The Newsroom “What Kind of Day Has It Been” Series Finale Review
The Newsroom was consistent right through to the very end; that is, it was consistently underwhelming and prone to letting us down. Of all of the Aaron Sorkin series, this one was the most Sorkiny. He wrote every episode himself (though he did have a writer’s room behind him). It was also had the most promise. Conceptually, a series about modern media – its sensationalism and opinion-disguised-as-fact – along with dealing with the medium’s own growing irrelevance thanks to social media, The Newsroom really could have been something. But it wasn’t.
After last week’s truly unpleasant attempt at discussing campus rape and Edward Snowden, we come to the final episode of the series which manages to be about absolutely nothing. In the eleventh hour, Sorkin decided the series needed flashbacks and loaded half of the episode with them, covering the late-Charlie’s (Sam Waterston) initial hope for News Night, his vision, and how certain characters initially met. We’re told almost nothing we didn’t know already.
The rest of the episode takes place during Charlie’s funeral and reception afterwards. In one of the most bizarre writing decisions, Sorkin has Will’s (Jeff Daniels) eulogy be entirely about Charlie’s career in journalism rather than something more personal, you know, like his friends and family probably would have liked. Also in this eulogy, Will announced Mac (Emily Mortimer) was getting promoted. I’m sure Charlie’s friends and family were relieved to hear this. This scene really seem to encapsulate Sorkin’s run on the show, and a larger criticism of his writing in general. Sorkin doesn’t so much build characters or plot, he simply creates individuals who will represent a belief. Then Sorkin writes speeches for them. Blathering, preachy, out of touch speeches. Had The Newsroom moved into a fourth season, the entire show would have been one long tracking shot of tersely speaking people who stop to perch atop a soapbox to wag their fingers or condescend.
Much of the third season felt like a long epilogue and not like a continuation of a story about to conclude, probably because there was no real story to speak of. It seems as though Sorkin would cut out articles from the paper (he hates the Internet after all) of stories that annoyed him. He would then use a typewriter (again, Internet) to angrily speechify. After that he would break the speech into several parts to be read almost randomly by several characters to give us to illusion of character and story. That’s what The Newsroom was after 25 episode. A series of angry letters to the editor.
It’s a sad fact how far this show fell considering the talent it had behind it. Sorkin, when he can manage, is a gifted writer with an ear for dialogue. The cast was always at their best, doing what they could with the mediocre work they’d been given (I think we were all surprised by how great Olivia Munn turned out to be). You know, the germ of the idea is still such a great one–exploring the zenith of journalistic integrity and responsibility–and there were some great moments in this show. Unfortunately, it never was able to become the cultural time capsule it wanted to be, nor was it as relevant as it wanted to be (or believed that it was right to the bitter end). Sorkin himself has said that The Newsroom was to be his last television series. “I know the whole ‘never say never’ stuff, but I’m pretty certain I’m about to write my last three episodes of television,” Sorkin told The Los Angeles Times last month. “And I want to be really clear about this. Really clear about this. I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent in television. And I’ve had much more failure, as traditionally measured, than success in television. I’ve done four shows, and only one of them was The West Wing.” The quote not only sums up Sorkin’s career on television but also delivers a fine review of The Newsroom itself. The series was not about what it was, it was about what it wasn’t.