The Worst Television Program In The World

I used to love The West Wing. As a teenaged boy I would stay up with my family to watch President Bartlett solve the world’s problems. Then I watched the whole series right through again on DVD. I was a married man in my middle-twenties at that stage though, which means I had less of an excuse because I still loved it.

I used to joke that Bartlett was a Jesus character. Then I became a Christian and slowly realised that he was a Jesus character. His sacrifice? Living with us compromising humans with patience until he would eventually set the world free with a striking piece of rhetoric and a creative policy solution.

Now I can’t stand The West Wing.

Like so many who doubt, it was evangelism that forced me to confront the crisis. I tried to convert my wife to the world of The West Wing and had to turn it off after the first scene. Toby is on a plane and he schools an air-hostess on the safety of mobile phones, in part because he’d know since his brother was an astronaut.

Now everyone is very excited about Aaron Sorkin’s newest program, Newsroom. It is truly horrendous.

It has all the errors of The West Wing. It has a near-perfect male lead whose only problem is that he is grumpy because he is so damn idealistic. It has a supporting cast of young people proving themselves capable of punching way above their weight and all of them are amazingly bright. Female characters exist to make the lead character look great. And most crucially, the problems of American society can be resolved simply by following through on our idealistic gut-instinct.

Of course, if the world’s problems can be resolved with simple solutions, then that means that the world’s problems are simple. But the reality is that the world’s problems are complex, even America’s problems. That is the reason the problems haven’t been solved.

2 Broke Girls is a bad television show. But its charming in its willingness to push the boundaries of rudeness the small amount that you are allowed to push it. It won’t harm anyone, even though it sags with crude jokes based around stereotypes and less-than-subtle allusions to masturbation.

Newsroom is a truly horrendous television programme. I have now watched three episodes. It is as bad as The West Wing and worse again. The preposterous, rapid-fire dialogue that bears no resemblance to the way human beings speak is still there. The physical beauty of every character, including the office computer nerd is still there. The astonishing moral and intellectual brilliance of the lead character is still there. The news anchor drinks Stella Artois. That shows you how sophisticated an American is. He makes everything simple by talking quickly and passionately. I do that when I preach on Sunday mornings and the world remains stubbornly complex. But I didn’t finish college at 19, qualify as a lawyer at 21 and then work for the Brooklyn prosecutor securing a 94% prosecution rate before becoming a news superstar. In one particularly ridiculous bit of speech, the quirky eccentric manager of the publicly listed news company that is currently deciding that ratings don’t matter anymore is a man in his late 60’s who uses the phrase “douchebaggery”.

My dad is in his late 60’s. He doesn’t usually say anything rude and when he does, it certainly isn’t the word “douchebag”.

That’s why he runs a sole-tradership and the imaginary fellow with the bow-tie is the boss of a big imaginary fantasy news station, I suppose.

Newsroom hates reality, despises complexity and does so while being marketed as if it is talking about the real world in an intelligent fashion.

Go watch New Girl with an easy conscience and call bullshit on this fancy, glossy turd.

Your Correspondent, “FACTS ARE THE CENTRE” of this analysis

7 Replies to “The Worst Television Program In The World”

  1. Kevin,
    Somehow I missed that you were blogging again, but was really excited when I learned it was true.
    Now I come across garbage like this! Newsroom may very well suck but The West, don’t even. President Bartlett has so many flaws in his shining armor, the worse being that he was horrible father for what? It seems like in the end much of what he did is, and will, turn to ashes. And did in fact his demons defeat his better angels as Toby warns in the first season become a reality. Is his liberalism a problem for a world on the brink of chaos (I think is)? And his hot temper when Americans he loves die but not others? Or his moral failure on the death penalty? So much more darkness than light.
    This, and the sibling rivalry between other characters, how in fact marriage is the thing that causes us to love and hate the other person, and question of how do we actual become good people in a real world with so much grey it seems like black and white doesn’t exist. This doesn’t even bring the eye of God, most vividly seen in Two Cathedrals, that seems indifferent or lost and can give no reason for the horrors of the world that we must be reminded of the Passage:

    “It had never occurred to her that God would cry, but of course that was wrong. God would be crying all the time. He would cry and cry and never stop.”

    Anyways, good to see you blogging again.
    Grace and Peace,
    (As you can sense much of this post was meant in kind jest.)

  2. Kevin,

    You’re hilarious! In a previous post about preaching you worried aloud that you were too intellectual. I haven’t heard you preach, but I’m sure you’re not. You have to trust that being Kevin Hargaden in the pulpit is good enough, since that’s what God has called you to be.

    But as I read the post above, forgive me for saying that you’re being too intellectual. Get out of your head! Don’t get me wrong: I totally get your critique of the show. But so what? You don’t get to watch it at least twice through (as a teenager and then as an adult) and love it, only to decide some time later—after you thought it through—that you were wrong all along and that the show sucks. Listen to your heart!

    Once in college I took a “contemporary drama” course—taught by the English department. Among other things, we spent a few weeks talking bout feminist stand-up comedians, including Roseanne (at the time) Barr and Sandra Bernhard. During one lengthy riff during her stand-up routine, Bernhard was dissing the Zombies’ “Time of the Season” for its troglodytic sensibilities. Our class discussed the issues that the song raised, and my prof was very sympathetic with Bernhard’s critique. Imagine my surprise, then, when he concluded the discussion saying, “I still absolutely love the song!”

    That’s the spirit!

  3. Have I ever mentioned to you about The Wire?


    My final pitch – it is everything you claim The West Wing and Newsroom not to be. Real, complex, intelligent. When David Simon was asked about possible concerns over the average viewer who might not get it, his response was: “F*** the average viewer.” Harsh, but that’s the kind of ethos that makes for seriously good television.

    And since I’m probably making you more angry than convinced, I’ll stop now, never to mention The Wire again.

  4. The Wire should be the last thing you ever watch. Anything you watch after the wire will just seem shallow and stilted

  5. Ah Kevin.

    I’m with Brent on this one. What I hear in your post is that you used to love the West Wing, it brought you delight, made you think, probably often made you want to be a better man. And then you watched it with someone who didn’t like it, and allowed that to ruin your enjoyment. That seems kind of sad.

    On the other hand, I’m entirely with you in wanting to watch the Wire under pressure from many fanatical friends, and waiting only for my wife to decide it’s the right time for us to plunge in together…

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