This year, a new series airs on HBO: The Newsroom, an American political drama produced and created by Aaron Sorkin. Yet another, lesser known series by the same name was made in Canada by writer, producer, actor and author of Noah’s Turn (2010) Ken Finkleman in the mid-90s, a comedy that focused on the fictional production of the unnamed station’s nightly news program, City Hour.
Being, after all, a media student, I find this show is a much more relevant piece of work than many of the examples shown in classes on the distrustful and often downright absurdity of the media world. Pseudo stories, narrative news, the Fourth Estate and other such media-related issues are all in some way addressed in this show, brought into a comedic light by the employees’ blatant and utter disregard for authenticity and humanity.
Finkleman’s character, George Findlay, an enjoyably narcissistic, misanthropic yet highly intelligent and humorous TV exec, brings to the Newsroom a refreshing albeit immoral character to marvel and laugh at. In the first episode, Walking Shoe Incident (1996) which was awarded a Silver Spire at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1997, the opening scene shows Findlay and his cronies discussing a train crash into the Congo river. The discussion centres around the specific words and phrases used for the story; ‘Piranha ridden Congo’ or ‘Piranha infested Congo?’ In a bid to ‘localise’ the story, we see the newsmen hoping a Canadian was one of the 200 dead, hopefully eaten by what Findlay now specifies as a Piranha-like fish. Are there even Piranhas in the Congo?, his colleague asks. This is the stuff journalism, in the same dark vein as Australia’s Frontline, is made of. Only, of course, the Canadians did it better. While dodging phone calls from his mother and battling for an assistant to run errands for him, Findlay struggles to return a pair of shoes that continue to stigmatise him.
Executed without canned laughter or fancy lighting, the show’s key is its simplicity, aiding its approach to the reality of newsrooms. Introduced to me a while back by a friend after I mentioned my foray into Media, I feel that this show is an exemplary case of the contemporary state of the news at its most basic (and hilarious) level. If not for the genuine and understated comedy of the show itself, virgin viewers should get a kick out of watching something relatively unknown to wider audiences, despite being a popular show in Canada, though largely ignored in the US. This show should be screened in more Media classes at universities.
The series ran for three seasons and, if you don’t have a friend who owns the collection, Amazon has them quite cheaply. You won’t find them in any commercial store, and this is testament to its underappreciated status despite being a fine comedy show.