Skip

"Aaron Sorkin versus reality"
July 19, 2012 11:12 AM   Subscribe

"Aaron Sorkin is why people hate liberals." The writer of Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60 and The Newsroom makes Alex Pareene's Hack List at Salon.
posted by downing street memo (163 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
What shitty writing that is.
posted by Edison Carter at 11:19 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


So now we've got a "Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert suck!" post on the front page AND an "Aaron Sorkin sucks!" post. Maybe instead of angrily trying to prove this one wrong (or right) we could just agree that not all writers, comics or musicians can please all people and go about our lives?
posted by yoink at 11:20 AM on July 19, 2012 [24 favorites]


I thought George Clooney was why people hated liberals.
posted by jonmc at 11:21 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is Sorkin's new show 'The Newsroom' an incredibly idealistic load of leftist wish-fulfillment about an Olberman who's more than just a righteous-indignation-generator, or am I just profoundly cynical about the current state of American news media? Let's compromise and say it's both.

And trying to identify McAvoy as a 'conservative' even though he demonstrates zero conservative politics, just to make his dissection of the teabaggers seem more considered and less reactionary, is pretty transparent.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:22 AM on July 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


George Clooney is why people hate mirrors.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:22 AM on July 19, 2012 [83 favorites]


That being said, I eagerly await the next episode in order to fulfil my need for masturbatory wish-fulfilment with snappy dialog.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:23 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes were why people hated liberals.
posted by DU at 11:23 AM on July 19, 2012 [83 favorites]


People are, broadly, sick of his shtick. But he’s also, undoubtedly, more professionally successful than ever, back in demand as a major film screenwriter (coming off an Oscar win followed by a nomination) and heading one of HBO’s trademark “prestige” dramas.
People are so sick of his shtick that he's an Oscar winner, sucessful and in demand.
posted by uraniumwilly at 11:23 AM on July 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


This sentence contradicts itself:

Sorkin is … not as popular as he once was, when he was still just the creative mind behind the much-loved “Sports Night” and “The West Wing.” People are, broadly, sick of his shtick. But he’s also, undoubtedly, more professionally successful than ever, back in demand as a major film screenwriter (coming off an Oscar win followed by a nomination) and heading one of HBO’s trademark “prestige” dramas.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:23 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I tried to read the article but after a few paragraphs I gave up. There was no need to continue. The title says it all and tells me everything I needed to know about the author.

Next?
posted by lampshade at 11:24 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]



D'oh!
posted by KokuRyu at 11:24 AM on July 19, 2012


People like the authors of the linked article are why people hate Salon.
posted by rtha at 11:24 AM on July 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


Sorkin might be an ass, and The Newsroom might be suffering because of it, but god, the man can still write dialogue.
posted by schmod at 11:24 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is really easy, though, to get the news right with a 2 year lead time.
posted by inturnaround at 11:24 AM on July 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


I thought George Clooney was why people hated liberals.

Don't forget Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Richard Gere, Janene Garafalo, Matt Damon, and Alec Baldwin.
posted by FJT at 11:25 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


When that clip from Newroom that got linked all over Facebook, about two minutes into watching I did start looking around my house in the vain hope of I'd see a checked-out elitist airhead "America used to be great" faux-liberal like Sorkin to punch in the face. The fact that this is what any person considers to be intelligent writing makes me want to go live with wolves
posted by crayz at 11:26 AM on July 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


but god, the man can still write dialogue assholish monologues.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:27 AM on July 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


I dunno about the pull quote, but I'll never be able to unsee this: "answer is always that the equivalent of a week’s worth of research and reporting should have been accomplished in the two hours before that night’s show."

That's Sorkin in a nutshell: no one should ever figure anything out over time or be legitimately unsure. There's no earnest discovery. Everything has to be true and now and obvious to people of integrity. If life were that easy, democracy would be a damn fool system to adopt and our philosopher-kings would all be drawn from the ranks of successful scriptwriters.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:28 AM on July 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


I been following the show, I never saw West Wing but I liked Sports Night. The article is right that Sports Night was pretty low stakes, it was pretty much about two people who wanted to sleep together.

I find it more amusing than annoying that the guy can get so much money and time shelled out just to get people to hear his take on events of two years ago. It is like a guy watching Glen Beck and shouting at the TV, but with a multi-million dollar budget. It really is cathartic in a way.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:28 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


People like the authors of the linked article are why people hate Salon.

I thought it was because their new layout resembles something dug up from 1998.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:29 AM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


To be fair, the show is pretty awful.
posted by fleacircus at 11:29 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Don't forget Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Richard Gere, Janene Garafalo, Matt Damon, and Alec Baldwin.

Matt Damon? Who doesn't love Matt Damon? Name me one person.
posted by eugenen at 11:29 AM on July 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I can no longer watch anything written by Sorkin without thinking of this bon mot.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:29 AM on July 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


Matt Damon? Who doesn't love Matt Damon? Name me one person.

Jimmy Kimmel.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:30 AM on July 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


Actually, most people who hate liberals (outside the media and conservative bloggers, which equal about 1% of the liberal haters) probably have little to no idea who Aaron Sorkin is.

2012's Aaron Sorkin is why people hate old white guys who think they know better, but that's not the same as hating liberals. And most of the hate towards him isn't just because of what he's saying but because people feel he's wasting his talent. Which is still a long way from hating liberals.

If anything, he's why some liberals feel like sometimes the hatred they get is deserved.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:30 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Working has.... Not won an Oscar for AGES.
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on July 19, 2012


Matt Damon? Who doesn't love Matt Damon? Name me one person.

Holy crap! Could Matt Damon be the new Paul Newman I've been searching for?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:31 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like "The Newsroom". I recognize it as an unrealistic fantasy, and having a certain nostalgia for the good old days of white middle class intellectual journalists, but it's enjoyable. It makes me laugh a few times per episode. The dialogue is snappy, and while it's not realistic, at least it's smart, it's not written for idiots.

I really, really liked The Social Network too, even though I went into it thinking I'd hate it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:33 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


The show, like Studio 60, is so godawful I want to watch just to see how bad it can get (and the awfulness is directly attributable to Sorkin).
posted by Falconetti at 11:33 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]




Matt Damon? Who doesn't love Matt Damon? Name me one person.

I don't. Okay, fine, you got me. I don't really like any contemporary celebrities, except maybe Keanu Reeves.

Could Matt Damon be the new Paul Newman I've been searching for?

No, that's Keanu Reeves.
posted by FJT at 11:36 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Holy crap! Could Matt Damon be the new Paul Newman I've been searching for?

Have you tried his pasta sauce?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:37 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The most successful trollery is that which manages to infect other message boards. Win!
posted by O Blitiri at 11:38 AM on July 19, 2012


If Aaron Sorkin is the reason that people hate liberals, then people who hate liberals are idiots. I hate Rush Limbaugh, but Rush Limbaugh is not the reason I hate (well, "disagree with") conservatives. The conservative position and philosophy is the reason I disagree with conservatives. Rush Limbaugh is the reason I hate Rush Limbaugh.

I mean, what does that say about you, that one loudmouth you don't like is enough to make you hate everyone else who is part of the same group?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:38 AM on July 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


When that clip from Newroom that got linked all over Facebook

I'm trying to imagine a british equivalent of this clip and all I can come with is this.
posted by dng at 11:40 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


How can it be that Sorkin is why so many people hate liberals when so many liberals hate Sorkin?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:42 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Proper liberals are apparently self hating as fuck.
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on July 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


I been following the show, I never saw West Wing but I liked Sports Night. The article is right that Sports Night was pretty low stakes, it was pretty much about two people who wanted to sleep together.

