Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Knows It Alls

As predictable as the arrival of the second season of HBO’s “The Newsroom” has been the return of the “Why The Newsroom Really Sucks” meme.

Optimistically, I’d assumed that with the show’s renewal, all those who felt the obsessive need to keep watching a series they clearly didn’t like would have moved on.

But no, they were back, writing on virtually every hip cum trendy news site, online magazine and showbiz blog, allowing that while Aaron Sorkin had taken some of their past criticism to heart and maybe even rediscovered how to write women again (at least somewhat), “The Newsroom” still wasn’t meeting their expectations –- and wouldn’t meet mine or yours either.

I wrote about these people a year ago here, primarily dismissing them as disgruntled fellow scribes hoping to be noticed and hired for Sorkin’s writing room, where no one besides him does any actual script writing –- but they do get paid to sit around and tell him how he could be writing better.

I’m sure Mr. Sorkin appreciates the talents of the people in his “room” and in interviews he’s also been very kind to those who’ve maligned both him and one of the most entertaining shows on television, responding to the bricks tossed at him by saying:

“I don’t mean the critics are wrong. I just mean I don’t see it that way.”

In other words, “I’m making the best show I can. And I’m doing it virtually by myself. You don’t like it, there’s like a bazillion other channels.”

But they continue.

Sunday, I ignored them and watched the Season 2 Premiere, literally applauding at least twice the masterly manner in which the story was told. And since then, I’ve watched it again and re-PVR’d a couple of choice scenes, marvelling at how they were constructed.

It’s wrong to say that you can’t judge creativity unless you’ve done it yourself. Because there are not only some great critics, but every member of the audience engages in their own ongoing assessment of the craft being served to them.

When we succeed, they don’t touch the remote. When we don’t, well…

But this second wave on continued dissatisfaction with what Mr. Sorkin has to offer got me wondering just who these people really were. This afternoon, I got a little insight.

It was hot and I dropped into a local coffee place to get something cold and caffeinated to keep me going. It was one of those places where screenwriters like to hang and type so people think that they really are working on something.

A couple of them were dissecting “Sharknado”, moving on to express their outrage over the Zimmerman verdict, the current cover of Rolling Stone and then what wasn’t working on “The Newsroom”.

In each case they were in vociferous disagreement with the right of each of those things to simply exist.

Not just a negative opinion, but an assertion that everybody who thought otherwise needed some time in an internment camp.

As the Barista gushed stuff into my cup and I eavesdropped, I realized there was no differentiation between their level of anger and the subject matter. A murder trial, a magazine cover and a couple of disparate TV shows all engendered the same dosage of venom.

And I recalled that we live in an age of entitled outrage, where it seems everything you don’t like has to be condemned with the same overkill intensity.

Maybe it’s not that exactly. Maybe it’s that our lives are so busy and packed with multi-tasking that we feel a need to get our messages out fast and forcefully.

Maybe we’re all subconsciously aware that our collective attention spans have been re-sculpted by Facebook and Twitter and unless you speak in quick and impactful sound-bites nobody will bother listening to you or register what you’re trying to say.

Maybe Life or technology has us rapidly returning to that stage two year olds struggle with because they just haven’t developed the communicative and mobility skills to make life function smoothly. It’s what some people call the “when all you got’s a hammer, everything’s a nail” syndrome.

Or maybe we’re all just getting stupider. Too dumb to just change the channel when we aren’t enjoying ourselves and feeling our dissatisfaction is the fault of the guy telling the story, not our own inability to see that he might be waaayyyy smarter than we are –- and waaayyyy more talented as well.

Or he just sees things as they are as opposed to how somebody else might like them to be.

So, perhaps I am saying that unless you’ve played the violin, you can’t appreciate the magic Aaron Sorkin can make with his.

Or perhaps I’m suggesting that the meme was tired a year ago and the bellyaching isn’t going to change anybody’s mind at this point. So you might as well go back to talking about things you do understand…


Liam Neesons & Bruce Willy from Peter Atencio on Vimeo.

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