‘The Newsroom’: Lack of diversity on new HBO series is a familiar story

Even if they do, however, it will be most likely on the periphery. I seriously doubt that their characters will have any meaty plot-lines of their own. There will be no revelation that one of their big sisters is a PhD like Jim’s. And neither one will have the opportunity to lie to their father about their love interest not being able to join them for dinner like Maggie.

What’s most interesting is that the Canadian version of The Newsroom, which debuted in 1996, tackled serious issues like diversity. There’s a provocative interview for a research position featuring a black lesbian where her desire to ski or not becomes a cornerstone of the interview. Later, the lead character George Findlay connects with a “pretty” white anchor over skiing for the same position.

In HBO’s version, most viewers will miss that Jim, who is white, following MacKenzie, who is also white, from job to job is how this thing works. They will not get that people in these positions tend to hire people they are comfortable with and that, far too often, that excludes people of color. In Canada, they spelled it out and indicated it as a problem. In HBO’s version, it doesn’t register at all.

Even the opening scene where Will, during a contentious debate on a college panel, suggests that there was a time when America “was the greatest country in the world” is the kind of the revisionist history that television regularly dishes out. “We stood up for what was right,” he says. “We fought for moral reasons.”

He makes these assertions as if the country as a whole believed Jim Crow to be inherently wrong during that time. He rattles off statistics about this country’s high incarceration rate today without ever mentioning race. He proclaims that “America is not the greatest country in the world anymore” as if it or any country, for that matter, ever was.

What has presumably kept this country going is the goal to form “a more perfect union.” It’s one that television does not share. Truth is, HBO’s The Newsroom will more than likely be granted another season and will probably attract a decent black audience. As with Girls, HBO’s other noteworthy series of 2012, there’s not much that’s groundbreaking in The Newsroom either.  Unless, of course, television as usual is what defines “groundbreaking” these days.

Follow Ronda Racha Penrice on Twitter at @rondaracha