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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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Matt richenthal

@Ellie: I don't think it's any stereotype I prefer. It's the switch from the portrayal of Mac on the premiere. She took control then, she told Will she "owned" him for one hour every day. Then.. she can't send an email and she's complaining about his dating life in the middle of a pitch meeting. She's apologizing for telling him to be "in or out," a perfectly reasonable speech. The show has removed any semblance of backbone from this woman in two episodes.

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After last week's episode, I set the bar low and was prepared to turn my back on this show if the relationships between the characters didn't improve, despite the fact that I enjoy the political content each episode offers. (When Maggie stepped out of the meeting I said 'If she ends up being pregnant I will never watch another minute of this show') Fortunately, they hit par for the course. I don't agree that Maggie was introduce as a strong character and the fact that she is 'stumbles around' works for who she has always been: unsure, terrified yet passionate and intelligent. MacKenzie on the other hand has dropped off dramatically since episode 1, where she was brilliant and fearless but now can't send an email and gets jealous despite having obviously moved on. The tea party attacks and the debt ceiling vote redeemed this episode for me, as well as Jane Fonda's character who nailed it. Weather or not the portrayal was politically accurate(I think it was), I'm glad this show is addressing the issue. In closing, I agree with the review to an extent but I think it's too early to judge where these characters are going.

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I'm an UnhappyCamper because the facts that Newsroom is attempting to highlight are actually true and it's frightening. What's also frightening to me is why this review and most of the remarks here focus on the romances and not on the news that's being highlighted in this show. It's not a perfect show... yet... and it doesn't seem to be the quality of The West Wing, which I loved,... yet... but I'm willing to give it a chance. There are quality actors. Jane Fonda's role is the best character and the best portrayed, in my view. I agree with Tim on one thing: I'm not sure "most people" do agree with the facts highlighted on this show. I'm afraid Tim may be in the majority... and that is frightening, too. Sorry, Tim. I hope this show continues and raises its own bar a little, but it has great potential if people will only pay attention to the real message and not just the messed-up romances.

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...ctd.
They can be both and it can be realistic.
Furthermore, the reason for the continuation of the Maggie/Don relationship is obvious. It's comfort, security, knowing someones there even if they are a piece of work. It's honestly realistic, loads of people stay with someone they only kind of like or put up with just so they don't have to be alone. The fact that Maggie is in this kind of relationship tells us a lot about her character. And saying the only reason Jim likes Maggie is because Mack told him to is ignoring the time period that the show has covered so far. There has been a huge time jump between the second and third episode and Mack merely pointed Maggie out to Jim, I doubt anyone would fancy someone just because someone told them to.

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My problem with your reviews is the point you keep making about Maggie and Mack. You're criticising them for not adhering to the female stereotype you would prefer; that of the 'professional woman'. They are characters as well as representations of women and so they can embody some contradictions. Characters or women as you seem to focus on can be 'strong and in control' professionally (which they clearly are, Maggie's panic attack aside) while not being in their personal life. They can be professional women who are good at their jobs while also having bad relationships or not knowing how to respond to personal situations. If a male character was to be strong and in control in their profession while being a mess in their social or personal life its so normal its almost cliche but the same can't apply to a female character? So she must have one overriding characteristic of either being an in control professional or a weak little girl who is falling apart because of a man? They can be both and it can be realistic.
Furthermore, the reason for the continuation of the Maggie/Don relationship is obvious. It's comfort, security, knowing someones there even if they are a piece of work. It's honestly realistic, loads of people stay with someone they only kind of like or put up with just so they don't have to be alone. The fact that Maggie is in this kind of relationship tells us a lot about her character. And saying the only reason Jim likes Maggie is because Mack told him to is ignoring the time period that the show has covered so far. There has been a huge time jump between the second and third episode and Mack merely pointed Maggie out to Jim, I doubt anyone would fancy someone just because someone told them to.

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@ e Amanda u r spot on @ tim u dont know anything of what u r talking about i dont know if u r just a strict unwavering right wing conservative but acting & script is absolutely wonderful & inciteful this is truly great writing & one of the best written & accurate shows in a long time not to mention brilliant performances perhsaps ur just not quick enough to pick up on the banter & the dialogue

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Personally I love the show and continue to love it more each week. Tim says ...."sway moderates who watch the filth on HBO.." Clearly you don't watch let alone pay for HBO. I'm pretty sure you've never seen The Newsroom so why you are commenting on it I cannot imagine. The dialogue is terrific, I love the pace and Jeff Daniels is stellar.

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Oh and what is really funny is the author of the article tries to say that the newsroom show deals with facts that most agree with. What a laugh. THE AUTHOR SHOULD BE FIRED FOR THAT. What a dumb comment showing his true left wing colors. Horribly acted, politics was wrong and Jeff Daniels must have really needed the money. I hear he is a big Michigan person well take a look at your state and what unions and dems have done to it. Lied about Palin and the Tea Party without focusing on the megaidiocy of the left. what a tremendousjoke. I just watch this to chronicle it.This was the worst TV I have seen in a while. I will be honest it looks like it was thrown together by the Democrat National Committee quickly to try to put a spin on the last 4 years of failures of the administration. It is trying to be HBOs answer to helping them deal with moderates. I really wonder if that was the case. some big social engineering quick fix to try to sway moderates who watch the filth on HBO.

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Episode 3, and now the shine is starting to wear off. I want to like this series a whole lot, because I like the concept of "The News" being about keeping We, the People truly and well informed, not spun, manipulated, politicized, infotained, dumbed down, commercialed to death, etc., etc. But after 3 weeks, I'm not buying some of the characters, and certainly not some of the relationships Aaron Sorkin is ramming down our throats with greater and greater insistence. Maggie, in particular, is increasingly annoying and not credible - she's really too much immature, neurotic flake. I'm not buying that a veteran combat photo journalist would give Maggie a first look, let alone a second, and then start competing for her with some other guy (who also would never be attracted to her, as far as I can believe). That purported love triangle is just claptrap. Beyond that, Episode 3 fails because, this time, the frantic, disjointed, exhausting pace and brain overload that Sorkin wants us to experience was way overdone - even during the long, important, opening "apology" from Will, there was simply too much flash, flash, flash, flash, with little time or space for much substance or for the view to hook and give a damn. This show is not going to hold me for much longer if major flaws don't get fixed, pronto. Too bad. It ought to be a whole lot better than it is.

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
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