'I'm Sorry You Don't Like The Newsroom As Much As You Should.' - Aaron Sorkin.
On Aaron Sorkin's 'apology' for the first two seasons of The Newsroom.
"Aaron Sorkin Wants To Apologize To Everyone About 'The Newsroom'" is the headline on Buzzfeed's widely blogged story. Since I do feel that he owes me an apology for The Newsroom, I was very curious to see exactly what he feels he needs to be sorry for -- and as anyone who's familiar not just with his oeuvre but his public persona might predict, it's not so much that he's sorry as sorry not sorry. This fucking guy.
"I think you and I got off on the wrong foot with The Newsroom and I apologize and I'd like to start over" is how Sorkin starts. Good start! "I did not set the show in the recent past in order to show the pros how it should have been done. That was and remains the furthest thing from my mind. I set the show in the recent past because I didn’t want to make up fake news." Oooooh, less good! First of all, "making up fake news" is pretty much what every single other piece of pop culture set in the world of journalism does, and I think audiences are able to use their imaginations to project themselves into fictional worlds. Sorkin's own West Wing didn't just revolve around a fake president; it made up whole pretend countries, so I fail to understand why Sorkin decided to get so precious about it now. (Though given that he gave one of the comedians on his sketch comedy drama a brother who was STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF AFGHANISTAN, we probably should have guessed that fictionalizing recent real world events is Sorkin's new thing.)
Moving on. "I wanted the option of having a terrific dynamic that you can get when the audience knows more than the characters do." How is that a "terrific dynamic," exactly? The viewer is left in a state of tension waiting for the characters to catch up to what we know, or else smug and superior due to her knowing more than the characters, or (most likely) disappointed by the show's simplistic take on complex and (generally) pretty upsetting events -- that is, when the show's portrayal doesn't feel outright exploitative. (The Season 1 episode that ended with the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is a still-infamous example.) "So, I wasn't trying to and I'm not capable of teaching a professional journalist a lesson" is straight-up compliment-fishing; I feel like "not capable" was an invitation for a plant to get up in the audience and quote Horace as to the poet's responsibility to "delight and instruct."
Worst of all -- worse even than the Stephen Kingish "I want to make it clear: I don't know nothin'" -- is when Sorkin gets around to humblebragging about how the show's production must "shoot [his] first drafts": "There isn't a single episode of television I've written that I don't wish I could get back and do again." O RLY? EVEN WHEN YOU WERE GETTING EMMY NOMINATIONS FOR THE WEST WING, THOSE EPISODES WEREN'T UP TO YOUR OWN HIGH PERSONAL STANDARDS THAT WERE EVEN HIGHER THAN THE ACADEMY'S VOTERS'? WHAT WE THINK OF AS YOUR BEST ISN'T EVEN AS GOOD AS YOU COULD BE IF YOU HAD MORE TIME? First of all, maybe you would have more time to write your own scripts if you were capable of delegating any responsibility to a staff, which you're notoriously unable to do. Second, if time is a problem, maybe you could consider writing in a medium in which hundreds of people weren't depending on your delivering your best work in a timely fashion, like writing novels you could painstakingly craft down to the comma and probably never really worry about a deadline? Third, fuck off.
I guess it shows growth for Sorkin not only to acknowledge criticism of his work but to recognize its validity; the way he's paraphrasing the biggest knocks on the show before responding reminds me of that therapy technique where you repeat, in your own words, what you think your partner (or antagonist) is saying to you. The problem is that this whole "apology" really amounts to "I totally hear what you're saying," and then a hundred "but"s, all of which constitute his defending the very premise of the show from the perspective of the poor old imperfect vessel through which the muse is acting. Except: all this self-flagellation comes across as extremely disingenuous when it's coming out of someone as famously self-regarding as Sorkin. And to that point: to be fair, it's very possible that my own antipathy toward Sorkin both as a writer and as a person would keep me from accepting even the most sincere, searching artistic inventory he possibly could offer on The Newsroom, which has certainly earned him the fewest laurels of his whole career, which has probably been a shock. But in this case, his "I apologize" just reads to me like "I demand that you reconsider." I don't accept.