The Newsroom Episode 6: Bullies

Speaking of bullies: topping the list must be the writers of this show, who cannot just present us with their points, but must bludgeon us about the head with them. What’s that? Oh yes, sorry, ‘writer,’ singular.

Because I’m pressed for time (work + Olympics!), I’m going to stream-of-consciousness this review, and see how that goes. All in order, as I’m watching. aaaaaaaaand go.

This about sums it upIt’s ok the only black cast member on the show is Will’s driver/bodyguard, because we make a big point about how Will is seeing an ethnic doctor, who he goes out of his way to give a generic. non-ethnic name.

The meeting with that doctor – or rather his son – launches us into another heavily-edited show structure that isn’t near as clever as it thinks it is, launching from Will’s confession about the comments section to Will on the air taking questions from the comments section.

After beating our brains with that transition, the show praises websites which make commenters list not just name, but age, occupation, and level of education. Listing occupation is one of the most ridiculous requirements for posting ever. Why not race or gender? Because those have bearing, too. Oh, too hot button? I thought we liked hot button? But I digress.

Back in the therapy chair, Will says one sentence telling us when he got a death threat, and the camera-to-character-back-wipe takes us to the control room so we can then see the death threat. Sorkin apparently comes from the “Tell Don’t Show” school.

Except when he shows montages of Christian terrorism over the face of his speaker. I ask you, reader, when was the last time you saw that happen on network news? Even if it ever did, the guest would (generally, the way the feed is set up) be unable to see it, and surely wouldn’t sit there quietly through the whole prepackaged montage, ending with ‘And Abraham Lincoln’ in hushed, solemn tones. Yes, Will has a point, but it’s the way that point is presented which is ludicrous.

Speaking of presentation, though I still didn’t like the editing nor the circling cameras which make the structure that much more eye-rolling, it was nowhere near as condescending and pervasive as the The 112th Congress.

We still get poor, beset-upon Will, being investigated and tabloided just for (in his own words) being Walter Cronkite and bringing  “civility in the public square and the triumph of populism!” But we did get to see Sam Waterston yell “I’m not fucking around!” at Will, so there’s that.

Also in the ‘win’ column, we waited until 16:45 for a ‘women are clumsy!’ moment. I could see myself smiling at Jim asking Mackenzie ‘did you get gum in your hair again?’ and her indignant ‘No!’, but they then she had to add ‘well yes, but I got it out.’ Quickly following on the heels of our being told women just can’t keep their hair out of their mouths is our being told women confuse the invasion of Georgia the country with Georgia the southern US state. That cute little story is told to us for no apparent reason whatsoever, as the actual reason Will was angry at Maggie was Maggie’s writing ‘LOL’ on a condolence card. This shows more than anything Sorkin’s poor grasp of character. That would be something we might believe Will would do, since he doesn’t text or use the internet or believe in slang. But a young girl with a Smartphone and a healthy text life would absolutely know what the most common acronym ever stands for. You cannot simply write a joke and assign it to a character arbitrarily. The joke must be consistent with the scene and characters, but that is something this show is not.

SmartWater product placement!

Once we opened the watergate of misogynist comments, they just keep flowing! ‘You’re expanding.’ ‘Oh come on, I gained four pounds!’ Another name mis-recognition! And the way to get a woman to cream over a job assignment she’s not prepared for . . . just drop the Gucci label. (Let me right now lay money on the fact if/when Sorkin ever has to introduce a gay character, he will do it with something quite similar to this.)

Sorkin, I know you’re not name-dropping Kanye because you admire him as a person – after all, he’s dating or ‘dating’ one of the Types you so thoroughly disparaged one episode ago – so either you think this will score you points with the younger demographic, or he’s the first black person you thought of.

Not sure if I’m more upset at Sloane tapping bodyguard’s pecs or the fact Will missed the obvious joke about not reaching second base yet.

Finally the show addresses head-on the most egregious error this episode: assuming newspeople know the reactor was going to blow. Ignoring the issue of the source being a friend of the newscaster, ignoring his knowledge was gained via hearsay (‘have you overheard anyone say . . .’), ignoring the fact you can’t simply go on the air and accuse other countries of lying without firm evidence (well actually, you can, but eventually it comes out and people get angry, not self-righteous, about it), ignoring aaaaall that, Sorkin seems to think the mere act of reporting could have actually stopped the meltdown, instead of just aggravating the situation.

