Goodwill: Where Rollerblades go to die.
First, some context: we are not especially devoted Seth MacFarlane fans. For a time we watched Family Guy semi-regularly and certainly were a part of that groundswell that helped resurrect the show from its premature grave. But do we consider ourselves MacFarlane evangelists or advocates? Not at all. We still haven’t seen Ted, and are not exceptionally eager to do so. We rarely watch American Dad and we can’t say for sure that we’ve ever caught an episode of The Cleveland Show. We were, however, impressed with his performance hosting the SNL premiere, and it demonstrated that not only could he do funny voices and write an off-color (and oft-humorous) joke, but he could also perform, and perform live, which is not always second nature for a writer-producer-voice actor. Did that mean we were thrilled to learn he was tapped to host this year’s Oscars? No, not really. We thought it was somewhat a knee-jerk, ill-advised decision (probably due, paradoxically, to his mess-up when presenting at the 2012 Emmys). But we knew, at least, that he could hold his own on stage, singing, dancing, cracking wise, and thinking on his feet. Was he going to offend some people? Probably. But that would come with the territory. Wouldn’t that be by design? If you wanted someone with only a love of musical theater and a flair for singing and dancing, then wouldn’t you just turn to Billy Crystal for a record 74th time? So, with Seth MacFarlane, that’s the package, that’s the deal (a faustian bargain, depending on your point of view): some dick and fart jokes and some mildly anti-Semitic and racist humor mixed with some sprinkles of old Broadway.
So were we surprised that MacFarlarne’s hosting turn this past Sunday night was met with a mix of disappointment and outright scorn? No, not at all. That was to be expected. But, after seeing the show, we were taken aback at the amount of criticism leveled at MacFarlane because, frankly, for someone who trades in abortion jokes and greased up deaf guys, we found his material relatively mild. It was almost as if we were watching a different show, different from the one that so much of the (tweeting) public found so repugnant, so misogynistic and racist and base. And, to our surprise, we found ourselves in MacFarlane’s corner. Not because we found his turn especially remarkable. But because it wasn’t that bad. And, more importantly, it wasn’t that vile.
There is no middle ground.
We’ve been diligently posting remixed Newsroom opening credits over on our sister site A Newsroom A Day, and we thought we would be remiss if we didn’t share today’s entry here. We think this is our favorite one so far, although it makes us miss Game of Thrones oh so much.
And while we’re on the subject of Game of Thrones mash-ups, we’d also be remiss if we didn’t use this opportunity to point you towards this brilliant GoT meets Parks and Recreation illustration done by our very close personal friend Steve Ponzo.
And, sadly, winter is coming.
As promised, we’re going to quickly dip our toes into the somewhat toxic pool of The Newsroom analysis. Like with any review or analysis, anything we say is ultimately futile and inconsequential, because, in the end, it’s not going to change the way you feel about the show, and it’s certainly not going to alter Aaron Sorkin’s vision or persuade him to reconsider his writing style. But in the case of The Newsroom, anything we say, any argument we make, feels especially meaningless in the wake of all the criticism and (less so) praise it’s received. But, hell, let’s be a Greater Fool and try anyway.
Let’s just say out of the gate that we like the show, and while that might put us in the minority we stand by our verdict. But what’s interesting or pertinent to us is not so much that we like it – or if it’s “good,” assuming there’s some kind of objective rubric which can calculate a show’s quality (which there’s not) – it’s the question of whether or not the show is worth watching. And we think the answer is: absolutely. Doesn’t that fact that the show seems to be so reviled (or snickered at) in so many corners yet still watched obsessively indicate there’s something of worth there? Certainly, The Newsroom doesn’t garner the same level of propulsive minute-by-minute Twitter reaction on Sunday evenings as Breaking Bad (nor does it come close to the AMC show’s unanimous, breathless praise), but it’s definitely one of the most talked about shows, even if much of that talk comes with head shaking, finger wagging and head scratching. And if the show was bad, unrelentingly terrible, it wouldn’t have lasted, or at least the discussion would have quieted down. We can’t imagine that if Work It had not been canceled after one week the din about its repugnancy would have continued. We would have had our fun and then watched it fade away, nary giving it another thought. But with The Newsroom the debate continued for ten episodes, and seemed to increase as we approached the season finale. Clearly, people were entertained by the show. Which, we certainly concede, isn’t necessarily the same as enjoying the show.
We joke a lot on this blog about people ripping us off – Stephen Colbert, Entertainment Weekly, Paul F. Tompkins (which resulted in a bitter Twitter feud) – but when were never as wounded as we were when we saw a new Vulture post presenting their “Map of the Comedy Zeitgeist.” Why did we find this so alarming, so soul crushing? Well, because it’s essentially an updated (and much, much prettier) version of our Judd Apatow Chart, which we used to launch this blog those three years ago. Sure, the idea that there are these overlapping connections in the comedy world, most of which are tethered to the likes of Apatow, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Paul Rudd, has been oft-explored for several years now. But never before has there been a graphic representation that feels so close to ours, so similar (and yet so much more visually appealing). Thus, we will not rest until we receive the credit we are due. In protest we will continue to read, appreciate and occasionally steal from Vulture.
Are we being paranoid? Hyperbolizing? Take a look and you decide.