In Only Three Episodes, The Newsroom Has Already Dismantled the Mainstream Media

Do you like Jon Stewart? I bet you do. His and our demographics seem to line up in many ways, so I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that he has some fans reading this now.

Since Stewart’s favorite punching bag, George W. Bush, left office, Stewart was in a bit of a pickle. Obama just wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to poke fun at, so a new target needed to be acquired. And Stewart found one: The Media.

Some of the best Daily Show segments in the past few years have been Stewart absolutely demolishing the cable news networks. His main focus is generally Fox News, which has a tendency toward hypocrisy and a laughable “fair and balanced” moniker. More recently he takes CNN to task for their inane fluff pieces that don’t even belong on YouTube much less a major network. MSNBC has to ram their feet pretty hard into their mouths to get his attention.

Now what if I told you that there was a show that did something similar? Only this time it’s a drama that has an Oscar and Emmy worthy cast, a brilliant writer and a network that lets it do whatever the hell it wants. Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom on HBO is that show, an embodiment of Stewart’s rage at the inept media and corrupt politicians they keep letting off the hook.

Working in TV looks too stressful for me.

No, it’s not Game of Thrones, whose Sunday night time slot it occupies as Westeros takes a vacation for nine months. No one is decapitated, there are no breasts to be seen and really, it’s just a whole bunch of talking. But it’s the best damn talking on TV today.

In just three episodes, Sorkin has been on a warpath with his scripts. He talks so openly and directly to the media, it’s viewers and the political establishment, I’m not entirely sure The Newsroom can be called a TV show. It’s more like an incredibly well-written rant for fifty minutes a week. Yes, there’s the will they/won’t they flirtation of the co-producer and the assistant. There’s old flame drama between the anchor and his EP. But really, the meat of the show casts aside these petty distractions, and so far has taken to task the media and politicians for the terrible things they’ve been doing to the country through misinformation.

All this said, it’s easy to see how this show can be dismissed by some. I happen to agree with about 85% of its politics, but those that don’t will likely see it as borderline propaganda. Jeff Daniels plays a newsman known for asking the easiest questions and running the lightest stories. He has a wake-up call from his new producer (and ex-girlfriend) and changes into a hybrid of Edward R. Murrow, Anderson Cooper and Keith Olbermann, turning in informed reporting that keeps his subjects honest while mocking them in an authoritative tone. But he does make good points.

A role I genuinely like Olivia Munn in; perhaps Sorkin’s greatest achievement.

The idea is that the anchor, Will McAvoy, is a Republican, but cannot hide from what are deemed inevitable facts about his own party. Last week, the home-grown Tea Party was targeted before the mid-term elections (the show takes place in 2010). McAvoy sees the very transparent fact that though the organization may have started out with noble intentions, it had been appropriated by corporate interests who mold the group into a political force for their own purposes. In one segment, he interviews two proud Tea Party members who have no idea that their recent grassroots rally of thousands was paid for in its entirety by the billionaire conservative Koch brothers. He openly wonders how people have been riled up into voting against their own interests, and his attacks raise a shitstorm in the head office of his network. The execs have to do business with the congressmen and businessmen he’s attacking after all, and tell him to tone it down or risk being fired.

As you can see, it’s an intensely political show with a distinct point of view. What I’m wondering is if other people can enjoy the show who don’t explicitly share its views. My hope would be that it could be used to instruct. That the arguments are presented clearly and smartly at the hands of Sorkin’s scripts that it will make people think about their own entrenched notions. This is a greater challenge than it was to enjoy Sorkin’s past project, The West Wing, regardless of party, because even if that was a show entirely about politics, it’s a hell of a lot less political than The Newsroom.

So now it’s ask the audience time. We don’t do politics often here (if ever) and I’m not trying to start. I don’t care if you think global warming is real or that gay marriage killed the dinosaurs, but I’m wondering that if you do watch the show, what your political leanings are and how do they affect your viewing of it. For me, it’s the most enjoyable hour of TV on every week now. For others, I’m wondering if it brings the same sort of satisfaction.

Update: The famous first speech:


And you can actually watch the entire first episode for free here.

