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The Newsroom Review: Bullies, Breakdowns and Bacon

by at . Comments

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.

The Newsroom Team

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?

Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
  • 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (222 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Oh, and by the way: "I'd love to see an episode dedicated to a supporting character" - I thought there was plenty of "dedication" to Sloan this week, before we had the episode with Neal and his contact in Egypt... And most of all this is a Sorkin show, which always means an ensemble cast (even when it centers around a lead character, in this case Will)! I don't know what show you're watching, but I see a lot of different storylines with different people in every episode.

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Wow. Is this supposed to be ironic, sarcastic, or just plain irritating? Giving out five stars now that you've noticed the consistent discrepancy between your ratings and the user ratings, while still slamming the show in the review (except the first few paragraphs to justify the five stars)? There's not enough room to comment on everything you're wrong about, so I'll have to focus on the thing that stands out: Where in the world do you get that misogyny thing from? I'm a woman, and I find it very interesting that you're so offended by absolutely nothing. Yes, the women on the show do stupid things sometimes, but so do the men. That's life! Believe me, there's nothing even remotely offensive about that. Overall, if you can't appreciate Sorkins writing, please stop reviewing and find someone more intelligent who does.

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John, conservatives do a good job of portraying themselves insensitive bigots on their own anytime they open their mouth and judge gay people and say things like, "I don't want to give my money to black people" and "women should hold an aspirin between their knees in place of birth control." You can't blame liberals for the things that come out of conservative mouths.

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The other dumb Maggie moment was where she supposedly is too stupid to know that shooting a gun in the direction of propane tank is dangerous and foolish.

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In defense of the "sexism" issue, a majority of the Maggie/Mackenzie blunders were past issues that were being brought up again, with the exception of the "gum in my hair" and the bit about Mack's words of wisdom. The twisting her ankle thing isn't that uncommon in running, especially if you don't stretch before. Were any of Maggie's past mistakes from over a year ago relevant to the story? No. But had it not been for any of that, she wouldn't have been in the episode at all.

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Oh hell, every week I know I'm being manipulated but by the end of the episode I have drunk the Kool-aid and totally joined the Will McAvoy fan club. What can I say, Aaron Sorkin's dialog is riveting and thoroughly clever. And for an hour I suspend my disbelief and actually care about network news.

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This show sux. It is a tragic comedy. Only a holier-than-thou leftist like Sorkin would think he is doing any good for any community with this show. It simply exhibits the intolerence and arrogance of liberals, infuriates the conservatives who every week are portrayed as insensitive bigots and widens the gap bewteen the two groups. It could be credible if Sorkin skewered both sides equally as both sides are equally wrong.

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It was a good episode. When will Will broadcast from the field? When will his show be subject to boycott or risk losing advertisers?

Matt-richenthal

@Mermaid7: President Barlet was anything but the center of The West Wing. Sheen was not even a series regular when that show debuted. The entire premise was the White House employees who worked FOR the President.
There's certainly no way anyone could claim Josh Lyman or CJ Cregg were only defined by their interactions with the President.

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BEST show on television! Smart, clever, entertaining! Just as Martin Sheen was the center of West Wing, Will McAvoy IS the heart of The Newsroom. I look forward to this hour every Sunday evening, and it flies by! Sorkin and company are working through some kinks in character development (happened on West Wing as well) but even with the bumps, it is so much better than almost everything else!