Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Loving the Sound of Story

By Dave White

I've just finished watching THE NEWSROOM. If you haven't heard of it, it's Aaron Sorkin's newest series for HBO, about a News Television show who decide to do the news the "right way."

The series has been, apparently, pretty popular, though the critics don't love it. And I can understand why. The characters often defy logic, the romantic tension is often silly and overwrought, and sometimes the fictional characters dealing the real life news gets a bit silly.

But I found myself watching the series, despite these faux pas. Why? Because of the sound. I've never been a huge Sorkin fan, never found myself dying to watch his shows. I've seen SPORTS NIGHT, and liked it. But I've never watched THE WEST WING or any of his other shows.

So, I guess I didn't know exactly what I was getting myself into. But very quickly, I was drawn in. All because of the dialogue. It was snappy, funny, and often poignant. It was great to listen to.

Like music.

And, it reminded me of something. It reminded me of why I still read Spenser, even after I'd realized Parker wasn't in his prime anymore. I liked the way the books sounded. I didn't need the greatest plot. I didn't mind that Spenser, Susan and Hawk were doing the same thing over and over again.

Because I still got the laughs. I got the fun. I loved flipping the pages.

And, sometimes, isn't that what matters?

I will keep tuning into THE NEWSROOM, even though-on occasion... several occasions-I found myself rolling my eyes. I liked what the show tried to say and I liked the way it was said.

And I even might try to track down some prime Sorkin, so I can really listen to the music.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's because I'm a movie person more than a TV person, but I think prime Sorkin is in his movies. A Few Good Men, The Social Network, Moneyball, and Charlie Wilson's War are great examples of what you're talking about without as much of the crap that weighs him down in TV. Though I did love SportsNight.

Henry Dane said...


I never watched THE WEST WING or NORTHERN EXPOSURE, but I really loved his short-lived STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP -- even the title is dialogue heavy! Great characters and hilarious dialogue. The pilot opens with a great homage to his hero, Paddy Chayefsky's NETWORK. (If you saw his Oscar acceptance speech for SOCIAL NETWORK's adapted screenplay, you know what I mean.)

I, too, love the Spenser novels, and just re-read the entire series. I have to disagree that Parker was EVER past his prime. He just changed his focus from story (in the early books) to dialogue, which I think got snappier with every book. If you get a chance, try Ace Atkins's first shot at a Spenser novel in LULLABYE, and you'll see how refined Parker's sense of dialogue truly was.

I also recommend IN PURSUIT OF SPENSER, which starts off with a great tribute by Atkins, and follows with two excellent essays by Dennis Lehane, and Lawrence Block, who's brilliant take on "voice" and why the series should have ended with Parker is worth the price of the book.

PS: Congratulations on your new son!

Dana King said...

I agree 100% about Parker. He went through a period of several years where I felt as though he was just mailing them in, but I still read most of them because the rapport between Spenser and Hawk (and Belson, and Quirk, and Vinnie, and...) was so much fun to read.

Thanks for the heads up on IN PURSUIT OF SPENSER. I hadn't heard of it, but it sounds like its's worth looking into,

pattinase (abbott) said...

Bryon is so right about the movies. I think he functions better outside of the political arena narratives where he is less likely to turn didactic. The words are still there in the political shows but he gets caught up in seeing the world as all black and white. In preaching in other words.