Newsroom Ep 4

I hope you took my advice and have begun watching HBO's Newsroom as a farce about high-minded, pseudo-intellectual, self-congratulatory liberal idealists creating exactly the kind of idiotic show they claim to despise.

This week's episode had less than the usual amount of sermonizing about Serious Journalism, devoting extra time instead to the only other thing that happens on the show -- reminding us who is and isn't sleeping with whom.

But there was a terrific little side story, if you were watching as I do.

The show has just rung in the new year for 2011, and the high-minded staff have decided to devote a couple of segments to Very Important Stories that they did not cover enough in 2010, on account of spending the year pretty much wall-to-wall on the breaking story that right-wing blowhards are morons.

And the two under-covered stories of 2010 they pick? Right-wing blowhards are morons (for saying that Obama wants to take your guns) and - wait for it - right-wing blowhards are morons (for saying that Obama spent $200 million on a trip to India).

Now come on, that's some funny, funny shit. Really, these nitwits think they're doing good important journalism by showing months-old clips of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh's Worst Person In The World audition tapes. Hysterical.

The kicker comes at the end of the hour, when they have to go on air with special breaking coverage of the Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shooting --- which, from our future perspective, we know will prompt an inane pissing contest between right-wing blowhards and shows like this.

But that will come later. In the moment, the drama centers around whether these plucky journos can overcome their mis-matched sex partnering and band together to hold off five minutes on broadcasting that NPR has reported Giffords dead.

To make it tougher, writer Aaron Sorkin sends the network ratings-cruncher -- who really should have horns and a cape, and enter and exit scenes in a puff of smoke -- right into the studio to demand the proclamation of death. To which one of the Serious Journalists responds: "She's a person. A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news."

I don't think that actually works as a journalistic aphorism, but as a line of dialog it has the distinction of potentially setting up either of Bones McCoy's signature lines: "She's dead, Jim"; or "Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a newsman!"

In any event, they defy ratings dude and hold off on the story. When the news comes moments later that Giffords is alive, a warm, self-satisfied glow encompasses the news staff. The horrific tragedy has a happy ending. Sometimes it takes the senseless slaughter of innocent people to make you realize what's really important: not having to issue an embarrassing retraction.

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