The Newsroom Review: Bullies, Breakdowns and Bacon
At the outset of "Bullies," I was prepared to make a very negative comparison of The Newsroom to Glee, considering each so often focuses on a Topic of the Week over any kind of character development or ongoing arc.
For Glee, it's teen suicide, or texting while driving, or domestic abuse or, well, Britney Spears.
For The Newsroom, it's been real-life topics - Gabrielle Giffords, BP - with a hindsight-based twist that continually hammers home how a true journalist should have handled these stories.
But then Will stopped by therapy, we were treated to the presence of guest star David Krumholtz, Aaron Sorkin relied on one of his most effective story telling techniques and the episode went in a far more interesting direction.
Any long-time fan of Sorkin has seen him play with time in the way he did here, from a beloved season two episode of The West Wing that focused on Josh Lyman and his post-shooting PTSD, to pretty much the entire Social Network. It may therefore not be original, but it's darn well done.
In this case, it helped viewers understand Will McAvoy. If you're going to make a show all about one man - and The Newsroom is ALL about one man - you better give that man plenty of depth.
And Will was lacking in that department for awhile. He was basically depicted as an arrogant ass who may have possessed an admirable world view, but who still came across as nothing more than an arrogant ass. We started to break down that facade in the closing scene of last Sunday's "Amen" and we totally destroyed it on this installment.
We went from what seemed like an hour that would hoist Will up on another pedestal - venting about anonymous Internet comments - to literally sitting the anchor down in a chair and delving into his abusive past. The revelation explained a lot about his personality, even hearkening back to the premiere and giving us an idea of why he went off on that poor student.
And what a great, tense scene between Will and the Rick Santorum advisor. I wish Sorkin hadn't given Will the last word, and we would have seen his bullying, holier-than-thou side completely turned against him for a change, but at least sufficient time was provided to the gay black man and the mistake many likely make in assuming someone such as that is only defined by those qualities.
Will may think he has every answer about journalism and the country, but he didn't hold a key answer about himself until this therapy session. Or about the side effects of bacon.
Elsewhere, as always, there was plenty wrong with The Newsroom. I have no why the decision was made to turn MacKenzie from an experienced, respected, war torn reporter into a literal walking punchline among her colleagues, but it's non-sensicial and endlessly irritating.
Apparently she often gets gum stuck in her hair. And twists her ankle at the starting like of marathons. And is so scarcely respected around the office that an offer of "wisdom" is met by outright mockery. SHE'S THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER AND SHE'S BEEN IN A WAR ZONE FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS. It would be nice if the show reflected those credentials in any way.
Maggie also continues to be nothing more than helpless, supposedly comedic fodder. She doesn't know what LOL means? She mixes up the state of Georgia and the country of Georgia? It's just a waste of a character and an actress, making her nothing more than a cute airhead and love interest for Jim.
And even that relationship really doesn't get any time or care from Sorkin. It's been a year since the incident at Northwestern, Will said. And Don and Maggie were dating for a few months when we first met them. So that means the couple has been together for around a year and a half. Do they live together now? Any talk of marriage? Any reason for viewers to be invested in these two, or Don's concerns over losing Maggie to Jim, aside from the show giving Maggie and Jim blatant moments of flirting and banter every week?
Even Sloan, a female character at least allotted a certain level of intelligence, is really only seen through the eyes of Will. He's responsible for her screw-up, he's the one she turns to when unsure about a decision.
It really is all Will McAvoy all the time on The Newsroom. I'd love to see an episode dedicated to a supporting character at some point. But at least we were treated to one here that focused on the man behind the News Night desk more than the issue about which that man was ranting. It was a welcome change.
What did everyone else think?