onsdag 15 maj 2013

Non-costume-drama watching (yes, really!)

Now, I won't lie: I have not exactly been keeping back when it comes to costume dramas lately. I've rewatched the original Upstairs Downstairs (only the first series yet), the Andrew Davies adaptation of Sense and Sensibility  (not bad, but the film is better) and finally, unsurprisingly, Gosford Park (which had me humming "All kinds of everything remind me of you" for a whole day). But I'm not going to blog about them. Well, not yet, anyway. I couldn't do it without references to the D word, and my blog readers have deserved a break from everything landed-estate-in-Yorkshire-related. After all, there is more to TV life than costume dramas. Like... erm...

Well, like The Newsroom for instance. There are a lot of reasons why I should not like this new (well, fairly) series by The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin. One, the critics of the series are right: it does glamourise the journalist calling. The ideal journalist, in Aaron Sorkin's world, is a brave and incorruptible truth-seeker. Well, what do I know? There might be lots of journalists driven by their quest for truth. But I have formed the impression - and I don't think I'm being overly cynical here - that chasing a good story (which, of course, should also be true) is rather more important. And what's wrong with that? I think I would be able to understand a newsteam without having to think of them as the Knights of the Round Table.

Two, it is politically dishonest in a way The West Wing wasn't. The West Wing was set in the White House. The whole context was political. You expected the Democrat President and his staff to champion certain political views, and they did: that was, after all, what they were for. In contrast, the program which The Newsroom centres around claims to be about news, not a political agenda: it claims to give all sides a fair hearing and to give the viewers the information they need to make up their own mind. The news anchor Will McAvoy - to balance out the Democrat bias of his sassy (female) producer Mac - is supposed to be a card-carrying Republican. Well, he could have fooled me. Each and every news item so far (I'm about half-way through the series) has been slanted shamelessly in a Democrat direction. Opponents are not given a fair hearing (as they often were in The West Wing) - they are badgered. I may be the one being naïve now, but this is not how I imagine a news program should be like. Whatever happened to objectivity - couldn't they have a shot at it, at least?

What bugs me is not the politics in themselves - though I'm pretty sure President Obama himself would cover his eyes with embarrassment at some of McAvoy's manipulative tirades and mumble "not in my name" - but the lack of honesty. This news program is not unbiased, and its anchor is not Republican, so stop pretending otherwise.

In spite of these annoyances, though, I enjoy the series, largely because of its script. Sorkin has lost none of his snappiness since the early West Wing days. I find myself chuckling several times in front of each episode, even if it's one I don't care for much. The characters may not be quite such a charming bunch as the West Wing crew, but they're more likeable than the ones in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I'm won over by Emily Mortimer's MacKenzie McHale aka Mac - her English accent may have something to do with it - and the nicely self-deprecating economist Sloan (also a woman) is a character to root for, most of the time. Maggie does irritate me a bit - she should make up her mind on the man front. But the fact that I care at all has to be a good sign.