No. No. No. Sports Night was way, way better than the mostly awful Casey-Dana nonsense. Sports Night was mostly about Casey and Dan's relationship and Isaac being awesome. I do agree that Sports Night is, in some ways, Sorkin's best show since he only occasionally lets it be about the indomitable human spirit or whatever nonsense he's peddling; most of the time the show is about the characters and their relationships with each other, like most any other show.

At least that's what Sports Night was about the last time I watched it. The first time I watched it, I was 15 and it was a show about two people who wanted to sleep with each other, it's just that those two people were Sabrina Lloyd and myself.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:44 AM on July 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


"People" don't hate liberals.
posted by straight at 11:44 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damon's going to be running for office next election cycle. Wouldn't be surprised to see if he went after the governorship of either CA or MA, to follow up Brown or Patrick. The Republican hit squad's gone after him early and hard. Expect to see his name pop up a lot when "Out of Touch Liberal Elites" are discussed.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:45 AM on July 19, 2012


Metafilter: Just agree that not all writers, comics or musicians can please all people and go about our lives?
posted by herbplarfegan at 11:45 AM on July 19, 2012


Sorkin didn't start the trend of self-called smart people thinking that being smart means treating other people like they're stupid, but he sure as shit encouraged that lot.

Few things irritate me more than somebody I nearly agree with spouting his beliefs in the form of nineteen-paragraph contemptuous monologues, and that seems to be Sorkin's method of operation.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:46 AM on July 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


why people hate liberals."

Here in British Columbia where the Liberals (note capital L) are actually a bunch of ideological conservatives (it's a long story), it's actually completely reasonable to hate Liberals even if you consider yourself liberal.
posted by philip-random at 11:49 AM on July 19, 2012


"No, no, I watch this, so it is therefore art, not a cynically targeted bit of middlebrow fast food!"
posted by yerfatma at 11:50 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


"People" don't hate liberals.
It's a bunch of creepy monsters that hate the liberals, like my dad! Don't go thinkin' I'm jokin.'
posted by uraniumwilly at 11:50 AM on July 19, 2012


Few things irritate me more than somebody I nearly agree with spouting his beliefs in the form of nineteen-paragraph contemptuous monologues, and that seems to be Sorkin's method of operation.

Don't forget the soulful piano tinkling when the monologue gets weirdly 50s-era conservative.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:50 AM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Aaron Sorkin is why people hate Aaron Sorkin.

Although, he can give a pretty darn good commencement speech.
posted by Leezie at 11:51 AM on July 19, 2012


Sorkin didn't start the trend of self-called smart people thinking that being smart means treating other people like they're stupid, but he sure as shit encouraged that lot.

The other thing is that Aaron Sorkin's smart people don't really seem like smart people I know; they seem like what a not very smart person thinks smart people are like. They don't learn or analyze or grow, they just spit out facts that they all seem to have memorized for precisely the situation that they've found and announce that the collection of statistics and quotes they've regurgitated make the position they believe in right.

The only reason putting these people in charge works is because the universe is constructed to make them always right.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:53 AM on July 19, 2012 [30 favorites]


Oh man, I'd been avoiding anything about The Newsroom because of Sorkin fatigue (liked Sports Night, loved a lot of West Wing, couldn't stand Studio 60), but holy shit that linked monologue is so so shitty. It's like every bad quirk Sorkin has used over the years finely extruded into the Sorkinest Sorkin that ever Sorkined. Bleh.
posted by kmz at 11:54 AM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


"No, no, I watch this, so it is therefore art, not a cynically targeted bit of middlebrow fast food!"

"Of course, I don't watch it, so it is therefore garbage, not an exceptional piece of acting and writing that stands out on TV!"

We can all play this game.
posted by Edison Carter at 11:54 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hack list. Says the clickbaiter.
posted by Zed at 11:55 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


See, when I was growing up, Gloria Steinem (she was shrill!) was why people hated liberals. Also Norman Lear (his characters were shrill! Also he was an atheist!). And Bella Abzug. And Alan Alda. Man, there were so many jokes about Alan Alda.

Also Jimmy Carter said "malaise" and everyone hated liberals for reals, after that.

I'm pretty sure people hated the suffragists quite a bit. They were loud and impolite. So certain they were right. Looked down on all those antiwoman types. So unladylike.
posted by emjaybee at 11:56 AM on July 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Matt Damon? Who doesn't love Matt Damon? Name me one person.

Two: Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I didn't really get it then, and they haven't really built up their political bona fides with me since either.

This sentence contradicts itself:
Sorkin is … not as popular as he once was, when he was still just the creative mind behind the much-loved “Sports Night” and “The West Wing.” People are, broadly, sick of his shtick. But he’s also, undoubtedly, more professionally successful than ever...

Not really. Professional accolades don't correlate with big ratings or box office receipts. When people talked about the Social Network (which was a big deal), it was more Fincher than Sorkin. Outside the HBO audience, this new show isn't as talked-about as Game of Thrones or even Girls.
posted by psoas at 11:57 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I learned that Aaron Sorkin has a new show by reading this thread.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:59 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I get the feeling that a lot of people who "hate Newsroom" will argue until they're blue in the face the art inherent to acid-for-blood outer space monsters.
posted by four panels at 11:59 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I finally watched the fourth episode last night, and like Falconetti I think I only pull it up on OnDemand to see just how godawful it can get.

I hated Sports Night for the shit dialogue, never saw "West Wing", but had friends excited about "The Newsroom" premiering (they're all off the bandwagon now). So I gave it a chance- four chances now- and it is sloppily written, lazy on details, has horrible dialogue and cardboard characters (Don, the presumed asshole, is the only normal, decent, sane person), and contrived, almost 80's sitcom cliche plot "twists".

But worst of all- and this is ME saying this- it's probably the most virulently sexist show I've seen in years. The women are all clumsy, incompetent, and lovestruck, and exist only as foils for alpha males to shout orders to, or berate. For god's sake, in the most recent episode, the Peabody-winning EP and dual-PhD economist bond over a *nail salon* (their last conversation was about how Sloane's nice legs got her the job and OH NO IS THAT HEAVYHANDED FORESHADOWING ABOUT "LEGMAN" WILL?!?). Sorkin is writing the women in this show like a caricature from the mind of a man who hates and fears women, and who sees them as purely objects of lust or to prop up a man.

"The Newsroom" doesn't make me ashamed to be a liberal; it makes me ashamed to be a man.
posted by hincandenza at 11:59 AM on July 19, 2012 [30 favorites]


Imagine imagining a world where Jeff Daniels was the nation's most important moral mind and philosophical voice of reason.
posted by dng at 12:01 PM on July 19, 2012


Tastes are why people with different taste hate those with different viewpoints.
posted by uraniumwilly at 12:01 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I get the feeling that a lot of people who "hate Newsroom" will argue until they're blue in the face the art inherent to acid-for-blood outer space monsters.

Wait what? Because it has genre trappings, Alien, which communicates its themes as much by mies-en-scene as by dialogue and plot, must necessarily be worse than something which communicates its themes by loud protagonist monologues about themes that are accompanied by heavy-handed music?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:03 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


FJT: "No, that's Keanu Reeves."

Woah. ⊙ ⊙
posted by wierdo at 12:04 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't figure out what to think about The Newsroom. Unlike many critics, I don't outright hate it, and was actually surprised to find the fourth episode (which all the reviewers panned as unwatchable) to be better than the third.

