DIGGING DEEP INTO AMERICA

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Speaking truth to stupid."



 I never watched "West Wing". I did religiously view "Sports Night", but it was never as good as the critics claimed. But then I went to see "Social Network" and I became an Aaron Sorkin fan. In a dumbed-down world where I have to spell out everything I say I could barely keep up with the dialogue. Sorkin was assuming I was smart. And no one's done that for a very long time. The critics might kill "Newsroom". Along with the PR department of HBO. The problem is these old wave companies still think it's the nineties, that if they employ carpet bomb publicity we'll all pay attention and drink from the trough. As if we are as dumb as all the dialogue in "Newsroom" says we are. I almost didn't watch this show. Because every review said it was so-so. It is.But that's missing the point. Enteratainment, when done right, is all about emotion. That's what's wrong with so much of the paint-by-numbers Top Forty. Yes, you can employ Max Martin and Dr. Luke, drop the rapper du jour in the middle, but that doesn't mean we'll feel anything.



This perfect on paper production slides right off of us, doesn't

even give us a paper cut. It's meaningless. For a meaningless society where

everybody has to wear a helmet and if you speak the truth you get sued.


Meanwhile, blowhards pontificate on TV and radio all about our freedom. How we

live in the greatest country in the world. And if you raise your voice and say

something to the contrary you become a pariah, even your friends abandon you,

because first and foremost you must be liked. It's like our whole country has

become the Yankees, an overly ripe, overly rich team which tolerates no

dissension and frequently plays well but never wins the big one. Because to win

big, you've got to question, you've got to be an outlier, you've got to look for

the little things that make a difference.


Like talent.


Aaron Sorkin's got it. Bristol Palin does not. Nor do the Kardashians. But we've

come to believe our country is about gossip and food. That the highest art form

is plating something made by a celebrity chef. We follow food trucks on Twitter,

then again, at least we can line up and get fed, whereas the rich twats scarf up

all the good concert tickets. We live in a two tier society. And nowhere is that

more evident than with HBO. Either you subscribe or you don't.


But that's not really a problem. Because do something right with a small

audience and it affects everything else. Sure, TV is populated by nitwit reality

shows, but when outlets choose drama it's in HBO's image. It's about story. It's

not conventional. Whether it be "Breaking Bad" or even "The Good Wife". Story is

paramount on TV. And it's seemingly irrelevant in movies.


Movies are truly made for the ignorant. The twelve year old boys who'll overpay

to get out from under their parents' hair. And we've got a whole industry of

elder people beholden to these young 'uns. And it's no different in music. The

kids rule. We don't want smart, but dumb.


And it's all about the penumbra. The sound in music, the visuals in film. Well,

Woody Allen taught us long ago a flick could be shot fast and flat and still

triumph if the story was good enough. The "Newsroom" story is good enough.


You see no one even watches the news anymore. For all the bloviating about it,

the ratings are positively abysmal, especially on network. As for cable...that's

just entrenched ideologues yelling at each other. We get our news from the

Internet. And it's only the news that appeals to us. Drudge if we're right,

Huffington Post if we're left.


Then again, if you trust Arianna Huffington you probably fall for that joke

where someone steals your nose with their fingers. She's all about the money.

Our whole country is about the money. What's right, what's smart, doubling down

and fighting for change...that's for pussies.


I'm not gonna say "Newsroom" is fantastic. That it's the new "Sopranos", that

you can't miss it. But I am going to say if truth, justice and the American way

appeal to you, if you're a fan of Aaron Sorkin, if you like smart and

thought-provoking as opposed to dumb and titillating, you should tune in it. For

the moments.


That's all we're searching for. That's what happened with records. We used to

like the rest of the album because we had nothing else to listen to. Now we only

want the hits. That's all anybody ever wanted.


And a three minute pop song must be perfect to go over. It's got to be

impeccable, whether it be "Satisfaction", "She Loves You" or "Billie Jean".

Anything else and most people don't care.


But it's hard to get TV and film perfect. They're collaborative efforts. They're

long. We settle for the moments.


And "Newsroom" has got them.


Ignore the hype. That's what's great about TV, a show can grow. Can find its way

both creatively and in audience size. First episodes are rarely the best. It

takes a while for a show to find its groove. The same way it takes an act a few

years and what used to be albums to find its groove. Instead, the industry wants

everything bulletproof from day one.


Are you bulletproof? Are you perfect?


Of course not!


And the more you get plastic surgery to try and achieve this, the more you miss

the mark.


We're charitable people. We'll swallow the imperfections. If you watch

"Newsroom" for the essence, for the message, for the repartee, for the emotion,

you'll be rewarded. If you want to just sit there and say there aren't as many

laughs as in "Two and a Half Men", you're a wastrel who's part of the problem as

opposed to being part of the solution.


We've got to solve the problems of our country. We just can't keep arguing.

What's worse is most of the arguing is done without facts. Because stupid's

become the norm. Whether it be Justin Bieber claiming he's not going to get so

many tattoos his body looks like the "Sixteenth Chapel" or politicos blaming

Obama for turning people gay.


"Newsroom" is a start. You're gonna watch it. You just don't know it yet.


"The Newsroom": http://itsh.bo/Hj5bP5


(Don't blame me for how slow the site loads, that's TV, they're clueless. But

you can watch the entire first episode at the above site.)


By:

Bob Lefsetz


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