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The Newsroom Review: Will of the People?

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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...

Emily Mortimer as MacKenzie

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.


Editor Rating: 2.7 / 5.0
  • 2.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (253 Votes)

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

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(cont)...Most of my favorite shows and films exist in the dialogue and not on the screen. Not everyone is going to like all the characters. Not everyone is going to love the script. Many people will wish there were more pretty faces (even though I think the casting is great). Sometimes in order to begin telling a really compelling story AND keep your show on the air you need to play both sides of the fence (or not, if this critic has his way). Sorkin seems to know this and the critic here seems to have just now arrived in the world of modern television. I hope beyond hope that this stays on air so we can ALL see where it leads.


I loved this show. I could care less if the dialogue was too fast for the typical middle American to keep up with. That says more about why it should exist than why it shouldn't. I've worked in offices very similar to this one and it rings full of truth far beyond Mad Men or other the other pretty and popular shows out there now. This show breaks ground on some serious issues in the media right now, not the stories but the media itself (see CNN's current implosion). It is so sad that as of episode 2 critics are so eager to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Having worked in advertising and TV focus groups, I'm amazed that anyone reviewing this could think that the first few episodes won't be slightly messy. Unfortunately, viewers need to be spoon fed far too much (according to research) but they also hate being talked down to. So do you want witty banter and realistic, slower, plot development or do you want cliff notes and sparkles? Most of my favorite shows and films exist in the dialogue and not on the screen. Not everyone is going to like all the characters. Not everyone is going to love the script. Many people will wish there were more pretty faces (even though I think the casting is great). Sometimes in order to begin telling a really compelling story AND keep your show on the air you need to play both sides of the fence (or not, if this critic has his way). Sorkin seems to know this and the critic here seems to have just now arrived in the world of modern television. I hope beyond hope that this stays on air so we can ALL see where it leads.


I know there are a few kinks to be sorted out with the Mackenzie and Maggie, but I think the real problem here is that they scratched the surface too deep for people to handle in a short space of time. Normally you are at least half way through a series before you find out the antagonising situation is revealed but here we were told exactly what happened between Mac and Will....I don't think people were ready for it. I think she still is the same person we met in the first episode but I think she was shocked and guilty when she found out that people thought badly of Will thinking he cheated on her. She made a mistake she cheated on the man she loved and he has never forgiven her and now in a fluster has revealed it to the whole office by mistake. I find her actions and the follow up realistic and played out perfectly. Mackenzie isn't a weak person at all but she does have a weakness and that is Will!


I sorely wanted Newsroom to be great. I know it sometimes takes a lot of exposition to roll out the story line and that the story can come across a bit tedious initially. I watched the show last night hoping that the second episode would pick up its stride. Whew! what a mess. I could only think that these good actors must cringe deep inside while they're delivering their ridiculous lines. Sorkin certainly doesn't appear to hold women in any form of high regard, given the 1940s rat-a-tat-tat meaningless and fumbling dialogue of MacKenzie while she exposes herself as the moon to Will's sun. Brother Sun, Sister Moon on meth and ritalin. I can't see me watching episode 3. What a waste and a shame. Newsroom could've actually made a dent.


I for one actually love this show I think it's great potential however I do agree with a few (not all but) points in the review. I'm over the moon that it has been renewed already for a second season as I would have been gutted had it of been cancelled. Secondly for everyone complaining about Mackenzie not being able to send an email.....her ability to send an email is not in question it was her grasp of autocorrect! She rambled off to everyone in the meeting that the technicians have changed the settings etc. Now these days there are websites set up specifically to make fun of and laugh at people's unfortunate but funny experiences with autocorrect. It can happen regardless of age, experience, intelligence or circumstance.


So formulaic. Could something please happen on this show that you don't see coming a mile away? And as for MacKenzie, if she was one tenth as hysterical and nervous and wacky while in a war zone as she is in the news room, not only would she not have lasted 10 minutes, she probably would have been fragged. And Sam Waterson really is drinking, I think.


The reviewer was too kind...In addition to all the flaw mentioned, here are a few more: Terrible theater. As soon as a character describes how their email system works, anyone who has ever seen a movie, TV show or play KNOWS there will be a major email SNAFU. How about the assumption that it's okay for a "journalist" to have the kind of prejudices Meggie admitted to (and her supervisor accepted.) Would anyone respect either character? Does Mr. Sorkin think all conservatives are stupid? REALLY? I'm seen better character development in comic books - much better. Does Mr. Sorking thing all WOMEN are stupid and weak? I won't be hanging around for the third episode of this pompous, self-important drivel.


I have been tremendously disappointed by this program, which I had so looked forward to. Is it necessary to have everyone talking so fast you can hardly catch the snappy quips? Not everyone talks that way by the way. The dialogue is too cute by half. And the script...please! What crap.


I am more convinced then ever that Aaron Sorkin is nothing more than a highly read left wing cock addict because all his characters talk like they're flying off an eight ball. What garbage. Everything he writes sounds the same and we;ve all read the memes on his recycled lines. Coke addict with no new ideas and too much access to media power.


I do not understand why or how people praise Sorkin. His work was only good on the west wing and even that faltered after 4 seasons. His work here comes across as wildly pedantic, collegiate and amateurish. It is well within the sphere of suspended disbelief that white house officials MIGHT speak in saccharine patriotic monologues and rapid fire quips. This is just more of the same, but with caricatures for protagonists. Given The snore that was Luck, The self referential bore that was Girls, and now this, I'd say HBO's hot streak is over. Perhaps they ought to rethink their non intervention policy with artists. They are giving them too much palette. I mean, for them to not even know the bush head was in GOT, it speaks volumes about how involved they actually are. Time to get involved. Showtime might take Westeros if they get too cocky with these aging auteurs and wannabe amateurs.