At the same time, the show puzzles me more than inspires me. Sorkin's utter inability (post-West Wing) to portray women as anything other than incompetent, sex-craving troublemakers absolutely rubs me the wrong way. What happened to his fantastically strong female characters like CJ, Abbey Bartlett, Dana Whitaker (who was a ditz in her personal/romantic life, but we liked her and respected her utter competence on the job), and Joanne Galloway (of A Few Good Men)? Instead we wind up with Jordan McDeere and MacKenzie McHale (McFemaleExecutive?) who are so incompetent that we're amazed they successfully manage to dress themselves in the morning. We're supposed to believe that a former war-correspondent can't send an email, and as a result she mistakenly announces her former relationship with McAvoy in an email to the entire staff? Their entire existence on the show is basically to be around for men to lust over and to confound said men.

I trust that cocaine was screwing up Sorkin's life in so many ways, and I'm personally very pleased for his success in recovery, but sadly, his writing has gone downhill since he stopped getting high.

And the whole idea of setting it amidst the BP disaster just feels clunky to me. Sports Night and West Wing did just fine without trying to tie everything to real-world events. The Newsroom just feels dated the day it airs.

In short, The Newsroom puzzles me. I honestly can't tell whether I'm watching it because I find it interesting, or because my ear enjoys hearing the sharp, fast-paced dialog and they might as well be speaking gibberish in the same rhythms.

This article, on the other hand, suggests that Alex Pareene should be on the top of his own "hack list."
posted by zachlipton at 12:05 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I get the feeling that a lot of people who "hate Newsroom" will argue until they're blue in the face the art inherent to acid-for-blood outer space monsters.

Hi, Aaron!
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:05 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't hate Sorkin, but I can never take seriously someone who I can easily imagine sitting on the edge of their bed, facing a mirror with clipped excerpts of the Declaration of Independence taped to it, and jerking off to Aaron Copland music while draped in an American flag.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:08 PM on July 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I--- what?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:08 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I get the feeling that a lot of people who "hate Newsroom" will argue until they're blue in the face the art inherent to acid-for-blood outer space monsters.

Next thing you know, people will be trying to claim there's art in some stupid Danish ghost story.
posted by kmz at 12:08 PM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I thought Jeff Daniels' "loud protagonist monologue" was excellent.

I'm a liberal, and I approve this message.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:09 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Matt Damon? Who doesn't love Matt Damon? Name me one person."

Ben Affleck, but he's real low-key about it.
posted by MikeMc at 12:09 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So women should not get their nails done or should it not be on TV? Should TV explore this aspect of women's experience or should it remain a secrect, shrouded in mystery. I walk past nail salons all the time and the always seem to be full of women, maybe it should be explored.

as a result she mistakenly announces her former relationship with McAvoy in an email to the entire staff

That was "mistakenly" on purpose to stop the gossip.

Women in the show exhibit a very real phenomenon where some women in some situation act like bumbling idiots so as not be appear threatening. It is the equivelent of "country dumb" and you see it all the time in professional settings.

I reserve judgement on this, and it's portrayal in the show, but I note it exists in professional environments.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:10 PM on July 19, 2012


Aaron Sorkin needs to get off my side. He's making my side look bad.
posted by tzikeh at 12:11 PM on July 19, 2012


I hated Sports Night for the shit dialogue

The dialogue was the best thing about Sports Night! True, no one actually talks that way, but a lot of us would if we could. Hm. Maybe that's the reason everyone hates liberals.

The other thing is that Aaron Sorkin's smart people don't really seem like smart people I know; they seem like what a not very smart person thinks smart people are like.

Could it be true? Is Newt Gingrich really an Aaron Sorkin construct? Speaking of which: kill it! kill it with fire!
posted by octobersurprise at 12:12 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


What happened to his fantastically strong female characters like CJ, Abbey Bartlett...

For a show about inherently smart people going about their lives and jobs, I think Sorkin did everything he could to minimize CJ (one episode revolves entirely around her ignorance of the basic workings of the Census, something that anyone working in politics in DC - especially people at the level of White House Press Secretary - understands).

Donna exists solely as a device to explain politics in earlier episodes and solely as a love interest for Josh in the later ones.

The West Wing was not, generally, a shining example of feminist entertainment.
posted by downing street memo at 12:14 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I get the feeling that a lot of people who "hate Newsroom" will argue until they're blue in the face the art inherent to acid-for-blood [...] monsters.

Beowulf. What shite.
posted by Zed at 12:16 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey everybody, did you know your favorite band sucks?
posted by spaltavian at 12:19 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anytime I hear a guy & girl banter on a Sorkin show it reminds me of those 1980's Shedd's Spread Country Crock commercials.
posted by Challahtronix at 12:21 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Matt Damon? Who doesn't love Matt Damon? Name me one person.

You can find a few here.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:23 PM on July 19, 2012


KokuRyu: "This sentence contradicts itself:

Sorkin is … not as popular as he once was, when he was still just the creative mind behind the much-loved “Sports Night” and “The West Wing.” People are, broadly, sick of his shtick. But he’s also, undoubtedly, more professionally successful than ever, back in demand as a major film screenwriter (coming off an Oscar win followed by a nomination) and heading one of HBO’s trademark “prestige” dramas.
"

Not really. Here:

Jamie Dimon is … not as popular as he once was...But he’s also, undoubtedly, more professionally successful than ever,"

Does that make more sense now? Popularity and professional success are not necessarily the same thing.
posted by symbioid at 12:26 PM on July 19, 2012


crayz: "The fact that this is what any person considers to be intelligent writing makes me want to go live with wolves"

wolves with boostraps. just me. and the wolves. no masters, no gods, no pants. just the pack.
posted by boo_radley at 12:33 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now that I think of it, we definitively diagnosed why everyone hates liberals just a little over five years ago. Pareene and Sorkin need to get to back of the bus.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:38 PM on July 19, 2012


wow apparently everyone decided to start hating this aaron sorkin person at the same time

weird
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:39 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even weirder it was right around a time a cliched and smarmy rant was passed around on the internet as The Greatest Writing Of All Time.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:41 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You guys feel about THE NEWSROOM the same way I feel about FIREFLY.
posted by Justinian at 12:41 PM on July 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Now that I think of it, we definitively diagnosed why everyone hates liberals just a little over five years ago. Pareene and Sorkin need to get to back of the bus.

Are you saying that I'm a friend of those long-hair hippie-type pinko fags, and that I have a commie flag tacked up on the wall in my garage?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:42 PM on July 19, 2012


I don't care about whether people fucking hate us. Not one bit. I just want the votes to get our policies enacted.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:42 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rory Marinich: "Hi, Aaron!"

One can only hope he's learned his lesson there.
posted by zarq at 12:44 PM on July 19, 2012


Jamie Dimon is … not as popular as he once was...But he’s also, undoubtedly, more professionally successful than ever,"

Does that make more sense now? Popularity and professional success are not necessarily the same thing.


Dimon isn't in show business, where popularity and professional success are inseperable.
posted by spaltavian at 12:47 PM on July 19, 2012


Holy crap! Could Matt Damon be the new Paul Newman I've been searching for?

Nowhere near pretty enough. And he needs to marry a righteously cool and talented actress and constantly talk about how hot she is.
posted by lodurr at 12:50 PM on July 19, 2012


Holy crap! Could Matt Damon be the new Paul Newman I've been searching for?

Matt Damon is the Paul Newman we need, not the Paul Newman we deserve.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 12:50 PM on July 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


... show business, where popularity and professional success are inseperable.

"professional success" in show business is dependent largely on what segment you're in. For creatives, more awards or better reviews equate with more success. For money folks, more $$ equates with more success. For movie stars, it could go either way, but usually more influence (which doesn't necessarily equate to more $$) means more success.
posted by lodurr at 12:53 PM on July 19, 2012


downing street memo: "The West Wing was not, generally, a shining example of feminist entertainment."

Sorkin women all follow a loose formula.

