Topeka, Topenga…what’s in a name, indeed?
12:06 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18
Bear with me for the next few minutes, because it’s about to get sentimental up in here.
A second season with my favorite news team has finally ended, just as my time with SN&R comes to a close. Although pure coincidence, I’d like to believe some cosmic power has brought these two departures together to signify the end of a strange chapter in my life.
It seems like every character experienced a similar moment of clarity during Sunday’s “Election Night Part II.” Financial reporter Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) realized life is too short to let fear of embarrassment quash her romantic interest. News division president Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterson) realized that one mistake shouldn’t end a credible, quality reporting career (an unexpected nod to my complaint last week). Associate producer Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) realized the power of self-forgiveness, while her best frienemy Lisa opened up to the possibility of second chances. Senior producer Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) and political reporter girlfriend Hallie Shae (Grace Gummer) acknowledged the power of new media by helping blogger Neil Sanpat (Dev Patel) do right by his executive producer. And, of course, there was that spectacular ending.
Did it all seem a bit too perfect for quality television? Probably. But maybe that’s just the gripe of a cynical asshole this cruel world has been nurturing for the past decade.
And I’d like to believe, at the end of the day, that’s exactly creator Aaron Sorkin’s point.
Nothing is sacred from cynicism these days. We view everything through a jaded lens. The news is just liberal bias, conservative agendas, Harvard elites in ivory towers or sensationalist fodder. With newspapers closing around the country and millions flocking to para-journalism sites like Buzzfeed and Jezebel, it seems the public has all but abandoned the news.
Things have rarely looked worse for the industry.
So how, in heaven’s name, could a television series centered around a fictional news network end its sophomore season on such a pedantic note? Why should we believe in a show that defies everything we’ve come to believe about life in the news industry?
Because the news, by its very nature, is a quixotic endeavor.
Deep down, beneath the scars of abandoned leads and editors’ tirades, we’re all hopeless romantics. And while the lot of us might seem to be the biggest cynics of all, there’s no denying our DNA: We tell stories and seek progress. Journalism is idealism.
So while many will find season 2's hopeful finale offensive to their sensibilities, I see a series attempting to call a spade a spade.
For the past three months, I’ve danced between a full college course load, two internships, one part-time job and crippling anxiety. There were times when I felt powerless and, at my worst, useless. I felt like I was swimming helplessly upstream, letting down my loved ones, my employers and my friends at SN&R.
“Election Night Part II” reminded me that, even when things seem hopeless, there’s always a chance for a brighter future. Work hard, believe in yourself, screw the popular opinion. And, just like Charlie Skinner and his eyebrows of death, don’t take life too seriously.
I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to the SN&R team for providing me this opportunity. A special thanks to Raheem, Dave and Shoka for helping me construct this undeserved soapbox. I sincerely hope that next year we can all debate season 3 around a big plate of seafood nachos, just for Shoka.
Will many of you find my final remarks cheesy, underdeveloped and naive? Maybe. But then again, I was just the intern.
Episode grade: A
Season grade: A-
Group blog project: A+
4:59 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 18
Adam, you were never “just the intern.” You were “just an intern.” Big difference.
I tease, of course. Adam was the brains behind this crazy blog experiment and its steady co-captain these past 10 weeks. He even maintained his affection for this polarizing melodramedy (trademark!) while all us haters chipped away.
I have to especially thank
him Clint (our one reader) for texting me a warning that Sunday’s finale ended with a montage set to Pete Townsend’s “Let My Love Open the Door.” Normally I hate spoilers, but I don’t think I could have taken that unprepared. Especially since Sorkin apparently got his nephew’s Christian rock band to perform that treacly cover while Will proposed and everyone else patted themselves on the back for being such great people. It was indeed a “shit fest,” Adam Clint.
To be honest, I don’t feel like deconstructing this one. “Election Night Part II” was at yellow news alert all the way through—not compelling enough to report, not insubstantial enough to ignore. It felt like such a wheel-spinning rehash of past events that I kept expecting Dick Clark to pop up with a blooper reel.
And if you think that reference is outdated, I bow to the king of them. This season Sorkin referenced ‘50s film noir characters, dropped a M*A*S*H joke and played two songs written by Pete Townsend. We get it, dude, you’re a baby boomer. Thanks for using up all our resources and cashing out Adam’s future.
Speaking of our busy intern, some unsolicited advice: There’s nothing wrong with striving for idealism in this profession. But it means holding yourself to a standard no one else will. And when you fall short, you own up to it. The News Night team isn’t made up of idealists, as the Genoa fiasco revealed; it’s composed of self-congratulatory martyrs and a few decent fringe characters.
