Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Will McAvoy stole the words right out of my mouth

On Sunday night following this week's episode of "True Blood", HBO launched "The Newsroom" with a one-hour premiere episode. You can watch this pilot for free without subscription on the HBO website.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the man behind this endeavor, Aaron Sorkin, he is the one that gave us the frank and sometimes disturbing movie "The Social Network" and the presidential drama "West Wing".
The opening title montage of the Newsroom is a throwback to nostalgia, looking back on an era of idealistic news broadcasters like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

The show opens with a tirade from Jeff Daniels who is in quite a departure from the role he played in "Dumb and Dumber". I have to say that I like this new role for Mr. Daniels. Now the afore-mentioned tirade I spoke of is sparked when Jeff in his role as Will McAvoy (in front of a room of journalism students) is asked to answer the question, "why would you consider America to be the greatest country on Earth?"

Here is the transcript of the answer in the form of a tirade. I have to say, that Jeff Daniels stole the words right out of my mouth, because I have been thinking these very same thoughts for some time now.
"And you—sorority girl—yeah—just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about?! Yosemite?!!!"
So why would I say I've been feeling this for some time? Well, despite my love for popcorn television, I'm also dismayed by the fact that some of my friends don't know who the vice-president of the United States is. I'm dismayed that Christian fundamentalist textbooks tout the Loch Ness monster as proof of Creationism and that these kids will become adults and believe this hogwash. You can find that article HERE if you don't believe me. I'm dismayed that there is a universal decline in literacy in this country and that we've gone from a country that used to support poor people to one that now attacks them. I'm dismayed at the partisan divide which has grown so wide, it is difficult for me to see how it will ever be fixed. I'm dismayed that we have the best colleges in the world, and Americans can no longer afford to attend them.

I'm looking forward to many more scenes like the opening of Aaron Sorkin's new drama on HBO because he has a proven track record of filming intelligently written dialog that will cause you to reflect upon the narrative piping in over your television every night. He also knows how to pick out and create memorable characters. This cerebral "popcorn" television may do nothing to ease any of the troubles that plague the United States (economy aside), but I can tell Will McAvoy is being written by someone who feels just like me.

Below you will find an embedded video of Neil DeGrasse Tyson expressing perfectly how I feel regarding the state of education within the United States right now. If you have time, please watch.
So...did you watch the Newsroom? And are you as frustrated as I at what is going on in our country right now? I look forward to reading your comments.


  1. I don't watch TV anymore. Not enough hours in the day. But I'll definitely check out that pilot episode of Newsroom.

  2. This has been pretty roundly trashed by the reviewers. A bit too preachy and talky, I think is the main complaint. And then there's all those who consider any anti-American sentiment to be verboten.

    He's a great writer, of course, but Studio 60 was pretty terrible, hopefully this won't go down that road.


  3. No HBO.
    No such thing as the Loch Ness Monster either. Been there. Didn't see him.

  4. I think the thing you mentioned that bothers me the most is the cost of college. Not to mention that when you get out of college, you most likely won't get a job in what you majored in. More and more people are believing college is a rip off and/or scam. I tend to agree.

    As for the educational statistics, I feel the obsession with them is what continues to ruin schools today. They keep trying to "fix" the system and they keep making it worse. Students need to be motivated to do well on their own. Instead, schools just keep forcing harder and impossible curriculum on kids. Pretty soon they'll be introducing algebra in first grade thinking it will help. Also keep in mind a lot of countries only report the statistics of their top students while the US includes everyone. Even those with learning disabilities.

  5. Still no HBO but Jeff Daniels is great. And multi-talented. I think he has a couple of albums out, though I'm not sure if they're on iTunes or anything. I think he has a theater company in Chelsea, which is closer to Ann Arbor than Detroit.

    Anyway, outside of the Olympics this "We're #1! USA USA!" stuff really has no place anymore. For most everyone "The American Dream" is just that, a dream they can't afford anymore because bigots being manipulated by giant multi-national corporations are more concerned with bringing people down than building them up.

  6. Sounds like a great series and the Will character has an excellent point. Any statement ending with "in the world" is relative.

    Not going to get into religious debate though. Although I will say that I do think that the extent that people go to "prove" creationism is quite... yeah... no non-rude words to describe what's on my mind so I'll just shut up.


  7. As a foreigner, I've always been a bit confused by the "We're number one!" rhetoric. You guys realise there is no actual ranking system?

    I think patriotism is fine. Blind patriotism is not -- not when it stops you from asking questions.

    When you look at some of the issues America faces, it looks less like patriotism to call yourselves the greatest country in the world, and more like ignorance.

    And that a first world country should be 178th in infant mortality? That's just wrong.

    If you don't acknowledge there is a problem, you can't fix it. That's true of nations as well as people, and that's where blind patriotism is dangerous.

  8. Didn't see the show, but it's true we're far from number one in a lot of things. I believe our little experiment in Democracy is still one of the greatest things about America, but I think if we leaned a little more Socialist at times, we'd likely increase our standing in a lot of other areas too, like education and mortality rates. The "every man for himself" attitude isn't helpful.

