By Isaac Butler
I haven't seen it yet, so for all I know The Newsroom is complete crap. But here's a thought... having read a lot of negative reviews of it (and a few positive ones) I wonder if fictional programs set in the media face a particular handicap. The West Wing, after all, wasn't reviewed by Congressional staffers. Breaking Bad isn't recapped by drug dealers. Given how hostile theater folk-- including myself-- were to Smash, I wonder if seeing your world portrayed on TV is galling in a particular way. After all, there's no way that a given fictional narrative will "get" your world right because eventually it will have to make some kind of choice where strict realism is ditched in favor of some other narrative priority.
This is really the barest sketch of a thought here. I'm sure there's lots of counter examples. Someone already mentioned Slings & Arrows on twitter as one. And of course Sports Night was a critical darling. So what is it about these exceptions then? Does it have something to do with Slings & Arrows' assumption that theater is worthwhile and nobel (if also absurd)? After all, that assumption is very close to The West Wing's view of politics. And Sports Night's ambitions in terms of thematic depth etc. are much smaller than any other Sorkin project.
Hm. As I said, this is a sketch of an idea.