Sunday, July 08, 2012

Hate-Watching With Zoey Grace

My Good People! Say "Hello" to our newest guest-blogger, Zoey Grace! For her first post, she gives us a rumination on her own personal form of television schadenfreude. 

I am a TV person.  While most people allocate valuable brain space to their jobs and families, more space in my brain than I’d like to admit is dedicated to Lost trivia (seriously, ask me who Horace Goodspeed is), the comfort food that is the first four seasons of The West Wing, the brilliance of The Wire, and psychoanalysis of Don Draper (I am on Team Megan, in case you were wondering).

So, every new TV season I pick out the shows that could fill the hole that was left when Lost and other shows went off the air.  I follow the Upfronts and wait impatiently for the release of advance trailers.  I go through each night’s new lineup and pick the shows that are worth space on my tivo and which ones I have to watch live (Yes, I still watch Grey’s Anatomy live.  Deal with it.) 

Some shows, however, I don’t watch because I love them.  They drive me insane – I yell at the TV, roll my eyes, and even fast forward through scenes that are so ridiculous that I simply can’t watch.

But I still watch these shows.  Faithfully.  Every week.  This, my friends, is hate-watching.

Until May I did this with Smash, a show on NBC that seemed to be written especially for me (Showtunes! Catty actor drama! Authentic Broadway stars!), but ended up grating on my last nerve. 

My newest example is The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s new show on HBO.  I absolutely love Aaron Sorkin.  I have memorized whole episodes of The West Wing.  I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes I want him to script my life with a few walk-and-talks, fast moving intelligent romantic comedy banter, and inspirational speeches that give me the warm and fuzzies.

But - the Newsroom just drives me batty.  First of all, women are given short-shrift.  While relatively likeable, the two main female characters are overtly accident prone and a little daffy - I come away wondering how on earth McKenzie (the Executive Producer of the news show) has become so successful considering that she can’t even master email, nonetheless how such a clumsy person survived as a hard boiled war correspondent.  It’s not that Sorkin doesn’t know how to write strong women who aren’t more “relatable” than they are kick-ass, whose awesomeness isn’t described in dialogue but demonstrated on the screen.  Where is CJ?  Where is Dana?  Plus, for some reason blond women are summarily dismissed as unintelligent at every turn (I’m not kidding, this happened three separate times). 

Amazing, competent women being relatable by not understanding "technology". Beautiful women, they're just like us!

In contrast, the men are stable and rational.  It also bears mentioning that non-white men are explicitly categorized in dialogue – Neil is the Indian IT guy, Gary is the “smart black guy,” etc.  Plus, I wish the dad from I’ll Fly Away would stop being genially drunk and (non-threateningly) threatening to punch people.  It’s freaking me out.

However, I can’t stop watching it.  I’m rooting for it to work out the kinks.  It’s vintage Sorkin.  In some, not all, scenes the writing is inspirational.  The budding romance between Jim and Maggie is cute and engaging when the dialogue isn’t jarring and shrill.  I agree with Newsroom’s commentary on the news today  - if one side says the sky is green and the other says it’s blue, that doesn’t mean the answer is somewhere in the middle.  The writing makes me feel like I’m on the right team.  I respect the premise, and despite my misgivings I’ll watch again this Sunday, too.

Sigh.  You see my dilemma. 

What about you?  What shows do you hate-watch?

*Postscript to Aaron Sorkin – Although I know you are not especially fond of those who criticize you on blogs, internet girls in particular, don’t forget that I’m a huge fan.  And, as Toby said to Will in The West Wing Season 4 episode Arctic Radar: “You don't mind constructive criticism, do you?”

1 comment:

Maggie Cats said...

THANK YOU. The ladies of Newsroom are basically all crazy and need to be constantly handled by the guys, and this makes me kinda angry. And yet...still watching.