The Newsroom Review: Throwing a Tea Party
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.
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?