The Newsroom: The Medium vs. The Message

the-newsroom-season-2-promoCanadian media theorist and philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously coined the phrase “the medium is the message.” The premise of the phrase is that medium influences the message of a piece of media.

Sometimes, this influence works to enhance the message. Just look at video games like Spec Ops: The Line and Hotline Miami that break the fourth wall to make you question violence of video games.

However, the medium and the traditional expectations of the medium can have the opposite effect and hold back what can be a great message. If there’s a key reason why The Newsroom is hated and hate watched by so many, it’s because of the requirements of the medium of dramatic TV.

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Sorkin, The Newsroom and the Price of Perfection

the-newsroom-season-2-promoWhen you talk about great modern TV series, the conversation will always include a mention of Aaron Sorkin. The man was the driving force behind not one but two modern classics, Sports Night and The West Wing.

However, Sorkin’s current series, The Newsroom, isn’t considered a classic by most TV critics. It’s not because it’s a bad show. Anyone that has watched network TV over the last few years will know that most series on TV now are pretty poor. Critics don’t like The Newsroom because it doesn’t live up to Sports Night and The West Wing.

That’s the problem when you set the standard too high.

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The Newsroom: Sorkin’s Modern After School Special

Whenever I see a blogger or TV critic wax poetic about an older network comedy, they often bring up episodes that touched on more serious topics. These episodes that touched on controversial or social issues were called “After School Specials” after the ABC TV movie series of the same name.

After school specials (or “very special episodes” as they were occasionally called in network TV) have essentially disappeared from the network TV landscape. Sure, kids shows will touch on an important topic every now and then but when was the last time you saw something you would call an After School Special. One of the few shows on TV that does touch on important social issues is The Newsroom. Continue reading