TV producer Aaron Sorkin has denied that the fictional news anchor on his new drama The Newsroom is based on a real journalist. Critics claim it’s a thinly-disguised portrait of Keith Olbermann. Sorkin says no way. So it’s probably Keith.
Got me thinking. For all its dramatic possibilities, journalism doesn’t get a lot of fictional interpretations on TV. Some, yes. But reporters are nowhere near as common as detectives or doctors or ghosts (or that doctor/ghost/detective on Saving Hope).
Which sucks. I may be biased, but some of my fave TV characters of all time are newsmen. Grumpy newsmen mostly, but lovable if they could just be understood by the world dammit. I got feelings! I feel pain!
Uh…sorry. Got a little off track there. Where was I? Right. Here’s a sampling of my journalistic TV faves:
LOU GRANT – MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (1970-1977)/LOU GRANT (1977- 1982) – First he was a gruff and funny TV news producer (on the classic comedy Mary). Then he was a dramatic and crusading newspaper editor on a very good drama (Lou Grant). I liked both. And I loved the use of the Courier font in the opening credits of Lou Grant. The all-time classic, hard-drinking, sleeves-rolled up newsman:
KARL KOLCHAK – THE NIGHT STALKER (1974-1975) – Pity poor reporter Kolchak. He’d spend a whole episode chasing vampires, werewolves and headless bikers. He’d almost get killed. But then his darn editor wouldn’t publish the story because it lacked “credibility”. Aw, come on. Want some advice Karl? Work for a tabloid:
JOHN (BOY) WALTON – THE WALTONS (1972-1981) – John Boy always wanted to be a writer. That’s clear from the opening credits. He even bought a printing press so he could publish The Blue Ridge Chronicle. Later, he won a writing contest and got to cover the landing of the Hindenburg. It did not go well. Actually, as a journalist, it was kind of a big story. You might have heard about it. Always loved that moment in the opening where John Boy is writing – and suddenly his face lights up with a really good idea! Or a dirty joke. See what you think:
J. JONAH JAMESON – SPIDERMAN (1967-1970) – Newspaper editor Jameson was an angry, raging cheapskate who didn’t trust people in masks. He hated Spiderman, yet made his living off publishing his antics – particularly the suspiciously focused, close-up shots supplied by teen photog Peter Parker. I don’t think J. Jonah had much of a home life. In this episode, he became a super villain to catch the pesky web-slinger:
SLAP MAXWELL – THE SLAP MAXWELL STORY (1987-1988) – Slap (Dabney Coleman) was an old-school sports columnist (column name – “Slap Shots”) who inevitably got punched in the nose at the beginning of each episode. Guess it must have been a good story. Despite his out-of-date ways, he still got the hot babes. Oh I wish that were true in real life. Here’s a weird promo that appears partly improv’d. Neat:
LOIS LANE – THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (1952-1958) -A female reporter? Get out! Lois – sort of a non-neurotic Murphy Brown – was a tough chick who always seemed to get the scoop on Superman. Well, except the part where she figured out who he really was. “Clark? Where’s Clark? He’s missing a good story”:
STEPHEN COLBERT – THE COLBERT REPORT (2005- ) – It’s a tough satirical trick to appear so conservative that you actually make the opposite point you are saying. I have a feeling a lot of people don’t get that this news commentator is a joke (viewers not being adept at satire). But so what? Along with Jon Stewart, this fictional newsman has had a real influence on the political scene in America, which is a little scary: