So everyone's complained about how it's hard to get into a show that puts a sketch comedy show as vital to American life. I do think Sorkin just picked the wrong topic as it's hard to get behind Hollywood stars. So all of a sudden, I thought of a show that might have done better...
We open at a top newscast (still wondering if it’s cable or network) and a montage of the events. We see the top story is the verdict of a celebrity trial, the entertainment correspondent talking as if it’s the Nuemberg war trials. We see the female anchor, once a top reporter but now simply doing puff pieces while showing off her legs. We have the sports correspondent saying it’s the duty of Congress to serve America by investigating steroids in sports. We have the liberal and conservative pundists turning their “debate” into a screaming match with just opinions and no facts.
Finally, we meet a veteran anchorman about to finish his final broadcast. He begins calmly but then breaks away from the teleprompter to say that news today is a mess and it’s because of nights like this. He says the only person who gives real news is a comedian (I keep seeing Matthew Perry in the part so let’s call him Perry) whose “Daily Show” like program was just canned when he made cracks about the company that owned his network.
He slams the anchorwoman for letting herself be turned into “the news version of a Price is Right model”; the entertainment and sports people for assuming sports scores and box office numbers are vital information for Americans; the pundists for dividing people and making them think they have to be in one camp or another without any middle ground; and finally the audience, for not demanding anything better. He finishes by revealing he never wanted to retire but is being let go because he no longer appeals to young viewers. He then sardonically introduces his replacement: “He finished journalism school with the lowest grades possible, he has broken no major stories and has no awards. He does however appeal to the 18-35 female demographic. Edward R. Murrow once told me that the news was a vital part of the public’s appetite. Congrulations, America. You are what you eat.”
Naturally, the network is a tizzy as various papers and other news shows talk about how dead on the man was. The new president in charge of the show hits upon a bold idea: Hire Perry himself to be the new anchor, figuring if nothing else, it’ll bring in ratings. The network isn’t happy with the idea, nor is Perry who keeps arguing he’s a comedian.
Perry: “You don’t understand. I wasn’t doing a real news show.”
President: “Neither were we.”
Perry agrees to at least do a tour, on the set as a crisis breaks out in a city, massive fires all around with citizens in danger. Perry watches with dismay as the new anchor does a live interview with the governor, throwing softball questions and congraulations on how well things are going while camera feeds show people on burning rooftops, desperate for help. Unable to take it, a disgusted Perry storms on set and blasts the governor with questions, revealing the man has no clue what’s going on. Critics and online blogs hail his performance and he realizes he can do some good here. He takes the job on the condition his old producer and assistants come on board as well as soon become an Olberman-like reporter, making quips but still managing to bring the news to people.
Naturally, the rest of the crew is a bit thrown by all this. The anchorwoman decides to become more professional, now in suits and not as willing to do fluff pieces. A young reporter steps up to the plate with a big story that gets him attention. The entertainment and sports correspondents aren’t as happy, as they feel they’re getting the shaft when the producer wants to focus more on world affairs than Hollywood.
“It’s our job to give the people what they want.”
“No. Our job is to give the people what they need.”
There are other things like the two pundists who, despite constant bickering on and off set, keep falling into bed together. I imagine one bursting into the other’s dressing room, both screaming at the idiocy of the other’s decision while they take each other’s clothes off. And of course the chaos that goes behind making a newscast happen.
More than with “Studio 60,” this could make great comments on the importance of TV in daily life as the news is more important. You can have battles with network chiefs wanting to push a story on a big TV show or kill one that could hurt a sponser. They can also handle plots based on events like when a woman vanishes just before their wedding and Perry argues against assuming the fiancée killed her rather than she just got cold feet. Or a man confesses to a long-ago murder and the team works to prove he’s actually just trying to get attention while everyone else believes him.
Just imagine all that with Sorkin’s awesome ear for dialogue and observations. That could have been a kick-ass show that got some points across better than S60 has. Just my idea.