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  1. Surprised you didn’t put the video of his 1st episode speech on here. Wow, just wow.

    Love this show, hope it does make waves in today’s media. I remember being a kid and watching the real news every night with my parents. Now days it’s all solely for entertainment purposes.

    I love this show. I do wonder how much catching up to today’s news they will do.

  2. I’m a Republican and I thoroughly enjoy the show. The way I perceive it, I think the show is less about the actual polotics of the situations and more about the way its handled in the media world. I think its criticisms are fair, and even the non-political parts are pretty interesting. For example, I hate the assistants boyfriend.

  3. Yeah, the first speech gave me goosebumps when I heard it. Shit was epic.

    The show is great, I simply showed a couple friends that first rant and now I have people randomly showing up at my house on Mondays to watch an episode on HBOGo.

    It’s actually gotten me back into watching the news (a bit…. real news shows are awful in comparison) and to top off all of their rants & backstories to the news, the show is pretty comical.


    I enjoyed how in the 2nd episode they showed how the new show could fail, with the simple mistake of one staffer and in the 3rd they showed how the nation as a whole responded, as well as the network politics involved in determining how the news is presented. So far it’s been a great show delivered from every perspective I could think of and I’m sure they’ll continue to suprise me every week.

    This show has me looking forward to Mondays now.

  4. “For example, I hate the assistants boyfriend.”

    Fuckin A.

    Dude’s a douchenozzle, but I really hope they don’t “Pam & Jim” that whole triangle.

  5. Somewhere close to a true Centrist, and I love the show. But that shouldn’t be hard for someone who thinks both parties are stupid in general.

  6. I seriously can’t wait each Sunday to watch the show. It’s compelling, smart and funny all the while moving at a pace that some viewers can’t keep up with. I’m a moderate conservative and I think at times it can be a bit liberal, but I really could care less. The fact that the dialogue touches on most of the sides of issues makes it easy to not get riled up about the politics of the show. I wish our current news programs would give a less one sided argument. Why can’t we just get the facts and make informed decisions on how we feel without some talking head pulling our strings. I guess there is no money in that 🙁

  7. Meh. It’s just more of the Left Wing douchery I see on MSNBC, CNN, and HLN. For example, the big news story about the Koch brothers financing Tea Party events. That’s hypocrisy because…. Why? They cannot support their own ideology because they are rich? And the only time anyone says Fox News is hypocritical is during OPINION shows. Study after study has shown that the newscast portions of FN have the least political bias of any network. Unlike the others which are severely Left slanted during all programming. But, I expect nothing from this show. If, 4 episodes from now the protagonist starts wearing “Yes We Can” shirts and spitting on soldiers, but hides his new “enlightenment” from everyone and intentionally says racist things because the shows writers think that’s what Repubicans do to hide the fact that they are all secretly Liberals playing pretend to serve their own greed, I would feel absolutely no surprise.

  8. You should go back to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, also by Aaron Sorkin, it was a brilliant put down of the pathetic crap on TV today, the opening episode features a brilliant speech about the banality of reality TV just as good as the speech in Newsroom .
    It was my favourite show but only lasted a season incredibly well written, great acting and skewered the TV networks and conservative Right

  9. Its fun at times to watch when it is ranting. The characters are flat and boring and Sorkin is bordering on the sexist side with the insanely weak women. Still the message that it sends is way too good to be put down by these issues. The love triangle could have been written by 13 year girl post twilight. Yet when those speeches come on and the rapid fire of stats i get hooked.

    @ Brent, the majority of shows on Fail News ( fox) are in fact opinion shows. Shows in which they invite only guests that the hosts can yell over and bash. The amount of time that there are actual news shows is like an 8th of the air time. Also recent study has shown Fox viewers are the lest informed.

  10. I want this show inside of me.
    My brain, I mean. Seems like it could do for our generation what “Network” did in the 70’s. Wow, a post on here actually defends FOX News? Be ashamed that there are such people on your site, Tassi. Do some research, Mr. Highley. Seriously, not only are FOX viewers less informed than most, they are actually less informed on current events than people who watch NO news. NONE. Think about that for a minute. A news channel that actively makes you stupider. This is the world we live in.

  11. I am an independent but lean to the left and I fucking love this show. A lot of mainstream critics have not been kind to it and I can’t help but wonder if it just cuts a little too close to home. And I honestly don’t think this show is anyway liberal or conservative, hell to basis of the new news show is to say “to hell with ratings or partisan politics, it’s our job to give people the facts.” It may be harsh towards fox news but only they’re the worst offender of not giving all the facts and being biased.
    And am I the only one that feels this show needs to exist today in the day and age of DVR’s. I know I am constantly rewinding to catch everything that’s said because the people are talking so fast and are admittedly much smarter than I am so I often have to either pause or rewind to just think for a second about what was just said. That’s not a knock on the show by any means, I love that a tv is making me think and given the tone and ideas of the show that has to be on purpose.

  12. I enjoy this show and find it invigorating to see an honest, central based news station that’s supplying facts and knowledge instead of fear and ignorance.
    Although I live outside the U.S and the majority of the news shows here are honest and unaffiliated politically, it still fills me with a strange sense of joy to see a newsroom fighting for something morally right instead of being safe or practically redundant as they bow to corporate investors.
    The speech he makes in the first episode is incredibly powerful and rousing because you know the statistics he’s listing are true. He’s making the U.S face what they have become in despite of delusions fed in some part by ‘wholesome, god-fearing, patriotic’ News Anchors, and where the people live in a culture where speaking out against the proposed greatness of the country can be classed as “unamerican”.
    I think The Newsroom will be a gospel to those that are sick and tired of the U.S Media and the cavalier way they treat their duty.

  13. @Brent
    “Study after study has shown that the newscast portions of FN have the least political bias of any network.”

    Provide us with 1, Brent. No polls on the Fox News site don’t count.

    The Fairleigh Dickinson University’s public mind poll showed just recently that Fox News viewers count as the worst informed media news consumers along all categories. MSNBC and CNN only faired a little better–hence the prescience of the Newsroom.

    “The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly — a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. On the other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly; viewers of Sunday morning talk shows fare similarly well. And people watching only The Daily Show with Jon Stewart could answer about 1.42 questions correctly.”

  14. I’m a conservative. I love the show. I love Sorkin’s writing even if I disagree with his politics.

    Loved The West Wing. Loved Sports Night.

    But it’s funny reading all of the Fox News hate and calls of hypocrisy. All of the news we receive in this day age is pure crap. If you take all your news from one source, be it Fox, MSNBC, CBS, CNN, HLN, OLN, OWN, TNT, CC, etc then you are a moron.

    You should be seeking out as many different versions of a story as possible to make your own informed decision.

    Which is kinda the whole point of this TV show….

    But y’all keep up with the Fox news bashing… it’s the cool thing to do now, even if it makes you look like a moron.

    One coin, two sides.

  15. I love how in his speech in the clip you posted, he makes a comment on how people identify themselves based on who they voted for in the last election. And assuming after watching this clip, people are still identifying themselves in the comments based on who they last voted for.

    I live in Canada, and it’s quite interesting for me. Outside of my American mother, I don’t know anyone who starts a debate or conversation with their political allegiance. I, for one, don’t identify with one political group. Leading up to elections I tend to research information on all parties and vote for whomever I feel will best represent Canada, assuming there is a worthy candidate.

  16. Liz,

    Unfortunately it actually is the mainstream media on both sides that tends to polarize the population. I’ve never had a conversation that started “I’m democrat or I’m republican.” Then again I’m from Texas, but I also graduated from UT so I’ve seen both sides of the coin in Texas.

    There’s actually only a very small percentage of people who can’t get over the fact that there are people with different views than themselves, and those people are far left and far right.

    People who get so worked up over politics and religiously follow the hannitys, maddows, limbaughs, etc don’t enjoy life. Regardless of the Presdient, history has shown that most Presidents just want to keep the status quo.

  17. Thanks for the review. I really appreciate your perspective and believe your offered a unique voice. Keep up the good, even, interesting and fun reviews.

