astounds me, but I don’t care-they’re incredibly stupid, these dumbass critics.

  • Calvin

    I was a Radio and Television Mass Communication major in college decades ago. The beliefs of my instructors on the role played by the news and the importance of being objective and weighing in on both sides of the issues were drilled into our heads day after day after day. I had decided those lessons were figments of my imagination, memories that didn’t really exist until I saw the Newsroom. I’m hopelessly addicted, so is everyone I had to badger into watching just one episode. After one they are part of the TIVO setting brigade. To the makers of the Newsroom:Congratulations on having the best show on TV. As long as it is not dumbed down to where critics like it I will keep watching.

  • Kenneth

    I love this show.They are just getting started. Let them hone their chemistry. The quick witty banter is just how Sorkin writes, it’s a style. If you don’t like it that’s OK…turn the channel. But, I assure you both Mad Men and The Newsroom are the best television has to offer in the hour long drama format.

  • Nick

    Nicely done, Jake. I don’t understand the negative reviews either. I’ve been telling everyone I know to start watching this show.

  • Domenic

    The show is awesome, I love it…from the opening monologue I was captured. Maybe because I was a journalist student and just love it, but that life, that world is as fast-paced as it comes. Also, it strives to be what media should be, I love the fact that Sorkin shares my personal views and the views of many “real” journalists that it needs to be an unbiased watchdog on goverment, not being a one-sided debate or reporting on what is popular for ratings. Also the scene in I believe episode 4 or 5, when Will tells the TMI girl she is not a journalist was amazing, something I agree with all the time. This country has become a society obsessed with sensationalism and no real news. America cares more about what the kardashians or snooki is doing than focussing on our upcoming presidential election. The Newsroom is an example of what our media should be, of what it was meant to be when it was founded, not what it has embarrasingly become today.

    • Louganzo

      yeah – we need a media that is blindly impartial and reports on the news. I wonder what that looks like. We know what it’s like without that. You get an imperial presidency where he “goes it alone.” Hello. Watchdog on the government. That’s rich. Not with Obama. Instead you have the Information Secret Service protecting him from any news that he’s done something wrong and journalists with lightning reflexes defending his every move. It’s really been quite a success story for how to corrupt a government.

  • Jake

    Just wanted to thank everyone who’s posted comments so far defending the show. Everything you’ve all said has been smart, informed, and reasonable. Keep fighting the good fight to let people decide things for themselves, and share this article with your friends to get the message out.

    • Louganzo

      Thanks Jake……errrrrr Mr. Daniels. Guess the campaign for saw Newsroom tanked.

  • Ed

    Before watching the show I read a joke on the Internet. I don’t remember who it was or where I read it (probably twitter) but it was something along the lines of “Show that claims elite journalists are incompetent and self-serving is inaccurate says elite journalists”. I probably butchered the quote and made it half as funny, but you get the point. I thought I would agree with the comedian. I didn’t.

    I kind of enjoyed the first episode but was worried that all the romance setups were way too obvious. I was also a little worried about the eye-rolling part of his otherwise great speech where he talked about America’s former “greatness”. I chalked that up to it being the first episode and pilots having a tendency to force feed you characters. I was hoping for the best. I wanted the last season of The Wire. They gave me Ally Mcbeal.

    People stroll into the office during work hours and scream about relationships like its Dawson’s Creek. Childish jealous behavior between colleagues goes unchecked. Main characters are required at least one conversation about their “past” per episode that will inevitably lead to their reunion, probably temporary so the charade can continue. This. Is. Bad.

    I don’t care what universe your show exists in. Professional journalists aren’t children. If they are, they hide it at work because professionalism is important in that field. To say otherwise (as they do) belittles the serious issues at hand on this show. I decided to stop watching the show mid-way through last night’s episode after the TEPCO interview. Olivia Munn (ugh) rambled on about “The Japanese” and their strange PR ways. They belittled the largest Japanese crisis since WWII. They made radiation jokes about Japan. It was disgusting.

    Realistic or not, these people are not entertaining. They’re as frustrating as any poorly constructed Gossip Girl character. You really think the only problem people have with this show is the lack of newsroom realism? This is bad writing through and through. These are poorly written predictable characters. This show deserves to die.

    Coldplay, Bigfoot, and Rudy. You seriously like this shit?

    • Jake

      Well, you didn’t like the show and that’s fine because at least you made up your own mind. Now you can at least say you decided for yourself.

