I mean it, it’s different this time. It’s really special. You wouldn’t understand.
I’m going to take a page from Aaron Sorkin’s book and tell you why smarter people than I am are absolutely wrong.Pierce:
Cronkite did his famous “We are mired in a stalemate” in 1968, which was about six years at least after said stalemate was obvious to people like Neil Sheehan. A year after Cronkite’s broadcast, a solid plurality of Americans polled were still in favor of “total military victory,” whatever the hell that meant, and the war groaned on for four more years, more than 20,000 more dead Americans, and god alone knows how many more dead Asian peasants. Murrow certainly contributed to Joseph McCarthy’s downfall, but not as much as Joseph Welch did, and Murrow did it while still hosting a show where he had to ask Liberace when he was planning to get married. Sorkin is so attached to his own personal Great Man theory that he applies it retroactively to events most of his audience is old enough to have lived through, and, at those moments, he seems to be relying on the general American historical amnesia so many of his characters spend so much time decrying.
Here’s what I think this is. I don’t think it’s clinging to something that never was, though that certainly wouldn’t be unusual. That’s us, guys, that’s everybody all the time about everything. I think it’s this: We don’t remember the war the way the war happened. We remember the war the way we have to in order to survive the next one. And plenty of people in the news business have decided not to survive the next one, and the people who are left aren’t doing so great, so maybe it’s time for a story or two.
People I already want to kiss with tongue: Jim Harper, understanding that your sister and your college roommate are also your sources and so you WILL use them if you have to. Mackenzie, defying my dislike of the name Mackenzie for its overuse, being what if Leo McGarry was a woman and for saying that she was Don Quixote and Will was the horse. Maggie. Oh, my God, Maggie. I need a Maggie in my life. Who wants to be my Maggie? I promise to remember your name and not throw stuff at you.
CHARLIE. Charlie, Charlie, glorious Charlie, I am already over the moon. I fucking loved every second he was on the screen, I kicked my feet with joy. Part of the crack-up that was Studio 60 was that it wanted to be this show and wasn’t, true, but part of it was also that it lacked the heavy center, the perspective point, the person who came along and said you know what, fuck your adolescent bullshit. Sports Night, the only other show I’ve ever seen get a newsroom dynamic right, had Isaac, who served that purpose.
(I’m still on the fence about the whole “setting the story in the recent past” trick; it’s good because you don’t need a lot of context, but the “ripped from the headlines” thing could get old. This was the first ep. I’m being patient with it.)
Will. Of course Will is problematic. He’s tremendously problematic. Sorority girl, really? PUNJAB? Here’s the thing: This isn’t a show about nice people. I don’t think Will is supposed to be the hero. I think he’s supposed to be the center. Pierce compares Charlie to Jed Bartlet but I found Will to be closer to Mr. President: The guy who everybody is busting their asses for, who really can be a total jackass when you get right down to it. Nobody that powerful isn’t a motherfucker in a lot of ways, because our society doesn’t hand you power for being quietly decent. I don’t think we’re supposed to admire Will, which is great because I spent the whole episode wanting to kick him in the dick.
I think the weight of this settled in at the end when Charlie said it:And then I remembered: I run a news division.All the nostalgia in the world is pointless unless you use it to fuel your actions here and now. Longing for the good old days is bullshit unless you’re committed to creating them in the present, and you have the power to do that and it is a sin if you do not. You remember a time when we didn’t suck? Me too. It’s called TOMORROW, and you can start by not sucking yourself. These are choices we’ve made. Stop pretending they’re inevitabilities when they are excuses.
I hope the show doesn’t undersell that. I hope the show is about that, because I’ve been jonesing for a show about that for a period of time known as MY ENTIRE LIFE.