Saturday 25 November 2017

it's bad news

Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty





We all remember The West Wing, right? We all remember the trademark 'walk and talk' where the various characters strode purposefully along the corridors of the Oval Office at breakneck speed while delivering dialogue so rapidly that anybody unfortunate enough to do the sign language subtitles for the box set would surely have succumbed to carpal tunnel syndrome halfway through Season One. Infacttheyallspokesofastthatyouhadtoreallyreallypayattention.

But if The West Wing had one thing, it had a strange likeability – after all, Martin Sheen's Jed Bartlet was the president that everyone would have loved to be the real life POTUS.

And it was this likeability that made the The West Wing not just bearable, but pretty much unmissable.

And so, when the first season of The Newsroom aired last year, I was prepared for the usual strange compromise you make when you watch any project from director Aaron Sorkin – you know you're going to be beaten over the head with the rather unsubtle cudgel of his politics and the choice is yours whether you can factor that in and still enjoy what's on offer.

That's a compromise that is standard when it comes to good storytelling (you don't need to share John Milius's right-wing views to enjoy Red Dawn, for instance) but, by Jesus, the second season of The Newsroom returned this week and it's even more insufferable than it was first time around.

The first season could get by because Jeff Daniels is a fine actor who successfully carries his movie star aura onto the small screen.

As Will McAvoy, anchor of fictional news network ANC's 'Nightly News', he is the personification of Middle America – a Republican with a small 'r', he is dismayed by the Balkanisation of American politics and the introduction of extremism on both sides masquerading as mainstream thought.

Well, that's the theory.

Daniels is presented to us an example of the decent America of Sorkin's youth; such people, conservative but inherently decent, have now, says Sorkin, been replaced by illiberal fascists.

McAvoy and his whole network find themselves under threat following his remark that the Tea Party movement was 'The American Taliban' and the way the Right in America treats the press ('forgetting' to put names on a guest list, refusing accreditation to a campaign bus and so forth) is somehow intended to be indicative of the erosion of debate and fairness in American life.

There's a problem with all of this – apart from being factually incorrect it is so crudely partisan, so openly, stridently banging only the one drum that the whole show develops a monotone as it complains about nasty Republicans while, almost laughably, equating the Occupy Wall Street movement with the Quakers.

But that's not the main quibble with The Newsroom.

Nor does the worst problem lie in the depiction of day-to-day life in an newsroom, here so idealised as to be farcical.

Complaining about that will always be a bogus argument because showing the real workings of an average newsroom would consist of 99pc dullness leavened by an occasional 1pc of psychotic depravity that wouldn't be fit for broadcast.

No, the real problem with The Newsroom – and I'm saying this as someone who was a defender of the first season – is that it was just so bloody boring.

And, unlike The West Wing, it has not one single character who is in any way likeable or sympathetic.

Actually, for a show that likes to pride itself on the verite of its recreation of a real newsroom, that might be its most accurate achievement ...

Q Still lurking in the early Saturday morning schedules like a 10-year hangover, Soccer AM is not so much a programme that refuses to go away as a programme that nobody noticed had stayed.

Proof it has passed its sell-by date was encapsulated last week when they ran a clip of an American commentator calling extra time: "Surprise bonus football!"

Ah yes, those kerrazy Yanks and the ways they ruin our beloved soccerball.

But Soccer AM's sneering at the American coverage of football didn't look quite so superior when, on the same channel a few nights later, on transfer deadline day, Sky Sports featured a gimmick called 'The Totaliser' to count all the money that had been spent by Premier League clubs.

Now if anything was ever designed to be mocked, surely that was it.

Somehow I doubt Soccer AM will be taking the piss out of that one come this week's episode ...

Irish Independent

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