'The Newsroom' TV Review: Snarky Politics As Told By Aaron Sorkin
The Newsroom is Aaron Sorkin’s science fiction drama about one mind shared by a small tribe of people who dwell at a television network’s headquarters in Manhattan…or at least that’s what it seems like sometimes.
I enjoy this show as a guilty pleasure. Guiltier, even, than True Blood, because at least True Blood has abandoned all pretense of taking itself seriously, whereas I’m convinced that The Newsroom was created so Sorkin could have a thoroughbred high horse. I do, however, have a weakness for politics, snark, and a combination of the two- and this show consistently delivers on those fronts, even if Sorkin’s writing makes it seem like one mind talking, joking, and freaking out from several different mouths.
The latest episode, “News Night with Will McAvoy,” is predictable, but still interesting. It seems like scandal after scandal comes up with the News Night staffers, and this week, it’s Sloan Sabbith’s angry ex boyfriend who leaks compromising photos of her that were taken on one of their nights together. Sabbith (Olivia Munn) is humiliated and reacts, not unreasonably, by hiding in her office in the dark. This is nothing too original. What is refreshing, however, is one specific line she utters in the dark to Don (Thomas Sadoski) (whose support seems heartfelt but still out of character): “this is who I am now.” This is an impressive, loaded statement from Sorkin, who isn’t exactly known for portraying women without being insulting. Sloan Sabbith is a multilingual financial reporter with a doctorate from Duke University. She is clearly brilliant and respected, even if she’s a bit socially inept. But if you’re a woman, no matter how well respected you are, a lapse in judgment such as this one is tremendously costly. After spending one and a half seasons watching the women on this show freak out about men and fumble around romantic narratives (no matter how career-driven they are), this moment is pretty surprising. Well, then there’s the satisfying end to this subplot, in which Sabbith punches her ex-boyfriend in the face in front of a room full of AIG executives, which, I think, is the fantasy of every spurned lover on Earth. Nicely done.
Meanwhile, in more predictable Newsroom style, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) blows off someone and something horrible happens. Seriously, does this guy not understand yet that every person he’s damaged winds up wreaking havoc on his life? Unfortunately, this time it’s his father, who has a heart attack. Will’s phone rings ominously in the beginning of a show; he ignores it. By the end of News Night, his father is dead. And of course, MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) can be counted on to be his “softer side,” so to speak- coaching him to call his father, encouraging kindness. It was one of those things that the show does sometimes where the contrasting relationship between Will and MacKenzie is thrown so hard in the audience’s face that it’s impossible to ignore. Though it may seem tender and good-natured superficially, the essence of it is as follows: Mackenzie spends a lot of time wishing Will was a better person. Will spends approximately 20% of his time wishing he was a better person, but the other 80% is spent wishing everyone would just leave him the hell alone. Sometimes it annoys me a lot. In this episode, it was enjoyable to watch and heart breaking at the end.
Where this episode faults is in the news stories selected. There isn’t enough room in one episode to sufficiently devote time to Trayvon Martin and Tyler Clementi. As a result, one of the tragedies gets the short straw. In this case, it’s Tyler Clementi’s suicide. While Maggie’s (Alison Pill) editing of the 911 call from George Zimmerman starkly exposes the gatekeeping power held by the media, the show’s handling of the Tyler Clementi case trivializes it, making it seem like a gay rights marketing campaign when a spokesman for the Rutgers Gay Straight Alliance basically admits he’s going to use his time on News Night to come out of the closet to his family. Obviously, this is a shifty and underhanded tactic for the spokesman to use for such an intimate moment (which is pointed out quite eloquently by Mackenzie), but since that’s the only substantial attention given to the case throughout the entire episode, it’s hard to believe that anyone on the show actually takes it seriously.
It will be interesting to see how the show covers the rest of the Trayvon Martin case. Though I sincerely hope this does not become another platform for Aaron Sorkin’s self-righteousness, I think my hopes are misplaced.
We’ll find out some more in next week's episode "One Step Too Many," airing Sunday at 10 P.M. on HBO.
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