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.

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  1. The only, only, only issue I have with the show is it is so far left on the politics when it comes to representing the issues. I love the show in general but I really wish they would give a better representation of the issues Soorkin disagrees with. Maher does the same thing on his show, he finds the biggest moron possible that disagrees with his particular issue so he can make fun of them. That’s no fun for me, it’s just painful to watch. And I’m not a right winger by any means, I hate the far right just as much as I hate the far left but when it’s so easy to come up with a better argument than what’s presented on the show, it just takes away from the shows credibility.

  2. I’ve been feeling the exact same way about this show myself. I suppose if I had to think too critically about it, I would have many of the same issues as many of the reviewers, but the cast really does such a great job of selling the emotions. So much so that Sorkin completely has me on board with wherever he wants to take this series. My one complaint would be that the theme song is so inoffensive that it has started to offend me. Really sounds like something you would hear on a 90s TV show or an elevator up to Donald Trump’s Penthouse.

  3. As others have stated, this show has no balance at all when it comes to the issues. And that’s OK – except for the fact that they think everyone is STOOPID enough to buy the complete fantasy that this is a more centrist show. McAvoy is a republican in every way – EXCEPT his every thought and action.

    The problem ain’t the touchy feely stuff, the problem is the “only one side of the argument ever makes sense” stuff.

  4. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that the fact that it takes place 2 years ago makes it feel already dated. Well no ody ever accused Aaron Sorkin of actually producing a real news show. And let me tell you I feel more informed on those issues today than I did two years ago and stepping back and giving a story some time to breathe you can tell a story around those real life issues because it allows you to have all or at least more of the facts. Plus they’re all issues WE ARE ATILLL DEALING WITH! Hell the episode from a few days before the dark knight rises came out had segments dedicated to gun control.

  5. Paul, you really need to drop the political stuff… Crap like this propaganda show and the Bane/Bain thing are the rest of the internet’s baliwick.

    I was introduced to this show last weekend by the extremely left-wing wife of a Jeffersonian Democrat friend of mine. Since I’m more Centrist-to-Conservative (I believe in marriage equality AND gun rights… I’m obviously a sociopath…), she thought I’d love the show, but while I think Bridges is enjoyable as the irascible lead, the myopic, aggressively leftist viewpoints and the constant need for Bridges to chant “I’m a Republican!” so we don’t mistake him for Karl Marx is ridiculous… The episode where he Jason Bourne’s his date’s handgun then espouses utter terror that anyone would own a firearm just was the last straw… He treated the woman like a violent lunatic the rest of the episode, despite obviously being comfortable enough around firearms to put on a sideshow with the thing when he found it.

    Fucking silly show that may be more ignorantly and insultingly left-wing than The West Wing, if for no other reason than it’s half-assed attempts at seeming otherwise.

  6. Can’t argue that, and I know that you said yourself when you posted it that you weren’t trying to get into the politics, you were just enjoying the shop itself. It was an expert job, and I’d hoped that posting it and the Obama/Joker thing was as political as we were going to get. I was just using it as an example of the muckraking and misquoting nonsense that the rest of the internet (and partisan drek like Sorkin’s ham-fisted programming) prides itself on. It may only be 30% factual, but that crap is the “reality” I come to Unreality to escape. Hate to see you on a slippery slope into this cesspool.

  7. @jandhyde @Steve It’s not about being right or left wing. The writers are just showing how they feel about these issues.
    Why does everyone condemn a show with an opinion on politics? Because if the show’s opinion doesn’t align with what THEY think is correct, it HAS to be right or left.. Depending on which side they think is incorrect. It’s all just a bunch of terms people use to force their opinions.
    You can argue that the show leans left on a lot of issues, but you’re just trying to relate how they feel about the subject to a certain political party. They don’t intentionally write the show to be liberal or democratic, that’s just how they feel. Why are they wrong? For every argument you make against the issue, I can make one FOR the issue.
    It’s all nonsense.. Paul knows it, that’s why he doesn’t really talk about politics. The Newsroom knows it, that’s why they make millions of dollars. And anyone who doesn’t pretend to have a perfect moral and ethic attitude knows it.

  8. I’m neither a liberal or a democrat. Honestly I like that the show “attempts” to get to the bottom of the truth. Both “sides” have become so disgustingly hypocritical and manipulate the truth as they see fit, however (based on FACTS, just pure numbers and complete factual documented events) select news organizations aligned with the “right” (and even that notion has become warped) tend to manipulate footage and stories excessively. To the point where it’s becoming waaaaaay too obvious. If you pay attention to the show they don’t defend either side, just provide facts. It just feels like they are attacking the “right” more, due to some stuff that was exposed on the Tea party (which started under noble intent, but was quickly bent and twisted to the whim of select individuals and doesn’t classify as traditional “right”). Other than that the stories have been about Oil wells, the Arab Spring, and the shooting of a senator (where in both the Oil Spill & the Shooting, they pointed out the current administration’s shortfalls)

    Also the reason that the show is 2 years old. It was prepped/written about a year ago and it gives them the benefit of exhaustive fact checking.

    I wish the news media (any outlet) would make an honest attempt to just report facts and not take sides. Something I sorrily find lacking in all the big outlets. But hey, like the show points out, sensationalism makes for ratings.

    Personally, I enjoy the show. Probably because I don’t lean completely with either polarity. I enjoy firearms, education, a strong military, science, harmony with the environment, and intelligent debate. I don’t consider myself left, right, or center. I’m more complex than that.

    So far I don’t think the show has taken up against firearms, they merely went over the facts. They haven’t attacked the right or left for their core beliefs, just some of the false backing behind their arguments.

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