They excel professionally and have screwed-up personal lives, often because their work gets in the way:

Sports Night:
Dana, Sally and Natalie

West Wing:
Donna, CJ, Abbey, Mandy, Elizabeth, Emily, Zoe

Studio 60
Jordan and Harriet

Regarding CJ: She became an excellent and powerful Chief of Staff on the show, and had been a great press secretary. The problems she had at the podium while press secretary were often portrayed as the result of the President's inner circle keeping her out of the loop, rather than incompetence. I don't think she's a great example of someone who Sorkin wrote as too dumb for her position.
posted by zarq at 12:56 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Upon further reflection... under the West Wing, add Delores Landingham, Debbie Fiderer Ainsley Hayes and Toby's wife Andi to that list, too.

All very good at their jobs. Quirky with difficult personal lives.

Mrs. Landingham was a widow whose two sons had died in Vietnam.

Debbie was divorced, raised alpacas in a failed scheme and also had a gambling problem. And she showed up to her interview with the President while stoned on cough medicine.

Ainsley was sort of a walking personal mess played for comic relief, but presumably good at her job.

Andi divorced Toby because well... poor Toby. But she had twins with him. Plus, he bought the house.

Margaret is the very definition of quirky.
posted by zarq at 1:13 PM on July 19, 2012


wow apparently everyone decided to start hating this aaron sorkin person at the same time

Actually I think Studio 60 is where he lost the West Wing shine, and this new project is just bringing him into attention again.
posted by smackfu at 1:29 PM on July 19, 2012


I thought that News Corp., especially Fox News, founded by Roger Ailes in the aftermath of Nixon's foul-smelling flameout because he thought his peoples weren't getting a fair shake in the news, and a systematic process of demonization fueled by the vast fortunes of billionaires like the Koch brothers causing people to believe things against their interests, were why people hate liberals. That and their hidden, dogwhistle appeals to the baser nature of man.
posted by JHarris at 1:29 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


godsdammit

Sorkin was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:38 PM on July 19, 2012


I hated Sorkin when he gave up on Sports Night and moved to The West Wing. While Sports Night was really good, The West Wing showed that it could have been incredible.

Shoe money tonight!
posted by Sphinx at 1:42 PM on July 19, 2012


They excel professionally and have screwed-up personal lives, often because their work gets in the way:

West Wing:
Donna, CJ, Abbey, Mandy, Elizabeth, Emily, Zoe


Which, by the way, is the exact same situation for Josh, Sam, Toby, Charlie and Leo.
posted by spaltavian at 1:44 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems like NPR does an interview with Sorkin every three days. These interviews are warm tongue-baths that make sitting down with James Lipton from the Actor's Studio look like a grilling from Mike Wallace and the 60 Minutes team.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:45 PM on July 19, 2012


Joanne Galloway (of A Few Good Men)

This is really not a strong female character.

She's rigidly (schoolmarmishly, to pick a loaded word) idealistic and rule-bound, yet her competence and experience dissipate in the face of Real Problems. She goes to pieces when pressed by the (male) witnesses, prosecutor and judge, and must be rescued (intellectually, physically) by the Maverick Male Hero (quite literally Maverick--in a dress uniform, instead of a flight suit) who goes on to redeem her missteps and win the day. She gets an apology for her hurt feelings, because Maverick was ungentlemanly in dominating her. And then she's relegated to being his supporter--professionally, sexually.

I really like A Few Good Men as a movie, but not because it has stellar gender politics.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:46 PM on July 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


The other thing is that Aaron Sorkin's smart people don't really seem like smart people I know; they seem like what a not very smart person thinks smart people are like. They don't learn or analyze or grow, they just spit out facts that they all seem to have memorized for precisely the situation that they've found and announce that the collection of statistics and quotes they've regurgitated make the position they believe in right.

This. Exactly this. One of the recurring pop-culture tropes that drives me most batshit is this idea that the ability to memorize and recite by rote a set of facts about a given subject is the clearest measure of intelligence and the way smart people exchange knowledge. I liked West Wing alright, but I was out of the country for its first season and went to a friend's watching party for the premiere of Season 2, and everyone was all enraptured and I was like, "Who the hell talks like this? This is a civics lesson delivered by very lifelike robots." I eventually warmed to it, but whenever someone teed up one of those statistical-listicle monologues, I'd still cringe.

Someone should sit Sorkin down in a room and make him watch that scene in Finding Forrester where Connery and his prodigy bark highfalutin proper nouns at each other to prove their equally smart on an infinite loop until he snaps out of it. That's right, Aaron - you're the man now, dog.
posted by gompa at 1:51 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


their they're

It's a particularly poignant thing to make a pet-peevish grammatical error in a critique of Aaron Sorkin. I should pick up a newspaper sometime.
posted by gompa at 1:54 PM on July 19, 2012


So this is the first time Metafilter has told me that a show I like is absolute crap. It is not fun. I guess I'm maybe a full-fledged member now, though.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:57 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dan Rather has been reviewing Newsroom as it airs and he seems to really like it.

I'm aware that my musings run counter to some of the more prominent early reviews in high-profile publications such as The New Yorker and the New York Times. But with all due respect (and I have a lot of it for those reviewers), I just don't think they "get it"; they've somehow missed the breadth, depth and "got it right" qualities –- and importance — of Newsroom. Maybe it's because they are print people. Then, too, maybe they're right and I'm wrong. I never rule out the possibility of that. But I've lived in the world of television newsrooms for most of my adult life. I know the people, the venues and the challenges — the satisfactions of success and the heartbreak when things go awry. From where I sit and based on my experience, Sorkin and crew have got it amazingly right, even when they over talk it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:05 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So this is the first time Metafilter has told me that a show I like is absolute crap. It is not fun. I guess I'm maybe a full-fledged member now, though.

Hey, join the club.

The thing is, you are allowed to keep liking that show, and to regard MetaFilter's collective opinion about this particular thing as Complete Crap.

MetaFilter is really really good at Not Liking Things. It's very rare to have MetaFilter actually like things. The list I can pull out of my head is extremely short: The Muppets, Mr. Rogers, bacon... That's all I'm coming up with.

After that, even for things like Neil Gaiman or Lady Gaga or Joss Whedon or whatever... you'll find that there are enough loudmouth haters (who come out of the closet in larger numbers with each successive post about such topics) that eventually their voice will drown out those who have good things to say.

Live strong in your liking of something. Enjoy it while it lasts (because it will eventually end). I'm willing to bet, by the time season 5 of Game Of Thrones rolls around on HBO, the general attitude here on MetaFilter will be that it sucked from the very beginning and that anyone who is watching it still is a complete moron with no sense of taste.

Best to just ignore all that and live your life according to your own interests, and if MetaFilter has anything actually interesting and informed to say on a topic, integrate that instead of all the "your favorite band sucks" bandwagoners. Opinions are, after all, like assholes.
posted by hippybear at 2:06 PM on July 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Fuck bacon.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:07 PM on July 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: amazingly right, even when they over talk it

/overcompensating for that their/they're gaffe
posted by gompa at 2:07 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck Whedon.
posted by dobbs at 2:08 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't wait for Sorkin's new show about a medeival alchemist who yells at everyone for not believing in germ-theory.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:08 PM on July 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


bacon

I agree on the Muppets and Mr. Rogers but the bacon thing definitely has its detractors. To the point where I'd say there's even an Anti-Bacon Backlash Brigade.
posted by kmz at 2:11 PM on July 19, 2012


Wait is there any chance that Jeff Daniels is playing the same smug overeducated sadsack character he was in The Squid and the Whale but has somehow landed a job on teevee news because then it makes a lot more sense.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:12 PM on July 19, 2012


anotherpanacea: That's Sorkin in a nutshell: no one should ever figure anything out over time or be legitimately unsure. There's no earnest discovery. Everything has to be true and now and obvious to people of integrity. If life were that easy, democracy would be a damn fool system to adopt and our philosopher-kings would all be drawn from the ranks of successful scriptwriters.
I like Sorkin. I enjoy his work. I enjoyed the first episode of "The Newsroom" and I look forward to seeing the rest when they become available - but you've got a point. That dramatic certainty is part of his style, and although it worked well on "The West Wing," it may get annoying on the new show.

