Remember HBO’s The Newsroom? I wish I didn’t. But with the 18th anniversary of 9/11, an especially cursed clip from the first season of that especially cursed show has been making the rounds on social media again.
To give context to the scene: a bunch of staffers on the show, led by Thomas Sadoski’s character Don Keefer, are on a plane. They know that Osama bin Laden has been killed, but it hasn’t been announced yet when other passengers on the plane start getting text messages and emails about the president making a televised speech to the nation.
Passengers start throwing out wild rumors, which the show’s staffers shoot down, before Keefer stands up in the middle of the plane to make a big announcement as Mr. News Man. A flight attendant tells him to sit down, to which Sorkin—sorry, Sadoski—basically says that she’s just being a hysterical broad.
Then the captain comes out and there’s a bunch of dramatic music and close-up shots of his wings and badge and whatever pilots wear, and then Keefer calls him “Sir” and the flight attendant “crazy lady,” and says that the Army killed Osama bin Laden “for you.” Then the pilots shake hands. Then Keefer turns to his fellow News People and says: “We reported the news.”
This wasn’t the worst scene of this show. That honor goes to the season 3 episode where Keefer is the Voice of Reason in telling a rape victim she’s not only wrong to out abusers on campus, but that he’s “morally obligated” to believe people accused of sexual assault. But the bin Laden scene does encapsulate everything that was wrong with The Newsroom: Sorkin’s utter inability to write characters that aren’t middle-aged white guys; the smug self-aggrandizement of the characters he is able to write; the utterly predictable, corny-ass lines; the weird, liberal jingoism and deference to the Troops. (In regards to this scene, the Troops are a catch-all for both the Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden and the airline pilot. Unclear as to what flight attendants were doing on 9/11.) It’s as if someone wrote a ham-fisted parody of an Aaron Sorkin scene, having never actually watched the show, and then they just plugged it in near the end of the damn episode.
This show blew chunks, and it’s a testament to how much cultural capital Sorkin made from selling West Wing box sets to children who would later go on to work in the Obama administration and start Vox dot com that they made even three seasons of it. And if I had to be reminded of its existence today, then, sorry: so do you.
Update, 2:35 p.m. ET: A previous version of this article inaccurately referred to Vox Media rather than Vox.com.