“Careful, my bones.”
4:36 p.m. Tuesday, August 20
Starting with the tightly paced “red team” briefing at the top of Sunday’s episode, The Newsroom felt more sure-footed than it has the two previous weeks. Maybe creator Aaron Sorkin is like an aging basketball pro at this point in his prolific writing career: He can’t bring the magic every game, but those tired legs are still good for a breakout performance here and there.
I won’t get too mired in plot details, except to say the season-long Genoa arc finally came center stage, and to the show’s benefit. In hindsight, it seems Sorkin padded past installments with half-hearted tangents on Occupy Wall Street, Ugandan civil strife, the 2012 presidential election, social media, dead dads and whether Maggie Jordan’s (Alison Pill) hair is deadly to African children. But the dude is a writer. And, like the cable news personalities his show is about, Sorkin is at his best when he’s making stuff up.
It looks like next week’s episode will be about how corner-cutting producer Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater) nudges the “News Night” team into fabricating a broadcast about untrue war crimes. Sunday’s ep, “One Step Too Far,” gave that plot a big shove forward, but also made room for several pleasant distractions:
-Jerry’s outburst that his colleagues take it easy on President Obama’s record on drones, domestic spying and whistleblower crackdowns because they like the guy is a worthwhile debate to have. Too bad it came from a liar. Can we have it anyway?
-We got to see Sorkin’s version of a morning news show, and it was almost as tragic as a real one. Watching Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) give into the football-lobbing whims of the hyper co-hosts was so depressing, it reminded me why I don’t show up anywhere before 11 a.m.
-Small talk asides were mostly on-target. The reindeer riff at the Genoa briefing felt out of place, but Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) on how Disney didn’t request a bailout for box office bomb John Carter and Neal Sampat (Dev Patel) excoriating Ron Paul’s closet racism represent the only shout-outs those two subjects are likely to get this year.
-I can’t say the same about Will’s reheated tirades against the 112th do-less Congress and his ripping apart of a Rick Santorum spokesman. Despite last season’s mission statement to present the best opposing arguments, “News Night” takes the same approach to picking “off-message” guests as Fox News: Compliant punching bags who are just grateful for the air time.
-Thoroughly enjoyed the bar scene conversation between executive producer MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) and former EP Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski). “Don, Don, Don, Don. Are you happy with that name?”
-It felt a bit abrupt that, after last week’s melodrama, there was no mention of either Will’s dead dad or Sloan’s nude photos. But that’s not a complaint. In fact, Sorkin should drop more plots that aren’t working. Like the whole concept of setting a show on modern media in a television studio.
-Will McAvoy watches himself on air the way I reread my old articles—with a mix of satisfaction and self-loathing.
-I know Maggie is new to this alcoholism thing, but she’s gotta find a better go-to cocktail than Stoli and tonic. Any suggestions?
-Fired Romney spokeswoman Taylor Warren (Constance Zimmer) is my new hate-crush. What character do you hate to like? Shoka, you first.
5:57 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20
Which characters do I hate to like?
Not Jeff Daniels’ character, because he played Canada-geese-loving Anna Paquin’s dad in Fly Away Home.
And not Alison Pill’s character, because the actress rocked a demi-Afro in Milk.
And not Emily Mortimer’s, because her character suffered from Avian Bone Syndrome on 30 Rock.
I guess that leaves … the guy named “Don, Don, Don, Don”?
Actually, I don’t hate or like any of them. Since I’ve never watched the show and all.
Why am I still on this thread?
4:34 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21
The energy of Sunday’s episode was undeniable. Yet for all my enjoyment with the illumination of the events of Genoa, I couldn’t’ help but create a list of grievances along the way.
1. Is Sorkin sexist, or just rude to his female characters? I don’t know if anybody else felt bad for Hallie Shae’s (Grace Gummer) demotion from badass to baby lamb. I honestly cringed when she stared doe-eyed into the camera for a Skype call with our favorite mop top and bleats, “I like you,” like a giddy school girl. Two episodes ago, she maintained the cold veneer of a Queen B, focused on her job and annoyed with all things Jim Haper (like much of the general audience). So, what? He gives her his Romney interview and suddenly she’s like putty in his hands? On that note…
2. Former Romney press agent Taylor Warren shot up 50 points on the likability scale with her attempted Jim/Hallie cock-blocking. Tragically, the woman gets fired from her job only to play sad tag-along at a dinner party before disappearing. Is Jim that eager to jump Hallie’s bones that he loses all concern for the woman whose job he may have inadvertenly cost? Taylor claims she was canned for attempting to get Romney to be more forthright about his political plans, business past and religious beliefs, all things that Jim had been harassing her about for most of the Republican primaries.
3. While romantic, leaving 20 lit candles in your hotel room for when you get back from dinner is a fire hazard, Jim. Sheesh.
4. I refuse to believe that everyone at “News Night” knows exactly what sarin gas is. Mac and her team create a beautiful, animated PowerPoint presentation for the red team and don’t even explain what sarin is once, just on the off chance that not every civilian is knowledgeable about chemical weapons and their military legality.
5. Neither an executive producer nor a news division director can apparently operate a GPS system when attempting to find a source’s house.
6. As Raheem mentioned, both Sloan’s nudie picks and Will’s dead father had no impact whatsoever on this episode and aren’t likely to resurface.
Also, Raheem, I think Sorkin was trying to hide his closet sexism by not having Maggie order a “lady drink” like an appletini.
9:51 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 22
I didn’t hate this episode either, though I was thrown off by Jerry Dantana’s fallacious editing of the general’s statement. No journalist stupid/crazy enough to outright lie like that is going to last in the industry for more than a couple of years, much less wind up a producer at a major network news channel.
On the Obama-loving dialogue: I dig it, particularly given events today. Who wants to hold the conch first?
Are we seriously led to believe that Neal is suddenly a womanizing creep? Or did I miss the episode in which that was introduced. His predator rating skyrocketed when, on the double date, someone suggested his drunk companion get some food in her and he hinted that that wouldn’t be necessary. Yeesh.
Skype is “new” technology in 2011? Could’ve sworn it’s been around since the mid-aughts. Either way—you go, Jim.
Speaking of Jim, I’m happy to see that I’m not the only one whose gotten his last name wrong. If you remember, earlier this season I referred to him as “Jim Halpert,” when in fact it’s “Jim Harper.” The Office, The Newsroom, whatever. I’m sure it was just a typo, Adam, but “Jim Haper” sounds absolutely delightful to me.
Regarding Maggie’s drink, looks like we’ll just have to wait until the show jumps to 2013, and she dumps her Stolichnaya into the Manhattan gutter in disgust at the Russian government’s treatment of its gay and transgender citizens.
Final thought: Sorkin pulled off the ol’ boot ‘n rally with this one.