The problem is setting everything in reality. When "West Wing" worked best, it was taking real issues and problems and reworking them into the show's fictional universe. That ability to get to the heart of an issue, and then present it in a different way with fictional characters was Sorkin's greatest achievement, imo. After 9/11 that seemed to go away a bit, and the new show looks like it's not going to try for fictionality at all.

I miss the stories about cheese blocks and maps, where we had to figure out what the writer was talking about, and then reason through the problem from a different direction.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:14 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


gaga is too serious
whedon over-rated
sorkin, too imperious
gaiman, i just hated

charlie stross is cruel to dogs
the muppets molest children
and bacon makes your heart sieze up
thank god for helen mirren!
posted by lodurr at 2:14 PM on July 19, 2012 [32 favorites]


I think there's a distinction between two categories of women in Sorkin's writing though, and for me it mostly seems to fall pre/post West Wing.

Some of his female characters manage to demonstrate their femininity without otherwise acting like nincompoops 100% of the time. It's not that every moment of these shows were perfectly virtuous caricatures of some great ideal of gender politics, but the women were more than a foil for male amusement. CJ is a good example here; she was highly capable and professional, but wasn't simply pretending to be a stereotypical man to fit in. When she did get involved in romantic relationships, it didn't take over her life and it didn't lead to utter incompetence in the workplace. Even her relationship with Danny, while a touch silly, was low-key and showed deference to their press secretary-reporter roles. Ainsley is perhaps a major example. She was expressly introduced to the show as a "blonde Republican sex kitten," but proceeds to school Sam Seaborn on live TV, is offered a job in the council's office, and despite utterly humiliating herself on her first day, is welcomed as a capable part of the team. Or try Ordnance Tactics from Sports Night (clip):
"We're women." -Natalie
"What?" -Casey
"We're women." -Dana
"You're women." -Dan
"Yes." -Dana
"I have to say, Danny, that in both their cases, there's considerable evidence to support that theory." -Casey
"Dana..." -Dan
"We're in charge. We're women in charge. And we're keeping it together. That's what we do." -Dana
"That's what you do." -Casey
"That's right." -Dana
"Well we're men, and we're petrified. That's what we do." -Casey
In contrast, other women in his writing, especially his later work, are pretty much just there for amusement value. We have Danny chasing Jordan McDeere despite her express wishes to be left alone, including him announcing "If you want to run, I understand, but you'd better get a head start 'cause I'm coming for you Jordan". That reads more like a dramatization of what not to do from a sexual harassment training session than a male television producer to the president of his network. Or Mackenzie's freakout on The Newsroom. These are women who carry their romantic baggage on their selves from the very first episode, before we have any chance to get to know them and appreciate whatever professionalism and talents they possess.
posted by zachlipton at 2:16 PM on July 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


We have Danny chasing Jordan McDeere despite her express wishes to be left alone, including him announcing "If you want to run, I understand, but you'd better get a head start 'cause I'm coming for you Jordan".

I still maintain that the sudden shift in tone of Studio 60 (which included this really bizarre development) was the result of flagging ratings and the studio insisting that Sorkin somehow compress what should have been years of character development and subtle interplay into just a few episodes in order to try to get a romance going on which could possibly save the show.

The whole second half of that aborted first season of S60 is just so strange, especially the Danny/Jordan stuff.
posted by hippybear at 2:21 PM on July 19, 2012


The fact that this is what any person considers to be intelligent writing makes me want to go live with wolves.

Dear Crayz:

Sorry, no.

Love,
Wolves.
posted by The Bellman at 2:28 PM on July 19, 2012




I'd like to suggest that what's wrong with Newsroom is the relationships. Especially the romantic ones. Like get some therapy, smart people!
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:53 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still maintain that the sudden shift in tone of Studio 60 (which included this really bizarre development) was the result of flagging ratings and the studio insisting that Sorkin somehow compress what should have been years of character development and subtle interplay into just a few episodes in order to try to get a romance going on which could possibly save the show.

That's fair enough. I'd be wiling to forgive this as network meddling if it wasn't a continuation of trends in his earlier work and wasn't taken to its extremes in the first couple episodes of The Newsroom. Sorkin's female characters, especially the more recent ones, are often around to satisfy whatever the nearest male character needs at the moment, are incapable of keeping the entirety of their dating lives out of the workplace, and generally look like buffoons as a result.
posted by zachlipton at 2:55 PM on July 19, 2012


I want to like Newsroom, I really, really do, but the constant theme of "Women are destroying society, and it's up to one brave man to fix them" is a little wearying. In the last episode, every second line Neil uttered was "Bigfoot is real!" without a trace of irony, and yet, he still manages to look more competent than any woman on the show.
posted by peppermind at 3:44 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll probably skip The Newsroom after this last episode. It's just not very good. The device of having relatively recent news is great for Sorkin to get his characters up on soapboxes, but it's also a colossal copout. If he was dealing with last weeks news, well it might be a bit better, but since it would be merely an entertainment show, it'd still be weak.
posted by Catblack at 4:29 PM on July 19, 2012


Holy crap! Could Matt Damon be the new Paul Newman I've been searching for?

Have you tried his pasta sauce?


I wouldn't say no to tasting Matt Damon's sauce, if he offered.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:35 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't really have feelings about Aaron Sorkin. I caught a few eps of the West Wing, and while I enjoyed them, I've never Netflixed the series or anything. Never saw Sports Night or Studio 60. I do like A Few Good Men, despite the somewhat wooden acting by both Moore and Cruise.

I really like Jeff Daniels. I grew up near where he lives, met him a few times, he's employed several of my friends, and he generally seems like a stand-up and genuine person. Also, my very favorite professor ever looks a lot like him. I see most everything he's in for these reasons.

I'm pretty damn left wing. I've been called both a communist and a poverty-level elitist more than once.

But that monologue that was linked? From the Newsroom? With Daniels on stage statistically lamenting the state of the U.S.? Holy shit, did I hate that. I thought it was going to make me break out in hives. It literally made me cringe. It reminded me of Limbaugh or Olbermann (and, while K.O. deserves gratitude for giving Rachel Maddow a boost, he's a just a blowhard and I don't like hearing him talk, either).

Also, what's with the "worst.generation.ever" bullshit? I don't really have a generation (I'm a GenX/Y cusp, married to another cusp) so maybe I'm just missing something, but... why? What on earth is the point of that?
posted by Athene at 4:36 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's almost like its some kind of not real person speaking who is neither Daniels or Sorkin...
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on July 19, 2012


gompa: "This. Exactly this. One of the recurring pop-culture tropes that drives me most batshit is this idea that the ability to memorize and recite by rote a set of facts about a given subject is the clearest measure of intelligence and the way smart people exchange knowledge."

You'd be surprised how far that gets you in medical school.
posted by The White Hat at 4:40 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"McAvoy suggests that the evening news should be done as a public service, required by Congress to be aired without advertising as a condition of using the public airwaves, which sounds very nice at first, like most of Sorkin’s characters’ common-sense ideas. But think about it for 10 minutes and it falls apart. The networks use the revenue from ads to invest in the reporting of news, which is expensive, and if they had to do it for free, it’s reasonable to assume they wouldn’t spend much on the product. The evening news would be an intern reading the newspaper aloud."