In full diatribe mode

This is followed by a diatribe about newspeople as either tellers of truth or facilitators of lies (either/or fallacy, anyone?). Newspeople are apparently to trust their audience as little as Sorkin does, spelling everything out. And while I get what he’s trying to say – “Don’t let the nes become just a vehicle for lies” –  that’s not actually what he’s saying – “Spell out to the viewers what they should believe.” Some news channel has “We report, you decide” as its logo. If only anyone, anywhere, followed it.

Oh look at the determination in the woman’s eyes to please her father-figure! That can’t lead to anything bad!

But then Will in his therapy session tells us, ‘It led to something bad.’

A something bad which doesn’t have to leave Don yelling into a microphone. He’s in the control room for a reason. He has control. He could send it to commercial at any time. But he doesn’t because, well, drama. Drama aspiring to be a Kurosawa movie.

The Charlie/Sloan/Don interaction was actually fairly nice, although the ‘Don’t call me girl, sir!’ line was added in a poor and poorly veiled  attempt to respond to critics about Sorkin’s and McAvoy’s use of the word.

Back in the therapist’s chair, Doctor Abe pursues a line of questioning until he gets an answer; another small moment that works in the grand scheme that doesn’t. Saint Will feels protective of selective staff because of his past with an alcoholic father.

Saint Will also passed on the New York Marathon but then skipped it to carry Mackenzie to the first aid kit.  (At this point I was almost crying onto my laptop keys, ‘make it stop, just make it stop.’) He jams with Leonard Cohen. He gives lots of money to struggling people.  He would have been good at a talk show.

Oh no . . . oh no . . . he doen’t . . .

I can’t even talk about it. It’s absurd. Moving on.

Maybe I shouldn’t have moved on. They actually speak the lines, “Help me, I need wisdom.” “I have wisdom.”

Ah, finally I see why the sarcastic black woman (who I’ve seen before but can’t remember where) got two lines in the script; it so we could cut to her reaction shot when McAvoy exposes Santorum’s race/gay quote. Tokenism at its finest!

I’m having a hard time separating the disgustingness of the climax’s content (gay marriage lessens straight marriage, homosexuals shouldn’t be teachers or married, etc) from the heavy-handedness and one one case sloppiness of the writing (the distinction between homosexuality and homosexual acts is an issue that is and can be addressed throughly by gay and straight and especially Catholics – who figured greatly into the whole conversation. I understand Sorkin/McAvoy didn’t have time to properly address it, so he shouldn’t have brought it up, it muddied the waters. He thought it made a grand point; he was wrong).

Another problem with The Newsroom‘s timeline is that it ties things together that are supposedly a year apart, but only separated by four episodes. It’s a cheap way of pretending to care about continuity, but it’s also disorienting.

At least we get a male non-sequitor meltdown? Except for the fact that Don obviously knows Maggie is into Jim. Perhaps this is a case of the actor realizing what the character should know, and the writer disregarding it? Whatever the case, that was weird.

Oh, we feel the need to address ‘hey, girl’ twice in one episode! And Will denounces is. Well, isn’t that tidy.

Sloan appeals to Will for salvation. So. Much. Freud!

The therapist tells us we ‘really need to come here, an hour a week.’ Okey, I’ll be back next week. But I’ll be as happy as Will about it.

Closing Thoughts:

– If Sorkin just had a 20-something on his writing staff, he’d know that ‘Facebook login’ is a far better solution than ‘trillion dollar IRS thing.’ They also may have helped strike the LOL gaffe.

– Reading online reviews is one thing. Overcorrecting via them is another. Stop it. Just stop it.

– The negative is easier to pick apart, because it’s so bad. But I’d rank this episode probably tied for second of the series so far.

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  1. […] 30, the most important number for every show, every day. The inadvertently-appropriately-titled “Bullies” has at least a dozen instances of gratuitous sexism. These caricatures are more in line with an […]



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