Over the last one hundred years, humanity has proven itself to be nature’s most ruthlessly inadvertent killer of things that probably shouldn’t be killed. Thanks to short-term thinking, in all its infinitely destructive iterations, everything that has ever existed is essentially fucked forever. Corporate financial influence has killed democracy. Climate change deniers have doomed the environment. All over the world, the innocent have had their lives destroyed or outright taken without second thought from the guilty. Worst of all, people who I went to high school with are having babies. (Multiple, living, breathing babies.) In the words of Robin Williams, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Being alive in the current cultural moment means watching helplessly as the few things you care about are torn, wrathfully and one-by-one, from the face earth. What you care about is either quickly dying, or it is already, irrevocably dead. This is the world we have inherited, where death’s knell drowns out life’s song. Nothing, nothing, nothing will survive. Except, of course, for The Newsroom.
Like a cockroach in nuclear winter, The Newsroom simply refuses to die. HBO should have cancelled the show a million different times, for a billion different reasons, but by virtue of some craven boardroom logic The Newsroom has been continually spared where other, better shows met their demise. (You can’t even watch John From Cincinnati on HBOGO.) For the past three years, a presumably conscious human being has given Aaron Sorkin tens of millions of dollars to produce this revisionist debacle. At its very best, the result has been unwatchable. At its worst, The Newsroom can produce a boredom so profound it manifests as a physical film upon the eyes. Peeling off this film leaves you completely blind, so you basically have to live the rest of your life seeing a diminished world, sapped of all life and color, through Newsroom-impaired eyes. It’s not fun.
Last Sunday, the third and final season of The Newsroom premiered to the eyes of those souls numb enough to continue watching. As has frustratingly been the case in previous seasons, every glaring fault of The Newsroom remains confidently, brazenly unaddressed. The show’s central conceit is as dumb as its always been. Thirty-nine of its forty characters remain vividly uninteresting. (Olivia Munn continues to be chill.) As hard as it is to imagine, watching flat characters parrot dull viewpoints about last year’s news doesn’t make for great television. It didn’t when The Newsroom premiered, and it won’t when the show fades to its final, Coldplay-accompanied black. Miles and miles below this landfill a smart, great show lies buried, a show about how media conglomeration and technology have changed the way people present, receive, and process the news. We are long past the final second when that show could have been unearthed.
Curiously, The Newsroom is a symptom of the very cultural disease it fails to attack. It’s a lesser product circulated by a vast media conglomerate whose financial concerns have trumped its qualitative ones. (Think of the former strength of HBO’s Sunday night lineup, then look at its current one and despair.) The Newsroom topped out at bad, and it isn’t getting better. The first episode was about integrity and Twitter and how awful The Newsroom is, like every other episode. The mission to civilize presses on. We are all still Will McAvoy. Good night.