I've never been impressed by anything this guy has done, but this assertion is totally off the mark, written from someone who has never been exposed to real public television. I'm sorry, but TV Ontario news and events programming is so far beyond anything any of the big US networks can cobble together, considering what they do as "news" is laughable.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:51 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm with clvrmnky. That statement is all kinds of ignorant.
posted by dobbs at 5:55 PM on July 19, 2012


So now we've got a "Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert suck!" post on the front page AND an "Aaron Sorkin sucks!" post.

Don't forget the "Agatha Christie sucks!" post.

It's all getting tedious, if you ask me.
posted by pmurray63 at 6:14 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


To be fair, The Newsroom is getting this kind of reaction pretty much everywhere online. While still recognizing the criticisms are pretty valid, I've found the portions of the show focused on the news instead of the personal drama to be really, really good. It's hard to find much discussion of the good parts because Sorkin brings way too much baggage along with him.

Good shows often have rough first seasons, I wish folks would give this one a little while to figure out what it is doing. My Dad is an old school newsman and he had the same reaction as Rather does about that part of the show hitting some really great notes.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:24 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey everybody, did you know your favorite band sucks?

S1: Bands.
S2: Bands?
S1: Everybody has a favorite.
S3: I'm not sure that's true. I briefly dated a phlebotomist back in Connecticut who claimed he hated music. I'm guessing he didn't have a favorite band.
S2: What's a phlebotomist, again?
S4: "Again?" Why - what was it before?
S1: A medical technician, I think. Draws blood.
S2: So a blood sucker, then?
S3: I'm not going to like you very much, am I?
S2: Don't be ridiculous. Everybody likes me.
S4: Blood sucker? No - That would be a CEO. How could you date someone who hated music?
S3: I said it was brief. I didn't know he hated music at the time. I just assumed he had such good taste that nobody could measure up.
S4: You know, in the early '90s, researchers proved that listening to Mozart actually improved your IQ. They called it the "Mozart effect."
S3: So what was your point, anyway?
S1: My point?
S3: About bands.
S1: That everybody has a favorite.
S3: I'm not sure that's true.
S4: Your phlebotomist?
S3: My phlebotomist.
S2: Even if he did have a favorite band, it would suck.
S1: Why's that?
S2: He's a blood sucker.
S3: You're really quite something.
S2: Don't talk to me like I'm other people.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:26 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


heh, via a post on Something Awful:

Been watching the show with MY WIFE, who is a CNN producer. She says that the most distracting part of watching the show is that the "news alert" noise is the same on the show as in real life, and it makes her constantly want to check her phone.


I always find it amusing when shows hit some little point of detail right on when so much of TV is full of incredible unrealistic weirdness. (Life was a great show though, real shame it didn't last)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:52 PM on July 19, 2012


Actually, most people who hate liberals (outside the media and conservative bloggers, which equal about 1% of the liberal haters) probably have little to no idea who Aaron Sorkin is.

Of course! Who would hate a liberal? Only inbred hilbillies from flyover jesusland, clinging to their bibles and their guns. Little people who of course have no idea who Aaron Sorkin is.

Keep underestimating your adversary, and watch President Romney march into office. One would think you guys have learned the lesson when Bush was reelected but apparently not.

And while you're at it, keep watching the newsroom every sunday night, a show whose very raisom d'etre is to give liberals a masturbatory fantasy, an alternate reality in which they won, or if they didn't, at least they got to say some very harsh words, on tv. It's George Constanza obssessing over "the jerk store called, they're running out of you". The very existence of the show, and comments like the above, show there's something fundamentally wrong in politics in this country, and that conservatives definitely dont have a monopoly on wrong.
posted by falameufilho at 6:57 PM on July 19, 2012


(i really liked the west wing though. and the social network)
posted by falameufilho at 6:59 PM on July 19, 2012


I don't like shows with masturbatory liberal fantasies, I like The West Wing!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:00 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


There was waaaaaaaaaaay more to the west wing than the Liberal masturbatory fodder.
posted by falameufilho at 7:05 PM on July 19, 2012


One would think you guys have learned the lesson when Bush was reelected but apparently not.

Based on what I've learned about the Ohio electoral process and problems with electronic voting machines, I'm pretty sure that Bush was, in fact, "reelected".
posted by hippybear at 7:14 PM on July 19, 2012


The West Wing is more liberal fantasy than The Newsroom so far. Calling out the tea party for being astroturfed idiots was not fantasy, plenty of people did so as it was ongoing. The truth of BP was neither liberal or conservative, it was just what happaned.

The most important scene in the last episode was not about guns or gun control, but about having the journalistic integrity to wait for a legitimate source before reporting on air that someone is dead. There is nothing liberal or conservative about journalism done right. Fox and CNN both reported the mandate was dead, you know, because they are terrible journalists not because of ideology.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:17 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aaron Sorkin shedding 'Newsroom' writing staff for season two.
posted by birdherder at 7:25 PM on July 19, 2012


"One would think you guys have learned the lesson when Bush was reelected but apparently not."



Liberals like to think people that voted for Bush may have learned something from that experience, too.

We're idealists that way.
posted by dglynn at 7:40 PM on July 19, 2012


falameufilho: Of course! Who would hate a liberal? Only inbred hilbillies from flyover jesusland, clinging to their bibles and their guns. Little people who of course have no idea who Aaron Sorkin is.

The people you are warning about the cartoon neocons are cartoon liberals.
posted by JHarris at 8:27 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


George Clooney is why people hate mirrors.

Just to clarify, people hate mirrors because the World Beyond controls certain aspects of all proper-side trade, and many of our best worksmen have been lost to fancies of inverted riches. There is sad lore involved here and I would prefer it not be invoked as such a casual fancy while proper persons go about their evening fancies.
posted by passerby at 8:44 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


(I could probably have put my last comment better. The point is: it doesn't make sense to warn strawmen about strawmen.)
posted by JHarris at 9:41 PM on July 19, 2012


Overall, my sense is that the thing that keeps Sorkin from being a propagandist is that the stuff he writes doesn't actually have enough of an agenda to count. What I mean is: For something to be propaganda, it needs to use its manipulative bag of tricks to propagate an ideology or an affiliation. Sorkin's scripts have, in recent years, used all of those dirty tricks with great skill (not to mention benefiting from skilled collaborators in the acting, directing, editing, and scoring departments), but the manipulation doesn't have much of a purpose.

The Newsroom is clearly a show for people who are frustrated with the state of the news and with the political gamesmanship in America. It feeds the id of those people, so to speak. Given my views, it feels truthy as hell while it gets boatloads of facts wrong and makes utterly implausible assumptions. I imagine that if I was a decade or two older, I would be even more blind to its faults because it plays so effectively to my prejudices. But it also doesn't have a vision of the future to sell. If anything, the show to date merely promises smug self-important intellectuals (which I think it would be fair to say I am on my bad days) that "the rest of America" will continue to disgust them.

The Salon article is over the top, sort of an "Olbermann trashing Olbermann" pseudeloquent rant. But as someone who enjoyed The West Wing while recognizing that it was clearly just wish-fulfillment, I find that the lack of a redeeming aspirational tone and the substantially less sympathetic characters makes The Newsroom insufferably bitter where The West Wing was merely implausibly idealistic. The shift in Sorkin's writing over the last decade has felt like watching a goofy uncle who is way into American history slowly morph into a racist Civil War apologist. So a lot of what the Salon article is saying rings true for me, even if it feels like its author has been waiting gleefully for the day when he would get praised rather than pilloried for trashing Sorkin.
posted by belarius at 10:03 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I kind of agree with you, Belarius. I never watched The West Wing, even though a lot of my older friends were into it-- it always seemed to me wish-fulfillment for middle-aged liberals. So I never had any deep thoughts or feelings about Sorkin's work.

