This weekend I started watching HBO’s The Newsroom and instantly I fell into that sad fiction is better than reality state.
If you don’t know what The Newsroom is, don’t worry, you’re only missing what is arguably the best show on TV. I can’t even try to summarize for fear I won’t do it justice, but I will tell you this: it’s a show about a newsroom trying to deliver the news. Actual hard, breaking news. No filter. No celebrity. Just news. And also the drama of the newsroom.
When it comes to coffee, movies and clothing, my standards of quality are fairly low. Here, I have a “cheaper is better” attitude. TV, however, is a different story. I don’t divulge into reality TV and I don’t care about the housewives; I like the classy stuff. The shows about rich elitist high schoolers. (So maybe high standards is a bit of an overstatement.) I love any show that can make me cry along with its characters. And that doesn’t feature vampires.
The difference with The Newsroom and, say, Gossip Girl is that when I’m watching an episode, my internal monologue isn’t Wow I should be out running right now. Exactly how many calories did I eat today? Can I have a snack right now? Every other show I watch stars infamously skinny actors whose “bad day” consists of a delayed private jet. The actors’ real lives are so separated from the real world that we could probably say they’re acting all the time.
The separation between fiction and reality is an interesting thing. I mean, we all cried when Sirius Black died, despite him simply being a fictional character. I even cried at the end of the Shopaholic series. I cry and laugh along with the characters lives, but at some point, the sadness shifts, and I’m no longer just sad for these characters, but instead sad that they aren’t real. And even more so, that my life is not like theirs.
The Newsroom is different. I’m not sad about it being fictional because I secretly just wish to live their lives. In fact, their lives all seem terrifyingly stressful, so if anything, I’m quite grateful to be separated from this. Instead, I’m sad this isn’t real. I’m sad that Will McAvoy isn’t a real reporter who one day decided to change the way the media works. Even more so, I’m sad that the Newsroom has proved themselves right—advertisers and owners do control everything.
It frustrates me to know that a relatively popular show hasn’t influenced all the news stations out there to take on this new revolutionary reporting tactic. So no, I’m not sad that I’m not over-anxious Maggie, hyperventilating on a rooftop. And I don’t secretly wish to be Mackenzie McHale, though she is my favorite prime time TV heroine. But I do wish they were real nonetheless. Even more so, I wish what they are doing could be real, but in the meantime, I guess the show is enough.
I don’t care about the personal lives of these actors. I recognize only two: Allison Pill, because she stared alongside my best friend Lindsay Lohan in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Dev Patel. Why do I recognize Dev Patel? Because he and Frida Pinto starred alongside each other in Slum Dog Millionaire and then continued their romance off screen! How. Cute.
I’m mocking no one other than myself here. Everyone loves The Notebook, but everyone LOVED The Notebook when Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams were dating in real life.
We love art based on its artist and that’s not fair to the art, nor the artist.
Here’s the great thing about The Newsroom: I haven’t once Googled to see if Frieda and Dev are together; in fact, I haven’t Googled anything about anyone. Because, get this: I just don’t care because the show is enough.
The show sustains itself on quality. They don’t need to sell the actors’ personal lives, because no one cares about the actors’ personal lives, because the show is enough.
My only problem is I wish the news could be enough, too.
I wish they didn’t have to sell the personal lives of its anchors. And I wish they weren’t romanticizing tragedies. I wish we saved the glitter for Katy Perry videos and the dramatization for Taylor Swift songs.
I wish the news—straight forward, factual news—was enough.
So why can’t we let it be?