Check out my latest HyperVocal “Bank Shots” column. Had to defend fellow Syracuse University alum Aaron Sorkin.
Aaron Sorkin is smarter than you. Please don’t hold it against him.
Arguably the most polarizing television auteur since David Lynch has broken free from the creative and commercial shackles of network and is ready to push the boundaries of the boundary-pushing cable world. Unfortunately for his critics, that doesn’t mean he’s going to change any time soon.
‘The Newsroom’ pilot is Sorkin’s most “Sorkiny” production to date, and the divisive Academy- and Emmy-Award winning wordsmith is ironically (yet unsurprisingly) uniting haters faster than post-Decision LeBron James (though Sorkin’s HBO transition more closely resembles Steve Nash joining Mike D’Antoni’s liberal, tempo-pushing offense).
The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum (whose pretentious writing rivals that of New York Times film critic A.O. Scott) asserts:
“Sorkin’s shows are the type that people who never watch TV are always claiming are better than anything else on TV. The shows’ air of defiant intellectual superiority is rarely backed up by what’s inside.”
I may not watch as many programs as Ms. Nussbaum (I’m not receiving boatloads of press screeners quite yet, but I have seen ‘The Newsroom’ pilot), I can say with equal conviction that Sorkin’s new show is better than most of the shows that most people watch (‘NCIS’ isn’t exactly highbrow art). I’ll take “intellectual superiority” over physical superficiality any day.
And besides, a New Yorker columnist condemning arrogance is like Gordon Gekko suddenly denouncing greed.
While “not trying to be obnoxious,” Huffington Post critic Maureen Ryan writes:
“The funniest thing about ‘The Newsroom’ is that it takes as a given that people care a great deal about what one news anchor says on his show; despite writing that Facebook movie, Sorkin still doesn’t get that people sample the news all day through any number of sources and that news anchors and their shows, frankly, don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.”
Sorkin is aiming to illuminate the very issue Ryan describes. If broadcast journalism is on life support, why can’t he act as a ventilator?
In October 2010, I wrote “The Social Network’s greatest achievement is revealing to us that every big dreamer still has nightmares.” Something tells me criticism doesn’t keep Sorkin up at night. The sensationalistic skewering of ’The Newsroom’s innate idealism and sanctimonious “walk-and-talks” (two Sorkin trademarks) underscores why both may be more necessary now than ever before.
While Jeff Daniels’s lead character Will McAvoy may never admit he’s flawed, Sorkin himself can and has. In his recent commencement address at Syracuse University (our shared alma mater), the ’83 graduate spoke about his early writing struggles and decade-long battle with cocaine addiction. Aaron Sorkin knows he isn’t perfect. Because he isn’t.
But he’s still smarter than you.
‘The Newsroom’ premieres this Sunday (6/24) at 10 PM on HBO. Andrew Bank has only seen the pilot, so if the show starts to suck, he’ll join you with his own pitchfork. Tweet him @AndrewBank.