The Death of Smart

This image released by HBO shows Jeff Daniels in a scene from the HBO original series, "The Newsroom."  HBO announced Monday,
This image released by HBO shows Jeff Daniels in a scene from the HBO original series, "The Newsroom." HBO announced Monday, July 2, 2012, it's bringing back “The Newsroom” and “True Blood” each for another season. “The Newsroom,” created and written by Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin, has won a green light for a second season after just two episodes have aired. Though getting mixed reviews from critics, the show attracted a healthy audience for its premiere, totaling 2.1 million viewers. Set at a cable news network, “The Newsroom” features Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill and Sam Waterston. (AP Photo/HBO, Melissa Moseley)

"Well, it's fare-thee-well, my dear, I'm bound to leave you."

Ethically, I must warn you that this post contains spoilers from "Oh Shendandoah", the 24th episode of HBO's series, The Newsroom.

Morally, I hope this post spoils much more than that.

After watching this episode over and over, I still don't know what upsets me more. The death of Charlie Skinner, moral center of the show. The fact that The Newsroom is one episode away from being over and I will miss it terribly. Or that Aaron Sorkin turned 24 episodes of cable drama into a master class on ramming one's fist up the media's ass while barely moving the needle on any real societal change.

But then again, that's the point he's been making with this whole exercise: That in the Internet age, nothing can slow journalism's inexorable downward spiral away from professionalism, integrity and truth so put it out of its misery already. I just didn't expect Sorkin himself to pull the trigger.

Smart is dead. Bring on the flying monkeys.

There's some personal symmetry to writing about The Newsroom's penultimate episode when one of my first HuffPo blogs ("In Defense of Smart") was published after episode 1, season 1. There's also some karmic balance between how haters have treated Aaron Sorkin during the last 3 seasons and how he clearly intends to end the show with the biggest and most overtly petulant Fuck You he can bring. Conceptually, I want to applaud what Sorkin has done with The Newsroom in the last five episodes. The writing has been some of his very best and we've dug even deeper into his favorite themes of smart=good and fighting for the truth vs accepting the lowest common denominator. I am obviously The Newsroom's biggest fan and target audience, so I'm sure haters expect to take my thoughts with a pile of salt taller than Lot's wife.

Not so fast, Skippy. Have a seat.

While my love of Aaron Sorkin's writing remains intact regardless of how often language, scenarios and character archetypes repeat throughout his repertoire, I'm really at a loss right now. This season has jammed so many plot lines, intra-office relationships, and ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling tropes into each of the remaining episodes that I am struggling to keep up the Sorkin Defense. Given this last episode's ham-fisted time-out worthy tantrum, I think it's time to call bullshit.

Yes, I absolutely hate that there's no news in the news anymore but is that technology's fault? Not even close, Aaron. While society's porous blood/brain barrier allowed social media to seep in like a virus, we all know that the weakness existed long before. I don't watch the news anymore because my trust in both content and source has eroded and I've been hoping for a hero to step up and help make of sense it all. I thought The Newsroom and it's "mission to civilize" would be one of those champions but it just gave up on us. Sorkin's seething hated of Internet technologies and outrage over their effect on journalism makes him look like a cranky old man telling a pack of rowdy kids to get off his lawn. We are dying for a clarion voice in the wilderness to guide us. Instead we got heartbreak (literally). Now we all lose.

Some TV shows wrap up their tenure with a "love letter to" type of sendoff. It's clear that The Newsroom is planning to douse the place with kerosene and light a match. Lets hope that there's still enough intelligence left in the pablum-fed audience out there to mourn the actual loss it represents rather than instagramming the crowd dancing naked in its ashes.