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The Newsroom Review: Throwing a Tea Party

by at . Comments

One of my favorite relationships in TV history was between Josh Lyman and Donatella Moss on The West Wing.

From the moment we met this Deputy Chief of Staff and his assistant, it was clear there were feelings there on both sides. But they weren't acted upon, they were scarcely even acknowledged in any overt manner, until - ummm, spoiler alert? - the end of the series.

Granted, Josh and Donna worked at the White House, a rather serious place of business. But from all we've seen on The Newsroom, the folks at ACN treat their occupations with just as much gravity as those employed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

My point being: Aaron Sorkin knows how to write workplace non-romances, situations where lead characters beat around the flirting bush, remaining focused on their work but still finding time for knowing glances or gestures. Subtle stuff. Respectable stuff. Interesting, original stuff.

Election Night on The Newsroom

Not at all the stuff we witnessed on "The 112th Congress."

For the second consecutive week, Sorkin made MacKenzie and Maggie out to be desperate women stumbling all over themselves. Just because the show acknowledged how many times Maggie and Don have broken up and reconciled over the course of a week doesn't make it any more ridiculous.

We've seen nothing to make us believe this couple should work. Don doesn't seem particularly understanding, Maggie doesn't seem especially smitten. Their relationship is nothing more than an obstacle to delay the inevitable Maggie/Jim hook up, which has also been underdeveloped.

Jim was told by MacKenzie to crush on Maggie. That was apparently all it took for him to pine over her every time he's not trying to break news. Or sometimes while he's trying to break it. It's a forced, contrived situation all around and I expect more from Aaron Sorkin.

MacKenzie, meanwhile, has been made into a joke in just two episodes. She doesn't come across as strong or in control at this point. She's simply a woman looking on in awe over Will - and somehow growing jealous over his casual dating of beautiful women, even though these two hadn't spoken in years before she walked back into his life on The Newsroom premiere.

I know News Night is the Will McAvoy show, but The Newsroom is turning into the same thing and that's a shame. There could be plenty of well-layered characters to mine behind the scenes if they weren't being written as one-dimensional worshipers at the altar of their anchor.

As for the 2010 topic of the week, it was an incredibly easy target.

The Tea Party is funded by the Koch Brothers, the Tea Party is forcing moderate Republicans to go far right, the Tea Party is hijacking one half of the debate and creating a lack of reasonable opposition in this country. It's difficult to review this series without at least touching on politics, so here I go: these are obvious points with which I'd have to believe a majority of viewers agree.

The rush I got when Sorkin - through Will, someone Sorkin admits he made a moderate Republican because it would be easier for someone from within that party to attack the party without it seeming like your typical Democrat vs. Republican debate... even though we all know Will is just a stand-in for Sorkin, who is a Democrat, making The Newsroom more meta than Community - gave his characters a platform to make the sort of points I've wanted to hear from reporters for years is gone.

It's been replaced by boredom and frustration, as Sorkin is taking the easiest path here whenever possible. He's armchair-quarterbacking his way through history. Sarah Palin is an idiot? The Tea Party is killing the Republican party as we've known it? Wake me up when Sorkin has something original to say.

I'm aware that Will's actual arguments aren't meant to drive the series. It's the idea that he's an anchor willing to make them and how that affects those around him. In this episode, the takeaway is supposed be how the new News Night philosophy is jeopardizing Will's job.

But is anyone really feeling tension there? I somehow doubt Will McAvoy is about to get fired, and not just because The Newsroom was just picked up for Season 2.

Unlike many other critics, I don't mind the grandiose speeches on The Newsroom. I go in to any Aaron Sorkin series expecting the creator's views to come through in almost every scene. But I also expect nuanced, impressive writing, not bumbling females, predictable set-ups and a retelling of events from 2010.

What did everyone else think of the episode?

Review

Editor Rating: 3.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (284 Votes)

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

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As a woman who is a huge fan of this show, I have to say I don't understand where you are coming from when you complain about how the women are portrayed. I think you are focusing too much on woman/man and not on the fact that these are just human characters who do silly things like incorrectly send an email or like a male character spending the whole show trying to convince everyone that Bigfoot is real. The woman on this show are intelligent but not perfect, neither are the males. Every unflattering thing a woman does on Newsroom should not be a reason for picket signs complaining about Aaron Sorkin trying to underwrite the ladies and make the men big. Just relax and enjoy the show for what it is,and that's a smart, funny, entertaining show. If you don't like it, please let the reason be something other than a self made issue.

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of a desk in the newsroom.

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I was happily surprised with Ep3 - agree with whoever it was who said they were on the edge of their seat during the interviews - but when Mac lost her cool about the woman who was there to keep a date with Will - I wouldn't mind seeing her lose her cool at home, or in the women's room, but to have so little control of herself that she loses it in the newsroom? I know (or am reasonably certain that) flirtations go on and sex happens between co-workers in these highly charged atmospheres, but it's not very edifying to see it happening in such an unwieldy manner as it's being presented here. There no wit, no subtlety, no interest. And that's why the conversation is all about them - not about "will they, won't they" but about "ugh, really?" Ep 3 had a chance to make it all about the content, with the sexual innuendo played low. I wanted this show to be about the news, about how to report the news. Not about who is going to screw who and when and betting on whether it will be on top of a desk in the Newsroom!