However, I've been watching The Newsroom because I love Jeff Daniels and Jane Fonda (and I would watch them in almost anything). There are nuggets of goodness here and there that make me understand why some people are fans of the show-- but my God is it heavy-handed and bitter and the people are just flamingly obnoxious. If I worked with those characters in that show, I would seriously never want to date again. The mannered dialogue is often so irritating that I find myself itching-- real people don't talk like that!-- and I often find myself gritting my teeth at the cheesy and often unbelievable rom-com style plot twists (McKenzie McHale [oh God that NAME] forwarding a personal email to all of her co-workers, then destroying another co-worker's cell in frustration). But... it has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes me hope it'll pull itself together and stop sucking as much by the end of the first season.

Or maybe because I've had a crush on Jeff Daniels since I first saw Purple Rose of Cairo...
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 10:35 PM on July 19, 2012


The people you are warning about the cartoon neocons are cartoon liberals.

I heard Aaron Sorkin wrote a show about this, called Strawman vs Strawman.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:14 PM on July 19, 2012


But that monologue that was linked? From the Newsroom? With Daniels on stage statistically lamenting the state of the U.S.? Holy shit, did I hate that. I thought it was going to make me break out in hives. It literally made me cringe. It reminded me of Limbaugh or Olbermann (and, while K.O. deserves gratitude for giving Rachel Maddow a boost, he's a just a blowhard and I don't like hearing him talk, either).

Also, what's with the "worst.generation.ever" bullshit? I don't really have a generation (I'm a GenX/Y cusp, married to another cusp) so maybe I'm just missing something, but... why? What on earth is the point of that?
The thing is, though Olbermann was a pretty typical activist liberal/progressive and those people actually love blogs, young people, the internet. KO posted on dailykos, read the blogs, posted on twitter, and so on.

During the bush administration, the blogs and internet, along with the daily show (and later the colbert report) were really pushing back on all the bullshit in the "mainstream" media.

So I find this idea that somehow the guy (whether we're talking about Sorkin or his Anchor) is a liberal fighting the good fight, and yet still thinks mainstream TV news is better then the internet is pretty ridiculous, and it's obviously absurd when you look at someone who actually tried to do what Sorkin is writing about (which is Olbermann )

BTW I found Olbermann pretty annoying to watch as well.
posted by delmoi at 11:32 PM on July 19, 2012


He's a moderate Republican in 2012, it's safe to assume he supported Bush. I don't know why people compare him to Olberman, I think it's more supposed to be O'Reilly if there was a real, actual "No Spin Zone".

All the misogyny makes more sense in that context too!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:38 PM on July 19, 2012


^ 2010
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:38 PM on July 19, 2012


Sports Night, Studio 60 and The Newsroom all started off the same way, with a man working in TV having a crisis of conscience about how low standards had fallen and what they felt forced to do. In Sports Night, Casey McCall airs his grievances to his friends/coworkers and then gets inspired by seeing something which reaffirms why he does what he does. In the other two, Sorkin tries to start things off with a "Network" moment. One approach worked, the others not as much.

Still, I don't think that's necessarily the problem with The Newsroom.

For a show about inherently smart people going about their lives and jobs, I think Sorkin did everything he could to minimize CJ (one episode revolves entirely around her ignorance of the basic workings of the Census, something that anyone working in politics in DC - especially people at the level of White House Press Secretary - understands).

Donna exists solely as a device to explain politics in earlier episodes and solely as a love interest for Josh in the later ones.


This is uninformed, frankly. Or rather, it's kind of a little bit true if one only saw a few first season West Wing episodes and has a selective memory. In reality, Sorkin has never written women well at the beginning of any of his series. Even with CJ, the first thing we see her do is a pratfall off a treadmill while talking up a random man.

But none of his characters are good at the beginning unless by accident of inspired acting. For someone so well-known for non-collaboration with a decent writing staff, his writing is highly based on learning how actors play his material over time.

Sadly, in the case of The Newsroom, none of the characters are really worth giving a damn about yet.

But the real issue to me here is that, with The West Wing, the ideals at play between the characters were clear, but the characters disagreed about the details within those bounds, and it worked. In The Newsroom, we're stuck in the mud defining the ideals and having Will model them for us. To me, the solution is to recognize that we get that The Truth is the defining ideal, sure, but that people have different routes to that, if not different ideas of what it means altogether.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:46 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought we had just had a thread about Sorkin and his problems (and I was right) which discussed them much better than the article linked to in this post did.

I've not watched much Sorkin shows myself; The West Wing never appealed, most of the rest never appeared here, but my impression is that he's a somewhat centrist, moderately rightwing guy who thinks he's on the left, clever enough to see the problems in American politics and how the media covers it, but not clever enough to see that his own solutions are part of the problem.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:52 AM on July 20, 2012


Metafilter is why I hate liberals.

Kidding! Kidding!
posted by Decani at 5:25 AM on July 20, 2012


The thing is, though Olbermann was a pretty typical activist liberal/progressive and those people actually love blogs, young people, the internet. KO posted on dailykos, read the blogs, posted on twitter, and so on.
as a young person i really really resent that 'blogs' and 'twitter' are what i'm supposed to be doing and it is grindingly aggravating that anyone who suggests that this stuff may perhaps not be the greatest thing suddenly metamorphoses as if by some dire and fell cantrap from e.g. "St. DFW's apostle" to "lame old dork why doesn't he just die" or "great modern dramatist" to "misogynist grandpa"
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:21 PM on July 20, 2012


Accusations of misogyny directed at Sorkin have very little to do with his feelings about the Internet, and everything to do with his seeming refusal to write remotely competent female characters, and the gleeful abandon evident when everyone who disagrees with him (oops, sorry, his anchor) is called a bitch, on the show.
posted by peppermind at 3:59 PM on July 20, 2012


I think Navelgazer really hits the nail on the head in his comment.

In addition to CJ's pratfall in the West Wing pilot, we have Natalie fawning over Jeremy at his job interview in the Sports Night pilot, Sam sleeping with Laurie in the West Wing pilot, and Joanne Galloway unable to produce a complete sentence in the second scene of A Few Good Men, off the top of my head. The thing is he used to manage to get beyond that and give complex and meaningful roles to talented actors like Allison Janney, Stockard Channing, Felicity Huffman, Demi Moore, etc... He never truly delved into the women's roles as far as he could have, and many did quibble with the gender politics of The West Wing, but things have gone far downhill in that department.

Sports Night, Studio 60 and The Newsroom all started off the same way, with a man working in TV having a crisis of conscience about how low standards had fallen and what they felt forced to do. In Sports Night, Casey McCall airs his grievances to his friends/coworkers and then gets inspired by seeing something which reaffirms why he does what he does. In the other two, Sorkin tries to start things off with a "Network" moment. One approach worked, the others not as much.

Ultimately, everything Sorkin has written is all about duty (best summed up in "And It's Surely to Their Credit"). To your list above, I'll add the entirety of A Few Good Men, which is all about standards and duty, and the West Wing pilot, which is about sticking up for each other, putting personal nonsense aside, and getting back to work: "break's over." His works are an extended discussion about what it means to owe a duty to country, to profession and craft, to justice, to innovation, and most importantly, to each other. A line that's been repeated in Sports Night, West Wing, and Sorkin's Syracuse commencement speech is "more and more we've come to expect less and less of each other." The antagonists in his stories generally aren't other people or traditional obstacles, they are his characters' own demons, and compared to most everything else on TV, the better angels might just have found themselves a fair fight.*

In 2012, it's really hard to pull that off. We can vaguely appreciate it in a military context, and it was only a partial stretch to the White House circa 1999, but convincing an audience to believe and appreciate characters with a fanatical sense of duty toward TV comedy or the evening network newscast is a tough sell. Sorkin tries to take that on, frankly because he seems to have such a prophetic view of his own duty to write, but it's that idealistic vision that people seem to find so obnoxious in his writing.