Bunch o’ final thoughts:
-With Charlie scrambling to keep the Genoa lawsuit under wraps, Jim hiding his Michigan House race gaffe, and Will and Mac (Emily Mortimer) holding grudges for telling each other the truth, it’s clear these reporters don’t much value transparency.
-Sorkin must have heard Dave’s criticism that Will acts like a RINO. “Do you call yourself a Republican so you can make claims to credibility when attacking the GOP?” asked ex-Romney spokeswoman Taylor Warren (Constance Zimmer). Good question. What did you all think of Will’s answer?
-Say what you will about that snobby Washington, D.C. anchor, but she knows how to grammatically structure a dis: “I don’t know from where you get the nerve…”she sassed Mac. I didn’t know about what she’s talking, but it good sounded.
-Sloan deserved better than getting repeatedly cut off during the live election broadcast. But hey, at least she got her boss to be her boyfriend. That’s what professional women want instead of respect, right?
-I can now finally admit, I hoped Romney would win. In the show, I mean. Since Sorkin is wasting his whole let’s-reexamine-recent-events premise, why not go the alternate history route? Romney is a robot! Obama is an alien! (And not, like, from another country, but from SPACE.) State-backed healthcare is soylent green, people!
-Holy shit, was that Topeka from Boy Meets World?! Shoka, I bet you a News 1 deadline extension you watched that show.
-Do you really need someone’s approval to resign? Because breach of contract or no, I’m quitting this show before Sorkin gets the chance to do an episode about snarky alt weekly bloggers. It’s been real, News Night. If you need me, I’ll be getting high with marketing. I hear they have good shit.
And then we’ll get nachos.
Episode grade: C
Season 2 grade: C+
Adam’s career prospects: A
1:28 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19
Adam, I’m glad the season is over now so you’ll have more time to spend on having way too much to do. And if you want to go out for seafood nachos, you’ll be enjoying yours in the we-just-won-the-football-game-and-you’re-the-coach-that-gets-the-ice-cold-Gatorade-dumped-on-his-head style.
So, when are we going?
But after reading (or skimming. Or skipping—sorry, guys, you really got long-winded with some of your reviews) your analyses of this TV show, I did learn something: That I am never going to watch it.
Not even for the Topanga cameo.
Episode grade: Are you serious?
Season 2 grade: Go outside and look at the trees instead. Will be more riveting.
3:36 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20
Wait, I was under the impression that Adam was neither “the” nor “an” intern, but your intern, Raheem. Then Shoka had Jessica, Jonathan had Cody, and I had the dude who charges his phone on the side of our building.
All said, it’s been a great summer, Adam. Thanks for bringing this idea to fruition. While I may have come off as a curmudgeon through much of the project, that’s simply because I am one. Here’s hoping you stick with journalism down the road. We’d be lucky to have you.
There’s not much for me to say about the finale that you two haven’t already hit. In most respects, it was an hour-long eye-roll. I’ve still got the headache to prove it. A few brief things:
-Will’s RINO problem persists, and his explanation for continuing to call himself a Republican while loathing the GOP establishment is more a rehash of his tirade last season than anything else. There’s a hint of “no true Scotsman” irony to it all, I guess, but I’m just not that interested anymore. What’s in a name, anyway? (Shakespeare, you guys. Read a fucking book.)
-When you retract something as big as Genoa, one would hope you’d explain how and why you got the story so god-awfully wrong. This is an integral element in rebuilding viewers’ trust. Does no one outside the newsroom know that Dantana doctored the tape? Why not? My two guesses are that perhaps the ongoing case has forced them to keep their mouths shut (doubtful) or that Sorkin doesn’t fully understand how trust in the media works (more likely).
-Ever the luddite, Sorkin continues his vendetta against social media clear through the end, with a final plotshot (trademarked!) at Wikipedia, followed (or preceded, I can’t remember) by Jim’s snarky barb against the “new media” folks covering the election. Say what you will about new media, Aaron, but in 2008 I was one of just 6 million Twitter users in existence when I live-tweeted McCain’s election night party at the Biltmore. That’s about 31 million fewer than the number of folks following President Obama today. Twitter, Facebook, blogs. They’re here for good. Quit the bitching.
-All of the plot lines wrapped up ever so nicely, leaving it open for HBO to drop the series. Unfortunately, they penned the deal for season 3 early this month…
Episode grade: C-
Season 2 grade: C
Raheem referring to Boy Meets World’s Topenga as “Topeka”: A+
Nachos and kisses,
PREVIOUS EPISODE RECAPS
SN&R staff on 2.8
SN&R staff on 2.7
SN&R staff on 2.6
SN&R staff on 2.5
SN&R staff on 2.4
SN&R staff on 2.3
SN&R staff on 2.2
Shoka on 2.1
Dave on 2.1
Raheem on 2.1
Adam on 2.1
Adam on season 1