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Saturday, 25 of May of 2019

Tag » The Newsroom

The Newsroom – “The Greater Fool”

“Hell hath no fury like the second-rate.”

Charlie convinces Leona to let News Night do the show they want to do.

I really hope “let’s do the news” is a euphemism.

It’s not unpopular to dislike The Newsroom. I struggle to find people that truly, honestly, uninronically enjoy it. I’m not alone in wishing Mac has a revelation that maybe while her newsroom is experiencing important current events that it’s not the time to pester Will into admitting he still has feelings for her. I’m certainly not alone in suffering the pageant of pedagogy pushed onto the audience once a week that wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t make me want to roll my eyes so far into the back of my head that they might actually get stuck. And I certainly am not alone in wishing Seal Team Six had taken out Maggie instead.

But, honestly, what is it about this show that raises the ire of so many people and why do they continue to watch it? I would understand if the people lifting pitchforks were those of a right-wing persuasion, particularly those that voted for the political figures that Sorkin often uses as emotional bait throughout the series. But they would just stop watching. Why aren’t we so smart? Why do we continue to endure the misogyny, the melodrama, the one-liners that would make a girl from Rosewood groan? What is it about The Newsroom that keeps getting us to come back for more?

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The Newsroom – “Bullies”

“How are you still working here?”

To Will's chagrin, Sloan taps Lonnie's pecs.

Adorkable.

And, finally, we have the story of the cylon.

While Mac Mac and Maggie have been busy flitting about girlishly, getting themselves worked up into tizzies that big, strong men continually save them from, there is one woman at the office who has been on the fringe of the nonsense. No, not Kendra.

It’s Sloan and her Munn-Face, blue-steeling through all the emotional scenes, establishing herself as unable to feel whatever hyperbolic emotional meltdown her radioactive coworkers are in the middle of. She stares robotically as Mackenzie carries on about stuff that happened four years ago. She’s maintains a stance that she has been told she does not communicate well with humanity. She has not found herself beholden to Will at any point, which clearly means she can’t be a female in this newsroom with her name in the excruciatingly long title sequence.

Well, no more! Sloan will prove her weak womanhood once and for all by being silly on camera, all so Will can paint himself as a martyr, the penitent bully, and a more square-jawed Obi Wan all in the same episode. Girls are such a mess!

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The Newsroom – “Amen”

“Very graceful.”

The Newsroom

I don’t know why people were complaining so much about episode 4 of this show. Episode 5 is so much worse.

Let me rephrase that. I’m trying to temper my opinions of the show and base them on adjusted expectations. The Newsroom isn’t the serious, groundbreaking drama we thought it was. It’s not even a groundbreaking workplace comedy. But my thoughts on this are well-documented and well-shared throughout the community nerdy enough to discuss such things (one I love dearly).

Even while relieving the show of a haughty premise, “Amen” is infuriating. It makes me curious about the industrial complex at HBO surrounding Sorkin. In this new golden age of television, we have a lot of “auteurs” to whom we direct our praise and aggression but they generally collaborate heavily on a program or, at the very least, have to deal with a studio. Vince Gilligan often notes his collaboration process with his room for Breaking Bad. Matt Weiner had a much-publicized debacle with AMC between the fourth and fifth seasons of Mad Men. Shawn Ryan (The Shield) can barely get a network to stick with him long enough to grab an audience (see Terriers, The Chicago Code).

But Sorkin’s influence on this show must be more comparable to Louis C.K. on Louie, a showrunner who has the deal every young aspiring television writer in the world would love to have: complete autonomy. The reason I say that is because, just like on Louie, sometimes, stuff just doesn’t work. And those things that don’t work (to the degree that they don’t on these shows) usually don’t make it to air on programs that have a lot of studio oversight. The viewing public has given Louis C.K. the right to stumble because (a) even those stumbles are at least comedic/storytelling experiments worth trying and (b) how do you not love that ugly mug? Sorkin, however — sigh. Someone needs to tell him.

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The Newsroom – “I’ll Try to Fix You”

“I’m on a mission to civilize.”

Will and Sloan observe the New Year's party.

Jeff Daniels is immune to Munn Face.

We all have a measuring stick for when we have to make the important decisions in the time we dedicate to our television watching. Okay, maybe not all of us. Some people don’t actively make decisions what to watch. Sometimes we just turn the channel or turn it off entirely rather than continue watching, a fight or flight response.

But for those of us that do consciously give a show time to convince us it’s worth our precious hour, you can’t do much better than a four-episode rule. Three and it’s barely out the gate. Five and you’re almost halfway through an HBO season and you might as well stick with it until the end. Four is a solid number.

