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Good news and bad news

Managing editor Jess Cagle discusses our frustration with the media, his favorite summer read, and more

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Like a lot of TV junkies, I really look forward to those Good Morning America segments where the calm, dignified Dan Abrams tries to reason with the frothing, unhinged Nancy Grace as they debate legal issues. It’s like watching Abraham Lincoln try to talk some sense into the Tasmanian Devil, and it’s not only delightful, it’s informative. But honestly, TV news is hardly ever that much fun. We all know the problem: The networks tend to chase approval rather than truth, sucking up to the largest possible audience or their faithful partisan viewers. Too many Washington, D.C., reporters — who probably understand the issues and candidates better than anyone — end up covering politics as if it were no more than a sporting event. (You want to shake them and say, ”Hey, dudes! It actually matters to some of us! By the way, nice haircut!”) Aaron Sorkin feels your pain. On his fascinating new HBO summer series, The Newsroom, the characters exchange impassioned arias, railing against TV news’ willingness to pander, to spin the facts, and to give extremist maniacs access to the airwaves in a misguided and disingenuous stab at ”balance.” Critics are divided on The Newsroom, and it has incited some love-it-or-hate-it debate. But whatever side you come down on, it’s really gratifying to hear Sorkin so eloquently articulate our own frustration with the media; The Newsroom is forged in a blaze of righteous anger.

But that’s only one of the things I’m loving this summer: I can’t get enough of the smart but infectious songs by Neon Trees and fun. Jess Walter’s absorbing, sweeping novel Beautiful Ruins — about the intersecting lives of an unlucky actress, a downtrodden Italian innkeeper, a Robert Evans-esque movie producer, and several other indelible characters over the course of 50 years — is so funny and moving you’ll want to read it again as soon as you’re finished. Dallas has triumphantly returned in a juicy, addictive, and faithful-to-the-original reboot, mercifully free of camp or belabored irony. And the greatest living comedian, Louis C.K. (see also: the cover of this issue), is back for a third season of his brilliantly unabashed series on FX. Also in this issue: EW’s Jill Bernstein and Adam Markovitz have canvassed our Movies team and come up with an essential list of the 50 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen — Hollywood’s greatest, most underrated and obscure gems. And in the Books section, we recommend some recent books by current and former EW staffers, including the upcoming novel Leading Man by Benjamin Svetkey and Gillian Flynn’s best-seller Gone Girl — a beach read so good you’ll forget to look at the water, and one of the great pleasures of summer 2012.