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The Newsroom

And what it means to be truly great
Ripped from the interwebs

I want to tell you about The Newsroom. In many ways it might be the greatest American television show ever made. But it may also just be another ordinary television drama. It's a socio-political drama created by the writer behind The West Wing, A Few Good Men, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs.

Most of the internet has seen the first 8 minutes of the series premiere. It's a wildly popular clip of a would-be news anchor ranting about why America is not the greatest country in the world anymore and how it could be again. What makes this video great is not the controversial approach to America's standing in the world, it is that. What makes this video great is not the humor or the drama or the excellent cinematography, though it has that. It isn't the excellent emotive music or the subtle interplay of lighting and makeup, though those certainly contribute to it. What makes this video great, and what truly makes it popular, is that it speaks to our ideals of what America as a nation could and ought to be.

America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. But it could be.

And what truly inspires me about this show is that the power and the impact and the optimism of those first 8 minutes is overflowing in every minute of every episode in the entire first season. Every moment is packed with a sense of hopeless idealism and senseless optimism that every American dreams of living up to. I might even say that is what truly defines the "American Dream" - not that everyone can own a house, but that everyone can live an honest life and go to sleep at night proud of what they've accomplished that day.

And it's not hard. "You know what, kiddo? In the old days, oh about 10 minutes ago, we did the news well. You know how? We just decided to."

The Newsroom is a show about a news show, and its anchor, who have gotten lost in the mundane trivia of life, chasing after ratings and popularity contests and revenue. But it's a story of redemption, for this anchor and this news show break free from the chains that held them and began doing honest and compelling news. It felt that as the news room was seeking to shake itself from the chains of ratings chasing to do meaningful television, that The Newsroom was doing the same. And they both succeeded in making television meaningful again. And it worked beautifully.

I encourage you to watch this show. I encourage you to feel deeply the optimism it offers. I encourage you to embrace the idealism it enjoins in you. I encourage you to be hopeful and optimistic and quixotic. I encourage you to set aside for ten hours the petty squabbles and political parties and the cute kitten videos and ponder on the question this show begs you to answer: How can we be truly great?

Now, before I go too much farther, I should prepare you with this caveat. In those first 8 minutes Aaron Sorkin builds a 6.2 liter supercharged V8 and he spends the first season driving it as fast as he can, but in the second and third seasons he cuts it down to 4 cylinders and even pops it in neutral and coasts for a few. Translation: The first season is hopeful, optimistic, idealistic inspiration underscored by real events and believable human dramatic interaction. The second season is just a human drama that is entertaining but not engaging, though the season ends on a high note. The third season premieres with that same idealistic vision as the first, but quickly falls back into the who's-dating-who drama of the second season. It seems The Newsroom lost the vision that the news room was created to instill.

I wish that I could say The Newsroom began by aiming high and ended by reaching the heavens. If you stick to the first season, it does. But perhaps the lesson of those later two seasons is that it's easy to lose our vision amidst all of the petty distractions and internet popularity contests.

The visionary idealism of The Newsroom is that producing something meaningful is more important than producing something popular. And you can do it by "just choosing to".

P.S.

All three seasons are currently available on Amazon Video. Wink wink.

This article was paid for by mice living under my couch. 

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