Written By: Richard E. Robbins
Draft Date: January 21, 2009
Category: Jury's Out
OMFG IT'S THE LAST ONE. Breathe, Travis, breathe!
TV shows (and movies) about journalism are hard. They're about intrepid reporters after a story. After the truth. Uncovering the truth. The audience has to follow an investigative process that, end of the day, is about a scoop. Not necessarily solving a murder or curing a disease. The stakes, general wisdom goes, are just lower when your show is about reporters instead of cops or doctors... and that's a big reason why there aren't any shows right now about reporters.
Inside the Box does an admirable job trying to add that ingredient - stakes - by setting itself firmly in the world of politics and following a set of reporters for the Washington bureau of NNC (gee, what could that possibly be alluding to?) It's a world of scandals, world leaders, and of policy. Of course, it's all fictional but I'm sure that won't stop ItB from doing its own swine flu-esque episode or a story about a Republican senator switching parties, just to pull a couple gems from today's news circuit. The trick, of course, will be to make each story reflective of the personal lives of various members of the news crew.
The main character of ItB is Catharine Powell. She runs things. She is whip-smart and hard-nosed, and has a fantasy of what journalism ought to be able. She cares. And she's passed over for the position of Washington Bureau Chief in favor of Kenneth Donnegan, formerly of the BBC, because he "brings the sizzle." Of course, journalistically, Catherine hates him because he turned Newsnight into Inside Edition, and personally because she's worked too damn hard, dammit! She'll suck it up, though, and be part of his team. It even turns out that Kenneth isn't the soft/junk-news guy she gives him credit for.
Other characters in and around the newsroom.
The main story being broken in the pilot is confirming the appointment of a Republican to the Supreme Court by the President. Turns out the guy as an illegitimate child. Do we break the story (ethically... should we)? Do we use it to our advantage in trying to get statements from various parties to that we can be the first to break the news that he's being confirmed? Or to nail an interview?
That, my readers, is why journalism sometimes doesn't work. The goals aren't always altruistic. It's not necessarily about breaking the story or about the fallout of the story being broken and its affect on people's lives... it's breaking the story first.
Which is why it's so important we feel for these characters and, to that end, I think the script succeeds. I think people will respond to these people, to the internal office politics, friendships, and to the relationships between everyone. We have characters at all levels of the totem pole, from Kenneth as bureau chief to Catherine, a producer, to Sam(antha), a seasoned reporter, Jake, a lower level producer, Kyle, first day on the job as White House correspondent (he's sleeping with the Press Secretary to boot), to a group of four entry-level peons (two of whom, Priya and Molly, prove themselves in the episode). It's a wide cross-section that should allow the news stories to affect multiple characters in vastly different ways.
It's not a home run. But it could be a hit.