Why It’s OK for HBO to Have a Feel-Good Show

I’ve been enjoying The Newsroom for the past five weeks now, and though I figured some would disagree with its politics, I figured most would recognize it as a pretty cool show.

But then I saw online that Aaron Sorkin had been making the rounds in interviews defending the show, as it apparently has been panned by critics since release.

They say it’s too preachy, but recently, too warm and fuzzy. I can’t exactly disagree with either of those, but it’s the last one I want to touch on here.

When you think of HBO, which shows come to mind? Probably The Sopranos, The Wire or more recently, Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones. The general theme is these are great shows populated by pretty bad people, with only a tiny fraction of inherently “good” characters.. The same is even true of most of their comedies, from Kenny Powers to Larry David to the out of control cast of Girls. I suppose it depends on the exact definition of “bad,” but the common theme is that HBO likes to work with deeply flawed characters resulting in shows that are often full of tragedy and violence or endless vulgarity.

Anyone catch the end of last sesaon? Wow.

Let me be clear, all of these shows are awesome. Every program I’ve mentioned I’ve seen every episode of, and they’re all fantastic. But that said, it’s almost refreshing to see HBO go for something completely different with The Newsroom, a show made up overwhelming of “good people,” where each episode usually ends with a smile rather than a nail biting cliffhanger where someone lays bleeding in a ditch.

Shows like The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire are the complete opposite of this. Unlike even Game of Thrones or Deadwood where at least a few characters are considered “heroes,” these casts are jam packed of characters almost no one is rooting for. Tony Soprano and Nucky Thompson might be the leads, but they have done awful, unspeakable things and it’s often hard to really root for them because of it.

But The Newsroom? Nearly every major character is someone worth cheering for. From Will McAvoy to his producer Mackenzie to his assistant Maggie to his entire staff, it’s a show that is fully stocked with heroes, and only a few true “villains” lurk in the shadows. Even characters thought to be “bad guys” like Maggie’s annoying boyfriend have proven they have moral conviction when it’s required.

This gives the show a feeling unlike anything else I’ve seen on HBO. This week’s episode gave me the warm and fuzzies like no other show on the channel has to date. Will McAvoy personally pays the ransom for a foreign correspondent being held hostage after covering the Egypt protests, but as he tries to leave for the day, a line of his staff members snakes out of his office, each presenting him with a check of their own to help contribute. It’s a scene straight out of Rudy, which was mentioned earlier in the episode, and it may have been completely cheesy, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t smiling for five minutes straight afterward.

I think HBO needs a show like The Newsroom to show that good TV doesn’t necessarily have to be filled with sex or violence on EVERY occasion. Those kind of shows have their place, and the network has thrived because of them, but just because The Newsroom wants to inform and entertain, that doesn’t make it inherently worse.

HBO seems to recognize this, and despite the cries of critics, they’ve already renewed The Newsroom for season two. And for the most part, I’ve heard viewers love it as well. I think critics have missed that it’s something people have been waiting for, a TV program that can educate (I now know what the Glass-Steagall Act is) and end each night on a more upbeat note than the channel is used to.

I hope The Newsroom sticks around for at least a couple of seasons as I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this invested into a feel good show. Breaking Bad, Dexter and Game of Thrones are fantastic, but The Newsroom is a breath of fresh air in an era of the ultra-violent and crude.

12 Comments

  1. jandhyde July 26, 2012
  2. jandhyde July 26, 2012
  3. jandhyde July 26, 2012
  4. J. July 26, 2012
  5. Shiner_Man July 26, 2012
  6. DScott July 26, 2012
  7. Sam July 26, 2012
  8. Steve July 26, 2012
  9. Paul Tassi July 26, 2012
  10. Steve July 26, 2012
  11. Johnson July 27, 2012
  12. HarshReality79 July 28, 2012

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