There is good writing, and then there is good writing. If you want to read some of the latter category, check out Andy Greenwald's latest Grantland column — it contains a few of the best-crafted paragraphs you are likely to find anywhere in the near future. In his column, Greenwald scalps The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin's latest creation. But far more interesting, and far more prescient, is Greenwald's analysis of those of us who are still watching. Simply put, we are not as smart as we think we are.
Greenwald’s focus is on a single question: Why do people still watch The Newsroom?
One possibility is that the show is good, but, as Greenwald makes clear, this is simply not the case. The show is terrible, and not just because it is too liberal or too unrealistic. It's because the storyline is boring and the writing, for all of its rhetorical flourish, exhibits a vapid quality that is undoubtedly the product of the fact that each episode's plot is woefully predictable and nauseatingly preachy. The result, Greenwald argues quite persuasively, makes the first season of the show feel like the "fever dream of an aging New Yorker subscriber passed out after nibbling on some expired hazelnut biscotti."
So why, then, do we watch? The answer, Greenwald argues, is that Sorkin fans the flames of our own elitism:
I think the desire some have to hatewatch stems from seeing this toxic combination of smugness and earnestness try to repair reality. It's the same douche-chill I get when I peek at Facebook after an election or — gasp — scroll through Yahoo comments after a Supreme Court decision. Big talk is therapeutic only to the one doing the talking. [Grantland]
Let me be clear: I am, sadly, one of the people Andy Greenwald is talking about. While I am a Republican, I also have an unusually large man crush on Aaron Sorkin. (I can feed you lines for many if not most of the episodes of Sports Night, The West Wing, and even Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.) The sentiment that drives Sorkin's writing, if not so much the politics that too often also flow forth, has had a big impact on my outlook on the world. His work has made me a more critical thinker, which is good. But I also think my constant exposure to his characters has exacerbated an already not-so-wonderful quality of mine, which is my occasional penchant toward snobbery and elitism. And I doubt I am the only one, for the reality is, if you are still watching The Newsroom, you probably are not doing it for the right reasons.
The ugly truth: Those of us still watching this horrifically bad show consider ourselves TV snobs. Yet as Greenwald quite astutely lays bare, we are mostly just watching because Sorkin's show seems smart. That it is not, and that we continue to watch, need not embarrass us. But we should keep our own failing in mind the next time we talk about how stupid everyone who watches crappy sitcoms or ridiculous reality TV programs is.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- The elusive 'It factor' in presidential politics
Subscribe to the Week