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I happen to love Aaron Sorkin and own DVDs of all his work including Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (an overlooked gem). I am shocked by how much I hated this show. His usual snappy dialogue is there, which is like music to me. But I can't believe how biggoted his characters are, especially since they are supposed to be enlightened. I do not even care to follow their stories once I am so turned off by their personalities. It's like an entire show full of Archie Bunkers that just agree with each other and build their ignorance with no lessons learned. I do not see people of integrity trying to speak truth. I see an agenda disguised as fiction. It requires no courage to use hindsight in writing a story about what you wish happened two years ago. Sorkin usually has a voice of reason in his scripts to give balance and context. This show is lazy writing. The acting is as good as it can be with what they are given. I know the show was just renewed, but I don't see it getting better unless Sorkin can give is a Meathead to teach this Archie Bunker to open his mind a bit.

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@Tim Kitson
It's a shame I can't down-rank your comment for being so obnoxious. This is a TV review, not a political forum. If you don't like the "filth" on HBO then why do you pay to watch it? Good grief you must be a blast at parties... Anyway, this show IS terrible but largely because Sorkin has crafted a newsroom that's about as believable as the romance on Flavor of Love. It's so terribly contrived and over-written that I struggled to keep a straight face during many scenes. Either Sorkin isn't really trying or he doesn't have much to offer. Either way, this is a waste of time.

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This show is good, but it is far from great. Outside of Will's speech at Northwestern, it hasn't really had any great moments. I disagree about Maggie's character because she so far is the only one I really care about and think has been well-written and even better acted. Outside of that, I agree with just about everything in the review. This show will be given room to improve, but it's going to have to improve. It didn't start out of the gate as well-written or grabbing as either West Wing or Sports Night. The series is going to have to catch up to the present in a hurry. Here's why. Just as Studio 60 suffered because it was about a comedy and wasn't funny, Newsroom is about a show trying to make a difference, and while it's using real events, we know it made no difference. If it tries to take credit for changing the course of events to an outcome that already happened, we'll know that's not the reason. It can't win using that premise. The real news events is a gimmick and a backdrop. If the writing and the relationships come around to what Sorkin is capable of, and he's capable of absolute greatness, then the show will succeed. Matt Albie on Studio 60 was supposed to be a brilliant writer, but the sketches on the show were never funny. Will McAvoy is supposed to be a crusader, but if he doesn't make a difference, it undermines the whole concept of his character. If the characters and the writing stay this flat, than the old news gimmick will become more distracting and 2 seasons may be all we get.

Watchestoomuch

(Finishing up from below) SIX MONTHS! The show advances six months, from early in the primary season to just after the November 2010 elections. Is the show going to nearly catch up to date before the end of its first run? One more thing: Why no follow-up on the Halliburton scandal regarding Deepwater Horizon spill? It was built up on ep. 1 and then disappeared.

Watchestoomuch

I enjoyed episode 3 much more than episode 2 and at least as much as episode 1. I even learned something (I didn't realize quite how large Koch Industries was.) I thought that the preachy stuff fit better and the lapses into sitcomland were less egregious than in episode 2. I don't especially like the way Maggie and Mac are written, but I disagree with Matt's characterization of them as "desperate" women. Mac is clearly hurt and flustered by Will's bringing his girlfriends into the studio. Yet, unlike Will, she is able to begin a relationship that lasts for months. Maggie's relationship is messed up, but whatever is driving her mistakes, it seems to be more immaturity, insecurity, and fear of the unknown than desperation. Things nobody seems to be mentioning: JANE FONDA! The Big Star ex-wife of a TV network mogul is playing a network mogul on TV! Fun! SIX MONTHS! The show advances six months, from early in the primary season to just after the November 2010 elections. Is the show going to nearly catch up to date before the end of its first run? One more thing: Why no follow-up on the Halliburton scandal regarding Deepwater Horizon spill? It was built up on ep. 1 and then disappeared.

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Matt is right on target. I put up with whatever opinion Aaron wants to shove down my throat because he usually does it with such grace and finess -"He's so good with [his] stiletto, you don't even mind the pain." But if the writing and the characters are going to be this undeveloped, we are going to have words. Worse, we are going to turn off the TV and get ready for the week we have ahead of us. The mundane, ignorant, middle class week Aaron loathes so much.

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I strongly disagree with your review. This show is one of the best written and well acted shows on television. It is so far above most of the tripe you see on the tube and is a good example of why I suscribe to the premium channels. While the networks keep piling on the reality shows, which are like a rapidly spreading malignant tumor that is destroying this industry,we still have quality programming like The Newsroom to give us some hope that the tube is more than a panoramic view of a landfill. As for the secondary plots involving the relationships between Will and Mac and Maggie and Jim, I really don't have a problem with how those situations are portrayed. Highly intelligent people who thrive on their professions like heroin addicts are frequently very inept at maintaining healthy personal relationships. It's actually comforting to see that these "super humans" aren't so perfect as they may seem at first. They are usually either totally insensitive to the feelings of others or bumbling idiots when it comes to expressing romantic feelings toward someone. So I find that part of the show very realistic.

The Newsroom Season 1 Episode 3 Quotes

I never knew what the word 'smug' meant until I met you.

Maggie

Who are we to make these decisions? We're the media elite.

Will