So here we are on episode four of The Newsroom and I’m coming to terms with the fact that, even if I was going to make a decision to run, I couldn’t turn it off because of several factors, not the least of which is the pedigree of writer behind the program. So, instead of giving up on the thing, I have another decision to make.

I have to come to terms with the fact that this show isn’t what we thought it was. We’re not watching an exposé on cable news or a character study on the people that report to people about other people. This is an hour-long sit-com. And if you’re going to stick with it, it’s time you came to terms with it, too.

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The Newsroom – “The 112th Congress”

“Do you want to play golf or do you want to fuck around?”

Charlie Skinner ponders the ratings slide.

It’s really all Charlie’s plan to check “ruin a show with principles” off his bucket list.

Swashbuckling. That was the word Aaron Sorkin used to describe the show to Piers Morgan in a stuttering explanation for his fiction in an excuse laced with so many ums it makes you feel better that someone so famously eloquent has just as many issues with elocution as the rest of us. But the terms he threw out there for The Newsroom were important, particularly while he looked at one of the most recognizable faces of CNN, a network his show could be accused of lambasting. It’s a romantic comedy, he says. Sorkin only operates in fiction! Jeff Daniels helps him by emphasizing The Newsroom is over-the-top idealistic! Swashbuckling, however, is the word that struck me the most.

It is the most apt in a couple different contexts. For one, the denotation would have this cast on a romantic adventure and no one could argue with that. But the connotation reminds us of pirates or some similar rogue and manly profession with a heart of gold and charged with saving damsels in distress. Why does every damsel on this show need so much saving?

Swashbuckling aside, the episode is interesting since we fast-forward through months of news in tandem with an inevitable meeting with the money side of the idealism, creating an Inception-level of metaphors. But how do you put a price on a dream?

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The Newsroom – “News Night 2.0”

“That’s — not Spanish.”

Sloan and Mac talk in the newsroom.

“So how do I do it?” “All you have to do is relax your face and make your eyes go dead like you’ve been lobotomized and wouldn’t put up much of a fight. It’s like playing a sexy possum. That’s Munn-Face.”

When Aaron Sorkin moved to paid cable, we had no idea that what we really needed for him to do was stay on network or ad-supported cable television because those advertisements, the time we waste looking at products we’ll almost certainly never buy but fully support their presence in the middle of our programs so we don’t have to shell out unnecessary dollars on content and, instead, spend them on shoes and snacks and drugs or whatever else we please, the lapses in between the “arias” of dialogue, were essential so we didn’t feel the crushing weight of paragraphs with unpronounced punctuation that are now the mainstay of a series on which no one from studio exec to writer’s assistant seems to say no to Sorkin, which enables him to lay down as many soapboxes as can fit within the same amount of time Game of Thrones entertains several enclaves of characters spread across continents but Sorkin barely has time to tell the story of one or two or less than two characters and do it with poor, sit-com-worthy gimmicks while filling all the negative space with an incessant volley of letters that run together like a traffic jam in a commercial for his and her body spray and, by doing so, possibly torpedoing a decent premise for a show the same way he crushed a promising show about sketch comedy five years ago that turned into something political and too serious and, if I may say so, icky when it came to the Jordan/Danny relationship, an act for which he apologized to the crew, the network, and Matthew Perry in GQ (scroll down past the bad CMS garbage) so he at least insinuates that he has to know what he’s doing now, what mistakes he’s making, and how to improve on those mistakes after going down with two busted ships and one that sailed into the history of television, all of this information begging the question:

Are you in or are you out?

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The Newsroom – “We Just Decided To”

“Seriously, though. I have a blog?”

Mackenzie gives hints to Will on what to say next.

It’s not the greatest show in the world —

I’m sure this will all sound glib. But that might be fitting for the subject.

Aaron Sorkin brings another series showcasing the wild, emotional chaos happening beneath a shiny veneer we as a public consume, ripping the facade off something polished and well-oiled to show all the moving parts that makes everything tick, especially if those moving parts are near clinical in self-importance and neuroses. If The Newsroom doesn’t work out, maybe Sorkin will pitch a series about how sausage is made with the most pedantic and fervent meat-handlers Johnsonville has ever put to work.

But he wouldn’t do a show about sausage workers. The shows he wants to do are about higher, shinier offices that have direct and immediate sway over a large swaths of the public. The shows he brings to series all seem to be ones that focus on vanted elements of our society, humanizing the faces and talking heads we tend to detach from the rest of us in order to get over the fact that they rose from our depths. It’s heady stuff.

But does anyone else get the feeling Sorkin churns out shows because he’s still dealing with his disappointment in Sports Night?
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