Saturday, June 29, 2013

In Which I Hate, Hate Hate a TV Show
(And Watch it Anyway)

Against my better judgment, I just spent most of an hour watching the third episode of Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom. It was almost unbearably awful: a relentless drumbeat of cheap shots and preaching-to-the-choir that made Rachel Maddow look like Walter Cronkite.*  Mrs. Buce, not quite so revolted, said "Oh, it's Sorkin.  You saw the same thing in West Wing."  Well, sorta kinda, but not really. I liked West Wing, at least the early seasons. Of course you knew all along that Sorkin was the very model of beltway conventional wisdom and that Jed Bartlett's was the best government since Rome under the Antonines.  But mostly he didn't let his politics distract him from telling a good story.  This time, it seems, all bets are off.

This is a shame for more reasons than I can count, but one is surely this: American right-wing populism, whatever it horrors, is almost certainly a far more complicated and I suspect interesting story than anybody in Sorkin's inner circle appears to suspect.    I'm not sure that it is anywhere on TV yet: maybe Breaking Bad, although I haven't watched it.  But so far, the one thing you can tell before is that as an analyst of current American culture, Sorkin doesn't even get out of the gate.  

Happily for my blood pressure, I also today happened onto an approach far more interesting and far more likely to move the ball down field. It's Josh  Barro's new Business Insider piece on why Toronto's clown-show mayor  is almost worth taking seriously.  Here's a takeaway paragraph:
So in addition to producing a fountain of amusing news-of-the-weird stories, Rob Ford presents a useful cautionary tale for the often-cozy business, government and labor elites that govern large cities. If you allow people in the less-glamorous parts of town to come to believe that you do not care about their interests and needs, they may toss you out and replace you with a populist, “straight-talking” buffoon who energetically demonstrates that he does -- even if he is totally unfit to run a city, and might be the sort of person who smokes crack.
 Aaron, next time you set out to break a lance for good government, you might want to put Barro on your speed dial.  Might make for a far more interesting show.

*Afterthought: only after writing the above did I stumble on a snippet called "Aaron Sorkin has Answers for Haters of 'Newsroom.'"  Interesting, but I'm not sure it addresses the point I am trying to make here.

Second afterthought:  I'm getting some blowback from which I infer that some people thought I was actually expressing fondness for the Tea Party here.  Oh nonononono;  I think the whole enterprise is calamitously misguided, and the leadership mostly vile sacs of pestilence.  But it's interesting even so, and the mainstream incomprehension can be fatal.

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