The Newsroom Episode 5: Amen
I am a woman.
For years, I wanted to be a journalist/news producer.
I am a klutz.
I am a video editor.
I’m ADD and often forgetful.
I thrive in situations where decisions have to be made on the fly and acted on with some amount of improvisation – which is why I’m working to get out of the editing bay and into a higher position on set.
I occasionally have to use my fingers to subtract. Using finger pressure on whatever I’m holding, not by fully extending my fingers. Come-mon!
Why did I just make this review all about me? Because I am the target demographic for this show. Yet the way the women on this show are written, they’re doing everything in their power to put me off, up to and including not being able to subtract 13 from 30. (I may not be able to do complex math quickly, but I damn sure know how many minutes/seconds/commercial breaks go into an hour of programming, and I’ve never produced at Mac’s level.) Dear Writer: throwing in a line where Neal says ‘That’s [Mac], she’s the boss’ doesn’t make up for making all the women act like they aren’t the bosses of their own emotions, let alone anyone or anything else. And really? The EP of a big news show goes to reassure a reporter before he goes on-air and the best she’s got is ‘You’re a handsome young man’?
Instead of character development, we get pratfalls. Just like instead of romance, we get hydrogen peroxide and bandaids. And instead of letting the token brown guy build, we get a ‘He’s like me! Poor and idealistic and son of a mechanic’ monologue / convenient backstory which is expected to carry Neal’s development the rest of the season.
Sorkin just dumped the writing staff. I understand turnover, but as credits show, they were mostly sounding boards, anyways. Maybe the new writers can divide the characters up and give them personalities, or disentangle storylines and love triangles.
Enough about the characters, what about the episode?
The first five-ish minutes of each episode take pains to spell out what happens in the show’s intermittent weeks and months – ‘These guys are still dating!’ ‘These guys still aren’t!’ etc. so I don’t think I could miss anything. But I must have. Because I have no idea why Don is not only hanging around every meeting, but in the bloody control room with an earpiece and the freedom to shout whatever comes to his mind.
Don does hit the humor spot-on, though. His delivery of ‘I love you every day!’ gave me my only real laugh of the episode. They need to give him more of those moments, and fewer where he chews scenery. May I note that Sorkin had a supposably terrible girlfriend, and they must have had at least one bad Valentine’s day experience.
The emotional climaxes are less good, resoundingly cute and counting on the writing rather allowing the actors to carry it or the audience to get it. [I’m as angry that I didn’t see that Rudy bit coming as I am that I got a little choked up by it. It’s a can’t-lose formula. But “Coach” in the memo line was over the top. As Will pointed out: know your target audience.] I understand newsrooms are emotional places, populated with people who have to be a tiny bit unstable just to do what they do. But by episodes’s end, we have stitches, an emotional breakdown at a bar, a guy beat half to death with a rock, a – literal! how clever – heart torn in half, a broken hand, a sprained shoulder, and a goose egg if not a concussion. It’s reaches past suspension of disbelief (already bad territory for a show about Real Life Events) and lands slap in the middle of absurdity. Speaking of absurdity.
I thought it was a good choice to minimize Charlie’s role in this one, and not just because there were already too many cooks in the kitchen. Not only does he work better as an occasional parental figure, his style and position would add nothing to the Egypt storyline, and land too close to the Koch plot of Big Rich White Men Control Everything.
The juxtaposition of the Egypt riots and Wisconsin uprising would be too convenient if it weren’t true. The episode barely covers either of them – it mostly focuses on how the stories impact individuals in the newsroom – but it touches all the most important bases. I understand how the economic cram session is laying groundwork for the Wall Street protests, but the three storylines in one episode are too much. Pick two (hint: the uprisings), and give the economic buildup its own episode.
I also liked the more minor contrast of ‘paying evil army goons money for a freelance journalist’ and ‘paying an evil journalist money to squelch a hit piece.’ Amazingly, there is no rambling exposition about how saving a life is more important than not letting a sleazy columnist tarnish Mac’s reputation in a gossip rag. I can’t imagine it didn’t get written; maybe it was cut for time.
If the show can craft more news storylines like that, dial the melodrama down from 11 to two or three, give characters some dimensions, and stop letting slapstick serve as progress, maybe we wil have something here. Big Ifs. But they’ve a guaranteed two seasons in which to do it.
Sorry if this review went a little long. As I said at the beginning, I’m a woman. As McAvoy/Sorkin said in The Newsroom: women talk too much.
I thank you for bearing with me as I figure out a theme for the new blog. This one seems to want to italicize all my links, though. I’m searching for yet another new theme, and still continuing with the hover-text,