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'The Newsroom' Explains Everything Terrible About This Decade's Politics

We look back at the media that most affected each of us by starting with…’The Newsroom’? Trust us.

by Patrick Klepek
Jan 3 2020, 3:00pm

Image courtesy of HBO

Through the rest of December and into early January, we're going into hibernation. But every day, we'll have a new podcast for you to listen to, and sometimes, an article to read. You can keep track of everything we're talking about to look back on the past year (and decade) right here.

Earlier this month, several of us got together in New York to record the podcasts you’ve been listening to for the past two weeks. A few of the podcasts had specific ideas, while others were just loosely sketched out. “Waypoint of the Year” was one of the vaguest, and while eating hot chicken over lunch, Rob started talking, out of nowhere, about The Newsroom, the Aaron Sorkin show on HBO from some years back. Specifically, he brought up this clip:

When this clip later played again, in a podcast room where we'd all been recording for hours, Natalie looked at all of us, very confused.

“I thought that was gonna be a bit or something,” she laughed.

We were not joking. The Newsroom became a way for us to collectively talk about the last decade, about shifting norms and politics, and the growing sense the status quo could not be solved through experts and incrementalism, but instead radical change. It’s very Waypoint-y.

It served as a setup for us to volunteer our own Waypoints of the Year:

  • Austin: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Oprhans
  • Patrick: The Leftovers
  • Natalie: Lil’ Peep
  • Cado: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • Rob: Justified

But until you can hear me bring the room to a screeching halt talking about a series where grief is celebrated and explored in all its messiness, we have to talk about The Newsroom, and why it's worth more than dunking on.

Rob: This show sank like a fucking stone, except for these multiple cringe worthy videos. The Newsroom was the second time a network allowed Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, to do where the fuck he wanted, and what he wanted to do at that time to confront what he saw as a rising tide of right wing extremist in the United States was to create a show about an institutional TV figure who could tell the American people the news.

Patrick: The truth.

Rob: The truth, yeah, be a bearer of truth and understanding. He made it about real events, but the show was always projecting three or four years back in the past. And so the first episode, for instance, opens on the Deepwater Horizon fire. And in that episode, like within moments, everyone on this fictional cable TV news show knows that it's going to be a massive Gulf oil spill. It is just Aaron Sorkin working through what he wishes people had said about current about current events at the time they're actually happening.

It is a terrible show that was actually a very good representation of why it was bad and it is very worthy of being mocked. But in time, I have found that increasingly useful show to go back and watch.

Patrick: You called it important.

Rob: Yeah. Because it is revealing. I think it was more revealing now than it was at the time it came out because this was Aaron Sorkin, now with nobody to check him, nobody to tell him like, “Hey, tone it down.” This was him, basically doing a lot of what he has done in The West Wing, which was a hugely influential show, very popular.

Patrick: But not even just culturally, but on the Democratic party. Liberalism.

Rob: Yeah. And so The West Wing was this hit show that was all about like...neoliberalism with attitude! You were just smarter and better read and better informed than your dumb ass adversaries, leftist and…

Austin: Deeply elitist. Yet deeply built around the idea of “You know, we just know better and like if you just let people who know the best stuff in charge of democracy, then it’ll go better.”

Patrick: Experts will take us there.

Austin: Exactly.

Rob: Newsroom is this look into Obama-era neoliberal complacency.

Austin: Which is ironic given that when it starts coming out is when you know enough about the Obama era to thankfully have the scales fall from your eyes and start to wonder if the handshake across the aisle, the compromising that was at the heart of what Obama's political strategy were things that weren’t going to get us anywhere.

Patrick: Break the fever was the phrase always used about like, “Oh, eventually the right will figure it out and they'll come over to our side.”

Rob: Right. So there was a major subplot and one of the seasons here where The Newsroom gang had to address like, “How do we handle the story of the Occupy Wall Street protests?” And for multiple episodes in this work of fiction about people getting the story right and thinking deeper, it was just relentless dunking on the Occupy movement and how stupid they were and how ill informed they were about the financial system about the economy. They were just dumbasses with a bunch of complaints and no understanding of the real issues and no solutions. You're not allowed to be angry, unless you bring a concrete, preferably means tested, solution. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.

Patrick: Thank you, technocrat!

Rob: That was the tone of the show. And the show would deliver it in that tone and then be like “Inspiring moment, right?” and high-five.


This excerpt was edited for clarity and length.

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Tagged:
The Leftovers
Justified
Gundam
Waypoint Radio
game of the year
Lil Peep
fullmetal alchemist
waypoints
Game of the Year 2019