'The Newsroom' TV Review: Everybody Messes Up And Genoa Becomes A Lie
Sunday’s episode of The Newsroom, "One Step Too Many," wasn’t really great. In fact, it was infuriating. I spent a lot of it yelling, in my head, “what are you doing? What are you doing? Oh God, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
This assessment may be a bit harsh. I’ll admit it: the mere mention of Rick Santorum, and a sound bite played on Newsnight of his comments about John F. Kennedy’s freedom of religion speech (“it made me want to throw up”), made me absolutely irate and it stuck with me for the rest of the show. I had successfully blocked Rick Santorum from my memory and I do not appreciate his presence on my TV, but since I didn’t have a choice and it was only about 20 seconds long, I waited it out.
Here’s something I don’t like about this show: it’s a rollercoaster. I don’t mean the kind where the writing has you flying all over the place with emotion. I mean it almost literally: everyone is on the same track, and they’re all in the same car, and as a result, they’re all in the same place all the time. In this show, everyone is always in the same mood. They’re either on their A game or a total mess, no matter where they are or who they’re with.
In this episode, for example: Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) is on a date he’s desperately looking forward to that gets derailed by Mitt Romney’s campaign. (The irony of a sexual encounter between an unmarried couple getting derailed by a very conservative Republican presidential hopeful is not lost on me, but that’s what my high school English teacher would refer to as an “editorial aside.”) Similarly, Will (Jeff Daniels), in some lapse in judgment so profound it can only be referred to as a catastrophe, goes on a morning news show to boost his favorability ratings. This is obviously not something he put past Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer), because she would have slapped him. Instead, he puts stock in the person he trusts for absolutely no discernible reason: his girlfriend, the notoriously underhanded and manipulative gossip reporter, Nina (Hope Davis). I now have a test of endurance when it comes to embarrassment: if I can make it through that scene without hitting my head repeatedly on the table, I can make it through anything.
This roller coaster that is The Newsroom aggravates me. The best storytelling is done through a fluid process, when every character is independent, but still ties in with the main plot in some way. But this show doesn’t really do that, and as a result you can sort of tell what the mood of the show will be from the outset. In "One Step Too Many" everyone was making mistakes left and right.
At this point, things are starting to boil over in the Genoa subplot. Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater), nurturer of the Genoa story, keeps getting crazier and crazier, to the point where he edits the raw footage of an interview on the subject with their final and most credible source, retired General Stomtonovich, to reflect what he wants the source to say.
The Genoa subplot is very gripping on its own. It’s interesting to see the dynamics shift: Will does not yet know about the story, there are characters that normally dislike each other finding common ground on their opinions of the situation, and of course watching how one man, a new face to the rest of the crew, is able to coax almost an entire team full of hesitant and experienced news staff into believing a story so huge it almost has to be impossible. This is confirmed by Charlie (Sam Waterston) in his interaction with the lawyer at the end of the episode: “None of it was true.” I am enjoying this plot immensely and can’t wait to watch how everything falls apart. If there’s one thing The Newsroom does well, it’s portrayals of internal destruction.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an episode of The Newsroom without that patented misogyny everyone loves so much! Between a dismissive comment made by Don (Thomas Sadoski) to Mackenzie about drinking alone (“you can vote, don’t talk to me about stigma!” Being facetious? Obviously. Still annoying, given creator Aaron Sorkin’s horrifying track record with female characters? YUP), Jim advising Maggie (Alison Pill) condescendingly that her regular drinking is compromising her professional aptitude, and Neal’s (Dev Patel) creepy comment about his very drunk dinner companion not needing food so he could, presumably, skip plying an already-drunk girl with food and possibly stabilize her enough to re-evaluate her decisions, I think it’s safe to say this episode was an uneasy, uncomfortable mess. And yet… I’ll be glued to my TV next Sunday night… same time, same party.
The Newsroom returns with a new episode titled “Red Team III” Sunday at 10 P.M. on HBO.