I did something last night I rarely do. I watched television: specifically, the premier of the new HBO television series, Newsroom.
It may not sound like a big deal to those of you who watch television, but television and especially serialized dramas are a luxury I refuse to allow myself. Evenings are when I read or write or research or plan or develop or sometimes just sit and think, and lately there hasn’t been a lot of ‘thought provoking’ or even entertaining television to watch.
I’m not sure the majority of so-called reality shows would or could qualify as ‘thought provoking.’ So far, none of the ones I’ve forced myself to watch have. I certainly don’t have to watch the glut of reality shows currently filling the airwaves to immerse myself in drama if that’s what I choose to do with my time. All I have to do is show up at the shop and I have my own ‘reality show: a show I get to produce, direct, star in, and, yes, even watch!
Aside from that, I don’t want to get hooked on something I know I won’t have the time to watch because I’ve dedicated that time to something else. It’s too frustrating and I’m at a point in my life where frustration almost always degenerates into anger or resentment.
Consequently, I aggressively avoid watching television of any kind.
I’ve been marginally successful. That is, up until last night. Last night the fates conspired against me. I tried to write, but couldn’t find the melody or the rhythm I was looking for. I tried to read, but couldn’t quiet the noise in my head sufficiently to concentrate. So, I took my shower and got ready for bed just in time to watch the last twenty minutes of Newsroom. It was riveting. It was intelligently written. It was timely. It was provocative. It was, in fact, just about everything television could be. Or, more appropriately, could have been and isn’t.
I had a long list of things I wanted to do after dinner this evening… Important things, like finishing a column, scripting a new webcast, developing an idea for a colleague and the association we both belong to. Instead, I pulled Newsroom up on the DVR to catch what I had missed and instead watched it from beginning to end.
There are lots of things I could say about it, but I think I’ll stick with the two that impacted me the hardest: the two that have the most to say to us as a people, a country and a culture. The first spins off what I think may have been the first episode’s title: “We just decided to…” And, the second, has to do with a message the female lead had for Jeff Daniels, the male lead: “It’s Not… But, It Could Be.”
You’re going to have to watch the pilot on HBO or search for it on YouTube or someplace else to see how Aaron Sorkin, the writer, managed to weave those two ideas into the story line. I’ll just tell you that it’s worth the effort. Then, I’ll let you know what they had to say to me.
“It’s Not… But, It Could Be!” spoke to a realistic assessment of where we are as a nation: as a people. You and I could just as easily use that phrase to assess where we are as an industry. It’s not the best industry or the most satisfying. It’s not the most profitable or the most rewarding. At least, not for the majority of those who struggle just to get by day-to-day. But, it could be…
It could be if we put aside our differences and instead focused on the things that we have in common: that we can all agree on. It could if we found a way to celebrate our shared values instead of focusing on the issues that divide us.
How do you do that? I think it’s probably clear that we have the knowledge: the understanding. We just need to decide to do something with that knowledge. The fact of the matter is, we just need to DO SOMETHING!
The same can be said of or for our Nation. We aren’t what we once were… One nation indivisible.
We may be better than most, but we seem to have lost sight of what we could be. The fact of the matter is, we could be better: in many ways, for many of our people. But, to regain that greatness we need huge, virtually unattainable goals: goals so big our differences become inconsequential in their shadow.
Then, all we would have to do is decide: decide to move forward… as individuals, as an industry, as a Nation, as a People.
It’s risky to suggest we aren’t what we could be, that we have not realized our potential: that we’ve somehow become lost along the way. I’m sure there are many who would disagree. But, as a diagnostician: a pragmatist, I look at the possibilities each set of beliefs drags along with it before making a decision.
Continually striving to achieve: to reach unattainable heights, achieve impossible goals, provide unparalleled freedoms has brought us to this moment. The kind of arrogance that suggests there are no more mountains to climb, no more challenges to confront: that all is left is desperately clinging to what once was leaves us all with only one direction in which move.
Watch Newsroom, then tell me what you think ‘isn’t,’ but could be. Tell me what we should decide to do: as an industry or for our Nation.
Till then… Stay well. Take Care. Make money. Have fun. And, don’t do business with anyone you don’t like… There’s probably a good reason you don’t like ’em and you don’t really need to find out what that reason is!
Great post Mitch. My wife and I watched the pilot episode last night and we immediately thought “It’s not but it can be” should go viral – not only in this country but around the entire world. There isn’t a single country that is currently striving to be the best it can be – just the most powerful or the richest or the meanest. I fear that human beings will never figure out that we’re all in this together. Here’s the link to The Newsroom clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88XP4fAyV6o