*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!