Escape from the Newsroom

At its best, The Newsroom was the cruellest and most consistently funny thing ever to hit Canadian television. Unfortunately, this feature-length coda doesn't come close to reaching that pinnacle. Things begin innocently enough with self-absorbed news director George (Ken Finkleman) firing his racist weatherman by proxy; it seems that mindless anchor Jim Walcott (Peter Keleghan) wants his job back and the budget has to be cut to support two anchors. But the tone is off — you can feel Finkleman the writer switching to autopilot as he goes through the motions of his loathsome character, the office flunkies and various other mainstays of the series. Worse, though Atom Egoyan — a satirical target the size of a cruise liner — consents to appear, nothing is done with his character beyond making him the victim of a kidnapping limply pastiched from The King of Comedy. But just when you think that you're in for mere mediocrity, the filter falls off the lens and we're suddenly introduced to "reality" and the struggle of the real Finkleman to save a controversial subplot. Some would call this self-reflexivity, but when the chips are down it's really self-regard, as he martyrs the creator/hero and congratulates himself for being so brave and unsentimental. Sure, he satirises his persona, but he's also taking the credit for being so modest, and you wind up wanting to slap him for succumbing to the egomania he used to send up so brilliantly. While it doesn't efface the achievement of the series, it still feels like a terrible betrayal, and I can't recommend it to anyone but super-fans, completists, and people who still think referencing the most obvious foreign films of the '60s qualifies as intellectual. (CBC/Morningstar)