  18. Love the show but I have the same issue with it that I have with Bill Maher. The people that are supposed to represent the other side of the argument are morons. That’s just no fun.

  19. Paul,

    I can safely tell you this is something that mainly appeals to left-wingers. The main “Republican” has major doubts about his party, any of the left-wingers on the show have major doubts about their party? No.

    Now, the show has no reason to be objective and unbiased, but just don’t take it as gospel. Trust me, most right-wingers would take hearty objection to their portrayal and would argue against this show. I do have to wonder what exactly about the MSM they are attacking though? Conservatives dislike the MSM because of its left-wing slant. Just yesterday I saw CBS reporting about the 3rd California city to go bankrupt. Then they promptly chided the GOP for voting to repeal Obamacare too many times. Nevermind that our whole country is headed the way of San Bernadino, I think is the city that was in the story, and that the Dems have NO PLAN whatsoever to stop our country from heading off that cliff. Senate Dems haven’t created a budget in over 3 years now.

    Anyway, don’t think you’re getting anything resembling a true-to-life right-wing view from that show. It’s just a caricature created by liberal imaginations. Maybe you’re not interested in knowing what conservatives think, which is fine.

    Final point, it’s really an arrogant attitude to take to accuse conservatives of “voting against our best interests”. Do you think I’m stupid enough to vote against my own interests, by voting GOP I’m voting for what I feel is best. Liberals who convince themselves they know better what is best for me then I do will lead to no good end. That’s leading to President Obama trying to shove his agenda down the country’s throat and trying to bypass Congress. That’s not healthy, I don’t care if the President was Dem or GOP. When the people deliver you a stern rebuke (by electing your opponents to power) you don’t try to shove your agenda down anyway. You try to get the people back on your side. A tyrant who means well and thinks he’s doing what’s best for his people (because of course he knows better then them) is still a tyrant.

    P.S. Obama is not a tyrant but I’m seriously disturbed by the anti-democracy attitudes I’ve seen taken by too many left-wingers. I’ll decide what is my best interest, don’t need gov’t to tell me what to eat, force me to buy health insurance, or any other such nonsense, thank you very much. If I make a mistake, I’ll live with the consequences, the bureaucrats can kindly back off.

  20. GREAT POST by Jesus Morales. Dead on in all respects. I’ll echo one point – the idea that leftists are going to accuse me of “voting against my interests” is the HIGHEST form of arrogance and hypocrisy. Why not just say it – “You conservatives (or libertarians, in my case) don’t know what’s best for you, but don’t worry – WE DO!!! You’d be so much better off if you’d just let us look out for you….”

    There are idiots on the right side of the aisle, no doubt – but the hubris of the left never ceases to amaze me.

  21. Jeff Daniels’ character is a Republican right? All I’ve seen of this show is that video you just posted and it was the most ridiculous delusionally nostalgic right-wing BS I have ever heard.

    Straw Man question: “Why is America the greatest country in the world?”

    BS Answer: “Kids these days. This is the Worst PERIOD Generation PERIOD Ever PERIOD (that line satirises itself, seriously.) Of course America isn’t the greatest country (well duh!) but it used to be (WHAT???)

    “Back in the good old days everything was just great and there was no crime and the poor were taken care of and it was a lovely beautiful utopia.” (Oh gdiaf)

    Seriously is the whole series like this? It sounds like a Republicans wet dream.

  22. Eh, the series is pretty much a self-indulgent vanity mirror for leftists — something by which the can left can admire itself but that has no resonance outside of the left-wing bubble world.

    It will be off the air by the end of the year.

  23. @Charles_Martel
    Actually, I it was renewed for a second season already. So you’re empirically wrong in your assumption that it will be off the air by the end of the year.

  24. I love this show and am happy to see some love for it here. Other sites absolutely hate it and I can’t understand why. Maybe it’s too much Sorkin? I loved the West Wing, so this is right up my alley.

    One of my favorite moments, and there are quite a few for a show I’ve only seen 3 episodes of, was when (Slight Spoiler? Kind of?) McAvoy says “Who are we? We are the media elite.” with perfect tone and pace. That was a “drop the mic” moment sans the mic.

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