The most annoying thing about this two-hour pilot for a weekly series about a Washington Post-like newspaper is its blithe, cheerful predictability:
There’s a young reporter (Helen Slater) arriving for her first day in the journalistic big leagues? Why, before the day is over, she’ll have a front- page scoop!
There’s an earnest but aging foreign correspondent who’s being shoved into early retirement? You can bet that by the end of the show, he’ll have written a major story that redeems him in the eyes of the powers that be!
There’s a high-powered investigative reporter (Kathryn Harrold) working at the height of her powers? Well, before these two hours are over, we’ll be assured that she’s not perfect — her personal life’s a mess!
Having done time at a couple of newspapers, I’m here to tell you there’s nothing more insufferable and self-righteous than a bunch of ambitious editors and reporters who think they’re onto a hot story, and Capital News has ambitious editors and reporters up the wazoo.
Everybody runs around shouting obnoxiously at one another; everyone acts as if he or she is doing the most important work on earth. There’s a kind of trumped-up, self-aggrandizing urgency in Capital News — a ”Look at me, I’m digging for the Truth!” attitude — that is simultaneously annoying and completely realistic.
I suppose it’s to the credit of co-executive producers David Milch and Christian Williams that they were willing to make their characters so self-absorbed. Milch worked on Hill Street Blues; Williams was a reporter for The Washington Post for 15 years — together, they’ve made a show that you can’t resist watching.
Capital News is full of windbags on every level of the paper strutting around in expensively tailored suits. The newspaper’s executives and highest- ranking editors inveigh against corruption in high places and then go have dinner with the power brokers their reporters should be covering more critically.
That’s why I couldn’t care less about Kathryn Harrold’s workaholic investigative reporter: I’m supposed to feel sympathy for this glamorous, – arrogant, unbelievably rude person who has an office the size of Rhode Island?
Lloyd Bridges does a wonderful job as the paper’s editor-in-chief, Jonathan ”Jo-Jo” Turner; the way Bridges plays him, Jo-Jo is nearly senile with years of accumulated clout — he has risen from covering the ruling class to hobnobbing with it.
Capital News gets all the newspaper jargon right: reporters saying, ”Let’s pitch a takeout” (i.e., propose writing a long story); editors inspiring the troops by yelling, ”Write the hell out of this story!” If it takes off, Capital News probably will do immense damage to American journalism: Smart young viewers will want to avoid the profession like the plague, and every little loudmouthed creep in the country will be lining up for a spiral notebook and a press badge. C