  • Edwina Morrow

    I LOVE The Newsroom, and I’m a journalist, my husband runs a newsroom (mind you smaller scale than network) and it’s brilliant. It is the anti-Kardashian of shows. It is for the more intelligent viewer and it challenges you to listen, debate and discuss. Stupid TV (Teen Mom et al) is for the mindless sheeple that watch to be entertained by requiring little to no thinking. Sorkin’s Newsroom challenges you to actually listen and watch, and it is brilliantly acted and written by seasoned professionals. The ones that are critical are in the news business and cannot stand someone in the entertainment business that understands the news business, and understands it better than them. Sure there are more dramatic scenes than a real-life newsroom and more colorful metaphors thrown in, but as far as accuracy on it’s tech speak and the like, it’s spot on. Daniels is nothing less than brilliant, Thomas Sadoski is the epiphany of hothead EPs (I knew an EP, Eric Thaxton in TV news in a shitty market, he got just as crazy, and he was the biggest asshole of TV news, much like Thomas’ character Don Keefer) so it’s very believable. I love the show, and I’ll keep watching and supporting it. Thank you for restoring my faith in current TV.

    • Louganzo

      The problem is you don’t get much viewership from the small newsroom employee crowd who want to see their work on TV. The rest of us don’t really care how close to a real EP a show is.

  • Terri

    Glad to hear it was renewed. Everyone I know thinks it’s a great show. I’m talking it up to everyone.

  • Breaker

    What a preposterous article. You paint all the critics as strawmen who hate the show for being too smart, too ambitious, too morally righteous. This is as obviously transparent as the interviewee who responds “I work too much” when asked what his biggest weakness is.

    If you’re going to mount a proper defense of the show, why not actually address its serious criticisms? Especially the ones from people who clearly spent much more time thinking and putting together their arguments than you did.

    Finally, it’s possible to both understand and dislike a show at the same time. To call everyone who disagrees with you a moron and a fool while on a “mission to civilize” is about as absurdly ironic as Will Mcavoy calling a gossipy woman a bitch.

    • Louganzo

      Whoa Breaker. You’re good. Too bad all the smart people who liked the show can’t argue the intelligently.

  • Michelle

    I have loved the show from the beginning. I think the dialogue is clever and funny. The character’s are interesting and very human. I for one wish more people had conversations like them instead of the drivel that makes up a lot of day to day discussions.
    Finally there is a show worth watching. It seems like the better a show (or movie) the more the critic’s hate it. Too bad for them.

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  • BigfootisReal

    It’s a show for smart people. Nuff said.

    • Ed

      It’s a show for people of low-to-average intelligence that think they are smart people.

      • Louganzo

        If it were for smart people it would challenge them with real ideas instead of just snappy dialogue around fictitious liberal propaganda. That would be for smart people. This was written for the Obama crowd that think a good speech makes a good leader. Hello. Not even the liberals think he’s a good leader anymore. Choke. The problem with any show about a newsroom today is that it’s all just lefties talking to lefties. We call that MSNBC today – and guess what, it doesn’t sell to 70% of the people right off the bat. Then you have to play to the 50% of the 30% that would rather be doing something brain-dead like watching some show about girls in Hollywood or New Jersey or something.
        Get this as well. All the critics are liberals. They’re all in LA or NY. So you had a show pitched to your fan base and it whiffed. The reason. It was terrible. I was pulling for Jeff Daniels. Had they attempted to balance the content with the two sides of the debates instead of just a one-sided propaganda screed, he might have had a chance to succeed with it.

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  • Grizzleebare

    This show is about as much fun to watch as watching paint dry and I have been doing a LOT of painting lately. It is so friggeng BOREING! I watched three episodes and it is simply put (predictably) just an HBO propaganda show with an agenda. I am SICK TO DEATH of Politics disguised as entertainment! I want to be ENTERTAINED not INSULTED! It is as if these morons at HBO and it is NOT just HBO that think that WE are SO STUPID that they have to show us how SMART THEY ARE and feed us political pabulum! The writers and creators of this horrible excuse for entertainment have visions of grandeur and self Importance that is simply inexcusable! I would rather watch reruns of Rerun or Threes Company and that was pretty damn BAD then! PLEASE do US A FAVOR and KILL THIS Dumbass show for the sake of humanity!

    • Louganzo

      Amen. Well said.

  • Louganzo

    I tried watching Newsroom and was so put off by everything about it I had to take an ant-acid. It was a long preachy, nonsensical, left-wing delusion. Great. HBO wants to make another left-wing propaganda show. But guess what. People don’t buy that hack anymore. That’s why MSNBC is so inconsequential and relying on everything but their own revenue to stay afloat. You can hide left-wing propaganda in a show – actually you can’t avoid that in Hollywood today – but when that’s the basis for your show and you write everything to destroy your assumed antagonist, you end up with a fantasy along the lines of Superman vs. Little Red Riding Hood. People end up pulling for the dumbed-down protagonists. You have to disconnect from reality so repeatedly in the process that you take a show that should be realistic and turn it into a liberal fantasy. Hello.