Dramatizing information that matters

I so wanted to hold back and do my review of this new HBO series when the first season is over, but after the fourth episode, I can’t help but comment already.

I just came from left a media organization that looks down on dramatizing the lives of media people because they said that kind of show doesn’t sell. In the Philippines, maybe, because they have (relatively) successfully “dumbed down” the Filipino audiences primetime shift after primetime shift, congratufuckinglations. But I refuse to believe the Pinoy audience, particularly their so-called “masa” audience, is that dumb. Read my lips: THE PINOY AUDIENCE IS NOT DUMB. That is why, again, I step out of these so-called “creative spaces” once more for their lack of creativity and general aesthetic appreciation in general. But that’s another blogpost.

“I’m on a mission to civilize.” – Will McAvoy. Actually, ako rin, beks. Ako rin. Apir. Relate.

But this is not about them. This is about this new show called The Newsroom. Who would be interested in watching a show about a super-niche population — people who produce a cable news night program — and follow their lives inside the office and outside? Come on, many dumber shows have been produced before about people who are less interesting than these news people. But seriously, if done well, any kind of population you put on television and watch the drama of their lives unfold — in connection with their personal and professional lives — will be a good show. Read my lips: IT WILL BE. That is what local drama bosses are still failing to realize, to this effin’ day. Hence, we walk out, again.

But this! This show! What can I say. Created by the person who made a seemingly simple conversations-over-a-conference-room arced film work and have that edgy feel. I’m talking about The Social Network (my review of that film here) or yeah, the taunted “Facebook movie.” Aaron Sorkin you’re the man. I just finished watching episode #4 of this series, the one where the news anchor (played brilliantly by Jeff Daniels) just learned that he is being set up to get fired, and then breaking news of a politician gets shot happens and he is pressured to declare the death of the victim, only to succeed in reporting that the politician survived. I swear, the intensity of this sequence made me tear up a bit. It was so simple yet it was dynamically done which made it so moving. This is why it is awesome. Just. Plain. Awesome.

Episode 4 pa lang, ulam na. Weaving in personal lives of these professionals, when done with humor and wit, makes you look forward to the next scenes and eps.

This particular episode resonated with me because it made me flashback to certain points in my life where similar or parallel moments happened. Maybe not as dramatic an unfolding, but still, it boils down to being “relate-able” which makes for good storytelling in the first place. Once, I made a documentary in tandem with another news person about people up north that touched upon the side issue of double migration, where the people who lived in the mountains were being forced to go down to Manila and in Manila are forced to look at options of working abroad for a better life. Of course we had to touch upon the issue of displacement, and mentioned militarization being one of the reasons why the mountain dwellers are being forced off their ancestral domain. But one of the head honchos of the media group disagreed with this side issue, saying that it was somewhat in bad taste that we included the militarization issue. In my mind, I thought we were making deeper documentaries than just your average human interest/feature fluff. But I guess that was what they wanted, nothing too political. I sort of got disappointed then and I got saddened that there was a call to “be safer.”

Great cast helps deliver the professional atmosphere of the show.

On the flip side, sometimes there are calls to be on the non-safe side, to be more on the offensive side, and some news bosses want all ammunition out. I once had a secret ammunition that gave us context and information about a current situation. This was when I was working in a newspaper during a former president’s impeachment time, very long ago.  I was able to get the trust of a former fling of this president who supplied us with stories, blind item fashion for her security, but one boss wanted me to out her to have more impact. Needless to say, I was torn between disobeying my boss and keeping my word to this source. The latter prevailed. People at the office secretly laughed behind my back for the loyalty I showed this source. Some of them had this “Artista lang ‘yan eh” mentality, which I secretly rebuffed as “Hindi ‘artista lang’ ‘yan, tao din ‘yan.” I knew it was a losing battle to air that thought out, so I didn’t. Sometimes, you also have to know when to shut up. Timing. The next day, I called in sick as a childish reaction, but it was really more of a personal protest.  A week after, all hell broke loose, the nation was security-cleared, and everything was on its way to getting back to “normal.” That was when I told them that she gave the permission to out her already, which they did. Happier stories came out after. Timing.

Moments. Try to pick moments like these, spice it up with drama, great non-ham acting, fast-paced editing to complement a dynamic shooting style, non-ham music scoring and air it. There you go. Seemingly simple and uninteresting moments in people’s lives could make for good television without being over the top. This is what The Newsroom does. This is what local television sorely misses. And if they do try to cash in on the US trend, they fail in imagination, big time. (Hello, that local Glee ripoff inspired show, remember? I rest my case.)

Of course nothing is perfect. If you haven’t been inside these arenas, have never been exposed to this kind of media work, or never saw things like these first-hand, then it could be alienating sometimes, but it could also be more interesting on the flip side. Hit and miss. It depends on how the makers will catch your fancy. That’s their gamble, but they put it out there anyway, for people who might want to take a look into this world and like it enough to watch it week after week. That’s good enough.

I think I want Mac’s job hehe (or maybe I just find her British accent sexy? Chos.). But seriously, last year, the offer of being an executive producer for a news agency was laid out in front of me as an option. I froze. I don’t think I could do this job because I never tried hard news before on TV. But now, this show is making me change my mind. Hmmmm let’s see da look if ever… But I also want a British accent ha. Pwedeh?

Content. It’s all about content sometimes most times. Never mind the audience; they will come. They always do. Just tell good damn fucking stories, and people who want to listen and watch will do so.

Sige Sorkin, go do your thing. I want more.

Thank you for the long weekend Pinas. I’m hole-ing in with this, man.



~ by leaflens on August 19, 2012.

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