• Melissa Moseley
  • Sam Waterston and Jeff Daniels

My wife and I are faithful viewers of The Affair, the Showtime miniseries that wraps up this Sunday, but there hasn’t been a moment of it that we’d call romantic. “It’s too full of anxiety and guilt,” says Betsy. Not to mention that somebody dies, and the tangled yarn is ultimately some kind of whodunnit.

Last Sunday’s finale of HBO’s The Newsroom, on the other hand, was the most romantic hour of television I’ve ever seen.

The novel Don Quixote figured prominently and appropriately in this closing chapter, but it isn’t windmills journalists tilt at. Wily sophists and thugs in chain mail run the world, and our tiny band of ironic idealists will never make a serious dent in their numbers; yet each day we swing a leg across our spavined Rocinantes and off we ride back into combat. If the world questions our splendor in the saddle, we don’t.

Charlie Skinner, the network president, has dropped dead, torn apart body and soul by the conflict between his own old-school values and the crowd-sourcing gibberish spouted by the callow new owner. So the final episode is structured around a funeral, the classic occasion for virtue to be honored, eternal values asserted, and the wayward confronted by their better selves. Before the day ends, the complicated men of The Newsroom will find themselves in a backyard garage jamming Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis” on guitars that happened to be lying around. All is calm. All is bright.

The moment was unbearably sweet. I’m prepared to believe that wistful and fatalistic ballads stir in the souls of every reporter on earth, and that we are all just a memory away from breaking into song, or into laughter, or tears, or another bottle. The Newsroom Sunday night was shameless, and I don’t mean that as criticism. It’s why the show was beyond criticism and anyone who snickers needs to leave the room now.