The Newsroom Review: Will of the People?
Well, that devolved quickly.
As one of the only critics who enjoyed The Newsroom premiere - focusing on the captivating pace and writing of Aaron Sorkin over the repetitive, sanctimonious message behind it - I was looking forward to "News Night 2.0."
But why must I now join the chorus of those coming down hard on the new HBO drama? For a number of reasons...
MacKenzie McCrazyPants. So MacKenzie has been on the front lines of Afghanistan for years, she has covered more real news in one day than Will has in a lifetime (by his own admission)... yet she can't figure out how to send an email? She can't give a presentation without falling all over herself? She can't talk to another female without desperately crying out for a friend?
It's plausible for one to be neurotic and competent, but MacKenzie veered far too close to just the former this week. She didn't resemble the strong professional we met on the premiere in any way.
Mac and Will clearly have a complicated relationship and that's worth exploring, but she simply came across as pathetic here, somehow shocked that colleagues consider Will to be an "ass" and Hell bent on proving them wrong. Moreover, why did she apologize at the end? Are you in or are you out? It was a perfectly reasonable question and speech MacKenzie delivered after Will's embarrassing broadcast, yet the show neutered her over and over this week by having her crawl back to Will at every opportunity.
He's a great guy!!! Seriously, people, Will McAvoy is a great guy. We haven't been given many reasons to believe this - until his phone call/request to Neil to conclude this episode - but two different crying women continued to insist on it. First MacKenzie, then Maggie.
Such a marginalization of women is quite a turn off. Both the aforementioned workers existed this week just to break down over men and to build Will up. It's one thing for The Newsroom to preach that a responsible, hard-hitting media can change the world. But it's another to set up a universe where only the (male) reporter at the center of the action can change the world.
MacKenzie and Maggie - and Emily Mortimer and Alison Pill - deserve a lot better than just exiting to cater to Will's needs and ego.
What a Coincidence! So a major scoop was broken last Sunday because Jim's sister works for BP. And here a significant storyline developed because Maggie's ex-boyfriend happens to be the spokesperson for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.
Combine the fact that Sorkin is writing in hindsight - covering events from 2010 in 2012 - with him relying on so many contrived consequences and you've got a pair of pretty big cop-outs driving a majority of the storytelling so far.
Piling on Palin. Considering the setting of The Newsroom and Sorkin's unabashed political leanings, it's expected that certain conservative targets will crop up. And Palin is clearly an easy one.
I have no interest in turning this into a political debate, but even those who view this former Vice Presidential candidate as deserved of Sorkin's wrath must agree that we don't need three separate instances of bashing her. First, Will dismissed her as a "private citizen" with no reason to appear on his program; then he aired the clip of her bumbling everything about the BP spill; then MacKenzie mocked her for that same bumbling.
In the course/flow of an episode, it's reasonable and realistic to expect commentary of this nature. But this felt like Sorkin just going out of his way to make his feelings on both Palin and the media's treatment of her as clear as possible.
I still love Sorkin, and I'm fine with him climbing on board a high horse because he writes such eloquent, passionate speeches from up there. I get swept up in the dialogue and I appreciate his ability to depict intelligent people in stressful jobs or situations.
But he didn't serve those people very well in this case. MacKenzie was nothing more than a vehicle to prop Will up, Maggie was a blubbering mess, Jim seemed unusually taken by Maggie simply because MacKenzie told him to be. If Sorkin wants us to believe that the media is the key to solving many problems in this country, he needs to paint a better picture of those actually working in media.