  9. Watched it, loved it, but we're still fucked.

  10. I haven't watched it yet. Hubby DVR'd it, but I'm in editing mode. I hope to take a break tonight and watch it.

  11. I didn't get to see the premiere episode, but I did watch an interview with Sorkin and Daniels. I can tell it's a show I would like to watch. HBO tends to run the eopisodes several times, so maybe I'll see it before show #2.

  12. I couldn't read your post because I have recorded this show and am planning on watching it this evening. West Wing was one of my favorite programs so I have high hopes.

  13. HBO has actually posted the video on Youtube for free. I watched it twice. It's actually a pretty good movie all by itself and the tone is perfect.


    My only fear is Sorkin will make the politics too left leaning which will allow the right to dismiss it. They will probably do it anyway but I'd love to see something similar to the way Jon Stewart covers the news.

  14. I haven't seen the show. I love Jeff Daniels, but I'm not a big fan of talking heads from real-life network television let alone a show on HBO.

  15. wowzer, that really was an amazing answer!
    "We lead the world in defense spending where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies"
    I bet most people didn't even get the implication of the second part of the sentence..... :(

  16. Only got up to the title card when trying to watch it last night, but I'll have to catch the rest later this week. Shows promise.

  17. Great video.

    Dinosaurs on Noah's Ark? Seriously???

  18. Okay, that does it. I gotta break down and get HBO.

    Having grown up on Cronkite and other journalists who were expected to spend years working as war correspondents, etc. before they were allowed to become anchors makes me cringe when I see what passes for news on a lot of channels today. Don't even get me started on Fox News with their brain-damaged "reports."

    As for the Jeff Daniels' rant -- those statistics are more accurate than a lot of Americans would like to admit. Years ago, when I and my sister were young, she went from a private high school with famously high standards to one in Ireland. She had to come back after one year because she couldn't catch up. The Irish school required four years of two foreign languages, and the Irish students also had to study Irish. She found that she was more than year behind in math, and so on. Judging by stories from my Irish cousins and their kids, the Irish-American gap is even bigger these days. Yet the Irish educational system isn't as good as the Finnish one (just as one example).

    Thanks too for the Neil DeGrasse clip. I love that man. Any teacher who believes that Noah and his ark and the flood were real should be banned from going anywhere near a classroom. Where the hell do fundamentalist Christians (as opposed to the intelligent ones) get off interpreting such Biblical myths as literal? For *!# sake, even rabbis teach that the stories in Genesis are metaphorical, not literal! Heard of any Jewish scientists lately who push for creationism? Of course not.

  19. I'm not American, so I'm not sure how to comment, exactly. There are a lot of issues crammed into that (amazing) quote and this post. I will say that the more I observe the world of politics, the less confidence I have that voting means a damn thing. Do you want puppet number one or puppet number two? Punch or Judy?

    Until people start taking responsibility for themselves and their communities, things will continue to be pure crap, in my opinion.

  20. I'm glad I don't live in America any more.

  21. Jeff Daniels is an amazingly versatile actor, and one of my favorites.

    I think it's possible to love this country (I do) without being elitist about it, and pointing out the country's flaws is a healthy thing to do so long as that leads to positive thinking about ways to fix it rather than simply America-bashing.

    As far as political parties -- lets throw them both out and start over.

    Guess we've got whackos on both sides of the religious fence, but I don't see how believing in angels could be a bad thing.

  22. I didn't watch it but I am frustrated with the state of the country right now. I'm not sure there's any real solution to the problems. They just seem too big for me.

  23. I love Jeff Daniels. The first role I ever saw him in was Terms of Endearment. And I loved him in Pleasantville.

    Yes, the state of the country demoralizes me. A lot.

  24. Just watched the first few minutes of Newsroom. Loved the scene and want to watch the whole episode as soon as I can. Thanks!


  25. And by the way... WTF! I can't watch any videos on Firefox! On your blog and in my email today I have had links to videos and I can't watch any of them, they just won't load and don't say why. I went to Chrome and no problem. So irritating!!

  26. @Helena - Your point about your sister and the Irish school system is revealing. Mike's post got me to research the facts on this once again.

    The last comparison had American students perform close to their counterparts at a young age but but by 8th grade they fell into the lowest quartile. The US makes up ground by 12th grade but only because most countries at the top of the list teach a full curriculum in 10-11 years so they aren't listed.

    There's a lot of blame and everyone should be included. Schools always need more funding but the biggest issue IMO is we've lowered expectations. Parents have made their kids so coddled/entitled that we've made it difficult for teachers to demand better. On the flip side teachers unions have made it impossible for administrations make effective change. Administrations are bloated beasts which eventually need more money which means more taxes/upset parents. This also causes laid off teachers based on a seniority system that is badly flawed. It's a recipe for disaster and our results are exactly what you'd expect.

  27. With all due respect to Mr. Sorkin, many great men believed angels were real and were guided by their faith in doing extraordinary things for humankind.

  28. This comment might be about to make me seem like a really horrible person...

    As an advanced student in my school system, I don't think most of the kids in my classes should be in advanced classes, not that there's a big difference between advanced and regular. But they have to be because the kids in regular should be in remedial. And I hate it when an advanced class is not offered for a required subject because I just can't handle the level of ignorance and lack of work habit of the people in regular classes. Personally, I think the No Child Left Behind Act is the source of many of our education problems. Might as well have called it the Make Our Country Stupider Act.