what i watched last week
land of hope and commercials

true blood and the newsroom, season finales

It’s taken me a couple of days to get this up, because Robin didn’t get home until Tuesday in the late afternoon, which means we watched them Tuesday evening. What’s sad is that waiting two days barely mattered.

I no longer have much in the way of expectations for Alan Ball’s True Blood. I assume it will be incoherent, and uninterested in anything beyond immediate sensation (meaning plot threads are started and abandoned at will, often without resolution). It will make klutzy attempts to parallel the prejudices of the real world to the fantasy world of the show, none of which will carry any resonance. And it will always have lots of beautiful men and women getting nekkid and having sex, and it will always have lots of vampire gore, and thus, it will always be worth watching, even or perhaps especially because in the end, it’s not worth watching. True Blood is a superb example of enjoyable junk.

The Newsroom aspires to so much more, and while I always liked Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under, I never thought it was a great series (great epilogue, though). Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night, though, was one of my very favorite series, and I liked The West Wing about as much as I liked Six Feet Under, until I gave up on it after Josh yelled at a building early in Season Five. My point is that I looked forward to The Newsroom with great enthusiasm, and when the show tended to give us the worst of Sorkin without enough of the best, I was disappointed. The good Sorkin is very good, indeed, and while I often thought of giving up on the show, I never followed my impulses, and I’ll likely be back for Season Two. But I wanted The Newsroom to be different from the True Bloods of Television. I didn’t want it to be something I watched for the two or three good things each episode that got me through the other 45 minutes.

But that never happened. Most of the characters on The Newsroom are infuriating and unlikable (I liked almost every character on Sports Night). Everyone gives rousing speeches that would sound great coming out of the mouth  of Aaron Sorkin, but since he is supposedly writing dialogue for individual characters with differences, the speeches, which all sound like Aaron Sorkin, don’t work. He creates interesting female characters and then undermines them every chance he gets, making them clumsy, socially inappropriate, stupid, anything but professional.

The sad thing is, Sorkin writes great dialogue, and he is terrific at what is best called “banter”. But when the banter takes place between unlikable characters, it’s not so terrific.

In the end, the best things on HBO between 9 and 11 PM on Sundays the past couple of months have been the trailers for Treme. Grade for True Blood and The Newsroom: B-.