Weeks ago, when the pilot of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom was seen by critics/bloggers, there was an vicious outcry about how bad it was. Reviews were so harsh, especially given the hype surrounding the trailer for the series, that it seemed as if the collective Internet was calling for Sorkin’s head on a plate, just like people called for Damon Lindelof’s head at the end of Lost. Still, plenty of people have a polar opposite opinion of The Newsroom and enjoy it just like they enjoyed The West Wing. This is one of many ways in which a divisive joke reference is formed.
It’s not hard to imagine that, whether it be a comedian on stage or a friend at a bar after work in the middle of a story, someone might condescendingly say, “I mean, they’re the type of person who loves The Newsroom.” Some of those jokes or stories might be funny and some might be hilarious, but, undoubtedly, that reference would be poking fun at something that someone likes, which is, at least for a time, part of their identity and perspective.
Already, there are people who are not so much apologists as people who just apologize for watching The Newsroom like it’s a form of shame eating in which they feed of the ramblings of an alcoholic Sam Waterston. They just can’t wait for the next Sorkin-esque argument to follow the one that took place 5 minutes earlier, watching from underneath a blanket, under the illusion that they’re hidden, with nobody able to see them watch The Newsroom.
It’s a weird concept that watching an hour long drama TV series about a news show (hardly a snuff film fetish) is something for which you can be ridiculed, or have to be self-deprecating about. Yet, as this is an artistic product sent out through the medium of television for public consumption, whether The Newsroom is bad or good or something at which to vomit hateful words or have as a guilty pleasure becomes a matter of taste.
There are people that really loved Rob Schneider’s The Animal, which has held a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes for years. They’re real. I’ve met them and, then, never talked to them again. Similarly, there are people who probably dismiss my cinematic tastes because I throughly enjoyed The Tree of Life, like my little sister, who proceeded to scream at me for an hour about how “nothing happened” after we left the theater. From whatever show, movie, band, etc. you like, there’s going to be someone who hates it with a passion, and with that dynamic, there will always be a joke. That’s how humor works. It’s succinct commentary on two opposing sides of a concept that somehow exist in a reality of sorts (i.e. there is something that strikes someone as off within the context of a reality, fabricated or legitimate, or shouldn’t be, and yet, is).
In this case, The Newsroom could be a reference for people who have no discerning taste in what they watch, or people who like watching a bunch of screaming, or even people who have a Jeff Daniels obsession, as these would be the only reasons to watch a TV show so “bad.” In all likelihood, it’s a timely cultural reference that will pass, or maybe The Newsroom will become better and the context for the reference will change, but a joke about The Newsroom will alienate someone who likes The Newsroom just like a joke about Asians driving will alienate someone who likes good comedy.
As that’s the case, the idea of trying to not offend anyone with comedy is ludicrous. If a joke is almost across-the-board funny, it will still might be offensive to the people that are the butt of the joke, but they might laugh anyway because it was, above all, including their morals and values, just that funny.