So what Sorkin is trying to do in Studio 60 and The Newsroom is establish characters with a deep sense of obligation and obsessively high standards, to the exception of anything else in their lives (except McAvoy seems to have a lot of spare time to date random women, and the whole staff seems to spend more time talking about Bigfoot than doing their, you know, jobs, but I digress). That's hard to make believable, which is what leads us to the "Network"-style bit. This technique seems like a shortcut to try to exposit the whole duty concept in a powerful opening moment, but I think it sets us off on the wrong foot for these types of stories and ultimately dooms what follows. There's something ignoble about simply flying off the handle in rage when the world doesn't satisfy your high standards. More importantly, it leaves us in a tight spot with where to take the story next.

And to see why, we just have to look at Network itself, obviously one of Sorkin's favorites. Beale's mad prophet act is the beginning of the end, leading to a literal death spiral as his messages, seeking to wake society up, just serve to further drive everyone into "the common rubble of banality." Network would not have worked at all if Beale yelled and ranted a bit, then noticed a motivational poster or something, got all inspired, and resolved to be the best journalist he can be (ignoring the whole already being fired part).

We've learned this story too well from Chayefsky and everyone else who's told it. Once you have a crisis of conscience and lose faith in your life's work (or maybe it's the belief that other people care about your life's work), which are obviously deeply passionate about, things continue to get worse and worse. We're going back to the bible and Greek mythology here where see all sorts of consequences for losing faith and dereliction of duty. Jonah got lucky and only had to hang out in a big fish as punishment for his flight, while Moses had to wander the desert for forty years and was banned from entering Israel for neglecting his duty and striking a stone with his staff. We're just not wired to handle stories where a loss of confidence and failure to live up to ones own standards results in anything other than things going downhill fast.

So with the "Network" moment, Sorkin starts the entire story off in a position of failure, yet wants to immediately turn things around and have his protagonists, who we've only just met, come out swinging. You can't have a crisis of faith and turn back into a starry-eyed idealist five minutes later. It just doesn't work, and when the whole story is told from that foundation, it all just falls down.
posted by zachlipton at 4:39 PM on July 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, the whole 'Aaron Sorkin is a misogynist' thing -- is it that you literally think Sorkin's a misogynist, or that he doesn't live up to his promise?

Because it seems to me that if you want to make the former claim, you're going to have to put him in the same bucket with probably 85%+ of TV and film writers (and a shitload of stage writers, too). 'Cuz there's a metric shitload of dramatic writers who are worse misogynists than Sorkin.

If y'all are OK with that, I'm not going to argue about it. You're just defining 'misogyinst'* a lot more inclusively than I do.

--
*which I do not seem to be able to type this morning. 'misogyinist'....'mysygynist'....'misyginist'....
posted by lodurr at 3:17 AM on July 21, 2012


BTW, I think this thread is probably way more interesting for my investment of time than Newsroom would be, and I join in common sentiment with those who felt a little icky after listening to the widely-circulated Daniels*-character rant. I'm not really defending Sorkin, here -- I enjoy a lot of his dialogue**, but as a whole most of his stuff gets a little treacly for me pretty quick.

--
*Could someone please get Jeff Daniels a really decent role, please?
**which I think of as being roughly the dramatic equivalent of psychological realism: it looks as though it could be real, even as its proportions are widly more heroic than those of the average heroic hero.
posted by lodurr at 3:25 AM on July 21, 2012


See, this is why the Aaron Sorkin model of writing a TV show doesn't work. When you do everything yourself in a burst of manic control-freakishness, you get a few years of awesome, tops. So, OK, that's Sports Night and the first few seasons of The West Wing. In fact, really, Sorkin had an amazing run of manic I'll Just Do It Myself-ism, when you look at those two shows.

But because of that early success, Sorkin learned that this approach to writing TV works. That rather than using the collaborative writer's room model, it's OK to just write ~22 episodes of television in one long marathon of all-nighters. That it's better to be prolific than good, and it's more important to be In Control Of Everything than it is to create the best possible work of art.

This is why so much of it is sloppy. Think of how great any recent Sorkin series could be if he'd just let people help him make it great.

It's also why he does better as a feature writer, where the name of the game is a marathon of all-nighters and then you're off the project and free to sleep it off and let someone else polish your turd.
posted by Sara C. at 10:00 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interestingly enough, a lot of really excellent BBC series are written by single writers, or maybe a writing team of two.

Of course, they're not churning out 24 episodes a year, either.
posted by hippybear at 6:54 PM on July 23, 2012


Six episodes for one or two writers is about typical for the ratio of most American shows. I just came off a series that did seventeen episodes. The most any one writer was responsible for? Four.

Sorkin's role, where he mostly writes all the episodes, and there's a "team" of "writers" hired (and then promptly fired, if recent reports are to be believed) but they mostly don't do much, is very rare for US network television.

I don't have figures in front of me, but it's even relatively rare for a cable series with thirteen episode seasons.

Almost nobody tries to do what Sorkin tries to do. And so it's not really that surprising when he fails.
posted by Sara C. at 7:03 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorkin's role, where he mostly writes all the episodes, and there's a "team" of "writers" hired (and then promptly fired, if recent reports are to be believed) but they mostly don't do much, is very rare for US network television.

The only other showrunner (gasp! I used that word Metafilter!) who does this, at least off the top of my head, is David Milch. And, in my book, unlike Sorkin, he has never failed (yes, I am including John from Cincinnati).
posted by Falconetti at 7:12 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn. I think David Milch is my new hero.

Though, yeah, he has totally failed. Looking at a list of all the shows he's created or co-created, a lot of them were failures in the American network sense (i.e. not picked up for additional seasons). I haven't even heard of most of the one-season wonders, and I'm a huge TV addict. Beverly Hills Buntz? Really?
posted by Sara C. at 7:16 PM on July 23, 2012


Just to clarify, people hate mirrors because the World Beyond controls certain aspects of all proper-side trade, and many of our best worksmen have been lost to fancies of inverted riches. There is sad lore involved here and I would prefer it not be invoked as such a casual fancy while proper persons go about their evening fancies.

R = V ± H
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:19 AM on July 24, 2012


Beverly Hills Buntz? Really?

yeah, trying to capitalize on the studly magnetism of dennis franz. and i'm actually not really being sarcastic, that's basically how it was being promoted.

(no, i didn't watch, but that's nothing to do with milch. i'm an ignorant philistine about milch, & most TV writing, since at my adult tv-watching peak in the early 0s I think i watched 3 shows a week on a regular basis.)
posted by lodurr at 10:44 AM on July 24, 2012


I watched Beverly Hill Buntz. I even remember part of one episode...
posted by Zed at 11:32 AM on July 24, 2012


For Discussion: Weenies
Sunday night on The Newsroom, we learned several things. One of them is that Will McEvoy is absolutely no fun when he's stoned, even accidentally. The second is that not only Will, but at least one of the young tyros who work for him, like to get down with the acoustics at parties and jam out to old tunes by Jonathan Edwards, who made records aimed at people who thought Dan Fogelberg was too punk, and who will undoubtedly be starring on the next Time-Life infomercial collection, Hit Songs By Weenies.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:43 PM on August 6, 2012




« Older I'd heard Williston was a magical place.   |   Global Warming's Terrifying New Math Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post