“My creator programmed me to smile like this.”
3:23 p.m. Tuesday, July 30
Will McAvoy [doing his best Michael Corleone]: “’Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.'”
Charlie Skinner: “Pacino in Cruising, right?”
That’s me imagining another movie chat between the two crusty compadres, like the amusing one that took place on Sunday’s episode, entitled “Willie Pete.” But it’s also me giving props to Aaron Sorkin & Co. for pulling me back in with a nimble, sure-footed hour just when I thought I had it with The Newsroom.
First off, let’s acknowledge the temporary absence of our own crusty compadre, Dave Kempa, who’s spending a week trying to get a sense of what it really means to be homeless on Sacramento’s tough streets while avoiding arrest or stabbing. First rule of embedded journalism? Don’t die.
It’s too bad, too, because I would have liked his take on the continuing RomneyBus subplot, which saw overqualified senior producer Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) trying to wrest a single honest moment out of Mitt’s robotic flaks—and failing spectacularly.
Jim Harper: “Follow up?”
Flak 2: “Yes.”
Jim Harper: “Is there someone operating inside of you with controls?”
Frustrated by the parroted talking points, canned responses to canned questions, and his colleagues’ abdication of their journalistic duties to not feed the fraud of a modern-day “campaign,” the rumpled Jim tries to lead a bus-wide mutiny. It goes down like that scene in Jerry Maguire, where Renee Zellweger and a goldfish are the only ones to join the titular character’s very public, very embarrassing departure.
At least here, Jim got a cute feminist reporter and a sandwich-stealing schlub to get off the bus with him. Can’t wait to see where these misfits end up next. (I feel like Rick Perry’s bus would serve barbecued ribs, at least.)
I think the reason I enjoyed this episode so much was its light touch. Moral conviction without self-deprecation can feel so damn arrogant. But Jim’s irritability on the bizarro campaign trail, Maggie Jordan’s (Alison Pill) prescription pill freakout, Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) repeatedly falling out of his chair and Will forgetting his safe’s combination made everyone seem more likable.
Needing no such help is Charlie, The Newsroom's least necessary yet most appealing character. Credit veteran actor Sam Waterston, who seems to be having a ball playing the boozy news division president after so many years embodying dour crusaders like Will McAvoy.
Maybe that’s why the two characters’ scenes ring so true: Charlie sees in Will the unhappy grump he used to be. And even when he calls his favorite anchor “a dumbass” for screwing up their fumbling blackmail scheme, you know it’s with love.
-Anyone else feel bad for substitute senior producer (and Genoa obsessive) Jerry Dantana? Maybe it’s just because I’m such a fan of melancholic actor Hamish Linklater. If they ever remake Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (and they shouldn’t), they’ve got their Philip Marlowe.
-Props to Adam for calling out the dangling phone-hacking thread. Considering this was such a widespread media scandal—calling into question how Rupert Murdoch built his muckraking empire—what do we think of the plot being used mostly for comedic fodder?
-This episode offered a much-welcome respite to the Jim-Maggie relationship tango, only to revive the will-they-won’t-they between Will and executive producer Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer). I actually didn’t mind this as much as I should, even though it’s essentially the exact same plotline. It helps that scalpel-sharp actress Hope Davis absolutely sold an otherwise tired romcom cliché as the third-wheel complication.
12:33 p.m. Wednesday, July 31
You know, I’ve done a bit of defending on behalf of News Night and co. the past two episodes. But I write this response while watching episode 3 for the second time, because you know what? I liked it. I really, really liked it.
I was scared at first, of course. McAvoy’s angry tirade on the GOP candidates’ response to a gay soldier’s YouTube question was so intensely political it felt like an awkward contradiction to a central premise of the show—fixing the partisan and opinionated format of today’s broadcast journalism. Not that I didn’t agree with the tirade, as always, it just seemed like glaring hypocrisy.
My only other gripe? The endless spewage of military jargon involving the events of Operation Genoa that no civilian could possibly follow, even with Mackenzie spelling out the acronyms and code names. My father is a 28-year Air Force veteran and he probably would have had to rewind a few times to make sense of it all. And I hope you didn’t forget the character detail from season 1 that Mackenzie spent time a long time reporting on the war in the Middle East, which explains her sophisticated knowledge of military lingo. For a while I was screaming, “How does she know that?!” at the computer screen, and then spent another five minutes wondering if I was secretly a sexist for doubting a woman’s knowledge of military weaponry.
With that aside, I loved this episode. Raheem hit it on the nose by praising the light-hearted tone of “Willie Pete.” We saw some very humanizing moments between several members of the show—from Will and Charlie’s bromantic banter to Will and Nina Howard’s (somehow) romantic reunion. I haven’t witnessed such a joyous moment as the throwaway five seconds when Maggie interrupts Charlie explaining to Will, “It’s not that we don’t know how to get to Mars. We know how to get to Mars. It’s getting back that’s the…”
This is precisely the random and irrelevant conversation that takes place on the daily around every newsroom, and I appreciated the displays of realistic workplace interactions among humans. It’s unsettling as a journalist when you’re depicted as running around a newsroom 24/7 with information that will totally change the lives of millions of Botswana orphans. Most of the time we’re calling sources quietly from our desks and talking about our nonexistent sex lives. And cats. Which explains the lack of sex, now that I think about it.
This episode has also cemented Sloan Sabbath as my favorite character. Actress Olivia Munn exudes power, but her tender and uncertain moments with Don are lovably quirky, and make their blooming romance the only one I’m emotionally invested in.
I’m more excited to see where Jim and his two new cohorts end up on their new vagabond roadtrip than I am in the Jim-Hallie distraction. Not that I don’t think Grace Gummer plays an excellent (insert profane word here—I swear I’m not sexist), it’s just her inevitable departure from the show makes their fling less interesting.
I also feel sorry for the Jerry Dantana character, mostly because Hamish Linklater looks like a young Billy Bob Thornton, and I always feel bad for Billy Bob Thornton.
It seems as if my questions were answered this episode regarding the Reese Lansing espionage scandal. It felt a little cheap that season 1's closing story arc was reduced to a two-minute gag, but I think the producers of the show were attempting to thin out a few of the stuffy side plots for a leaner story arc. Ah well.
If the rest of season 2 follows in “Willie Pete’s” footsteps, we’re looking at a much more exuberant and engaging series.
11:01 a.m. Thursday, August 1
OK, so I finally broke down. My uncle was upgrading his flat screen, and he offered his old one to me. And since SureWest had a pretty good deal on TV service … I am now totally caught up on The Newsroom!
God, did anyone actually believe that?
Grade: We don’t watch!
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