Thread: The Newsroom.
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Old June 26 2012, 02:56 AM   #14
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Re: The Newsroom.

"How to Get Under Aaron Sorkin's Skin:"

Sarah Nicole Prickett wrote:
Hence, my first question starts, “I watched the pilot twice ... ” But I don't get to the question part because Sorkin looks as if he wants to say something. I invite him to do so, and he asks, “Because you liked it so much the first time, or because you didn't understand it the first time?”

So huge is the hubris in thinking anyone smart enough to write about this show for a national newspaper might not be yet smart enough to understand it (should you fret about your own Sorkin-fathoming abilities, let me say that if you read Don Quixote in the ninth grade or studied American History in the 11th, you will be fine) that I just swallow and tell my own truth.
Sorkin does not live in the age of Gawker. But The Newsroom is opportunely timed – at least for educated-liberal audiences – in part because this is an election year, and Americans are so divided that wild ambivalence seems like the only way left to feel. In larger part, it’s because a certain kind of man is now freaking out over the loss of his greatness: Esquire is e-publishing “men’s fiction”; Simon Fraser University wants to build a “men’s centre,” requiring perhaps refuge from the plague of 51-per-cent female enrolment; “misandry” is a word you hear people say and mean.

Really, all that’s happening is that feminism has achieved some of its purposes and pluralism has taken root. Systems are tenuous; forces of change are multiplying; the great-(white)-man theory will not hold.

Sorkin, though, is winningly upholding it. The colonel, the president, the genius, the baseball coach, the anchorman, and next – as he’s recently confirmed – no less than Steve Jobs: His subjects are masculine iconoclasts with traditional top-down power, who strive, in Graham Greene-type ways, to use it for good.

But on “real” TV news, these heroes are dying, and to mourn them is also to mourn a paternalistic notion of truth as something you should but cannot handle, when for the powerless vast majority it’s so gossamer it just slips through our fingers. With one look into the steel arrogance behind Sorkin’s eyes, I am sure he considers his life’s tragedy that, in 50 years, there will be no Sorkin to write about him.

“I think I would have done very well, as a writer, in the forties,” he says. “I think the last time America was a great country was then, or not long after. It was before Vietnam, before Watergate.”

It was a great country, yes, for great white men. It was a great country when you could still trust in greatness. As many of us (who watch HBO, at least) long ago stopped believing in God, a God who for all Christian and capitalistic intents and purposes was male, it could not be much longer before we also stopped believing in things as theistic as neutrality and objectivity and omnipotence in journalism. I do not want us to stop believing in heroes; only in heroes who think, as Sorkin's heroes think, they're truth-raining gods.
“Listen here, Internet girl,” he says, getting up. “It wouldn’t kill you to watch a film or pick up a newspaper once in a while.” I’m not sure how he’s forgotten that I am writing for a newspaper; looking over the publicist’s shoulder, I see that every reporter is from a print publication (do not see: Drew Magary). I remind him. I say also, factually, “I have a New York Times subscription and an HBO subscription. Any other advice?”

He looks surprised, then high-fives me. Being not a person who high-fives or generally makes physical contact with interview subjects, I look more surprised.

“I’m sick of girls who don’t know how to high-five,” he says. He makes me try to do it “properly,” six times. He also makes me laugh; I’m nervous, and it’s so absurd. He loves it. He says, “Let me manhandle you.” Then he ambles off, hoping I’ll write something nice, as though he has never known how the news works, how many stories can be true.
"You Can't Handle the Truth About Aaron Sorkin:"

David Haglund wrote:
That Sorkin’s work is indeed middlebrow—is practically the definition of it—seems not to be universally understood. A profile by Dave Itzkoff published earlier this month in the New York Times, for instance, referred to Sorkin’s “willfully highbrow approach” to TV writing. But that’s probably more a comment on the general lowering of our collective brow than anything else. Sorkin would never, Franzen-like, claim to be part of a “high-art literary tradition.” If he aspires to belong to any literary tradition at all, it would seem to be the tradition of the Broadway musical, the most middlebrow genre there is. Seriously: In his new show, The Newsroom, Sorkin goes out of his way to mention a famous musical in every episode. Over the past few months, I’ve revisited everything Aaron Sorkin ever wrote, and I can say with certainty that the writers who get name-checked more than any other over the course of Sorkin’s considerable oeuvre are W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. No one else comes close.
It wasn’t until that real-world debate hit the front pages that Sorkin would finally top his work in A Few Good Men. And that isn’t entirely a coincidence: As Mark Harris recently noted in New York Magazine, the higher the stakes, the better Sorkin’s work is. Which seems counterintuitive: Given the essential superficiality of his work—Sorkin has said many times that the “sound of intelligence” is what he loves, not the substance—one might expect lighter fare to be his forte. But when Sorkin does light, it’s usually awful. Witness The American President (1995), a decidedly Clinton-era, wannabe-Capra take on a widower president who starts dating a lobbyist. The movie—which, like A Few Good Men, was directed by Rob Reiner—is mostly bad, and occasionally creepy, like erotic White House fanfic written by a presidential biographer in his off hours. (“I’m sorry,” the president tells his girlfriend, “we’re going to have to cut our evening short. The Libyans have just bombed C-STAD. I’ll try to call you tomorrow.” Yuck.)
With The West Wing, Sorkin found the perfect vessel in which to pour line upon line of rhythmic argument, with real disputes among smart people who have important goals that butt up against serious obstacles. Those few things are nearly all that Sorkin needs to make compulsively watchable television. The last thing is a perfect cast. That may sound like the sort of thing every writer and director needs, but it’s true in a particular way for Sorkin, because he doesn’t really distinguish between his characters in any but the most superficial ways. (This may be why he likes to work with the same actors so often.) Apart from a verbal tic here or there, all his characters talk the same. When an interviewer asked him once about character development, Sorkin said, “When you say ‘character development,’ I don’t know what you mean. I feel like you’re talking about, do I grow their hair longer?” “There is no inside out,” he added. “I don’t sit there and think, ‘Oh shit, C.J. wouldn’t do this.’ C.J. would do whatever I make C.J. do.”
If you want to watch Sorkin be Sorkin, TV will always be the place to do it. So one hopes that after a season or two of The Newsroom, he will finally get this backstage TV obsession out of his system and write a show about lawyers. No one can make a deposition dramatic like Aaron Sorkin. Recall that all of The Social Network, in reality, is one long deposition; even in his one thriller, Malice, a deposition provides the most riveting scene. Lawyers, not TV producers, are the perfect Sorkin subjects, since they argue for a living and often have to repeat things. The stakes in a courtroom are often high—and can be grasped instantly. (When making a TV show about lawyers, one needn’t pretend that a TV show will save America.) Such a series wouldn’t reinvent television, or anything else, but it would almost certainly divert us for an hour each week with the entertaining sound of intelligence.
And, finally:

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