The Newsroom Review: Getting High, Reaching a Low
Why do I have a feeling this episode of The Newsroom will either be loved or hated?
Considering the sensitive/sacred nature of the topic, let me just ask ahead of time: please be respectful in the Comments section.
I will try to keep my take on "5/1" brief and to the point: I thought it was as emotionally manipulative an episode of television as I've ever seen.
It wasn't even an episode of television, really. It was clear that Aaron Sorkin felt a need to take on 9/11 and the death of Osama bin Laden and he worked backward from there.
Yes, we got a sprinkling of some romantic banter, a subject that has come across as unnatural, under-developed and forced since the premiere. And Sorkin chose to get Will high just because... well, he thought it would be funny and he needed some sort of filler for an installment based around people mostly just sitting around the office.
But, for the most part, this was the show's 9/11 episode. It's as simple as that - and it felt contrived from the get-go, with Charlie receiving an anonymous tip (what was the point of that in the end? And can there be more of a lazy writing crutch than to simply invent a mystery person to move a story along?) and later with the series making up an email from Joe Biden.
That's been my chief complaint about The Newsroom from the beginning - that it's difficult to take seriously when it continually takes such liberties/shortcuts and simply conjures up huge coincidences (e.g. Jim's sister working at Haliburton) in order to get a story "right" - so I won't repeat it in detail here.
I will, however, focus on the manipulation aspect. The episode worked in the relative of someone who died in the attack... along with New York City police officers... and airline pilots. All of those whose impact the killing of bin Laden would most directly affect more than a decade later. I admit: I actually got shivers when Charlie first told the staff about this terrorist's death. It is rather incredible what kind of an effect a singular event can have on so many people.
But from the perspective of a television critic, and not a native New Yorker reflecting on everything associated with that date, it all felt unbelievably cheap. If you felt something when Don told those pilots about bin Laden, it wasn't because anything on the episode made you feel that way. It had nothing whatsoever to do with The Newsroom.
It was because this was the most tragic event in American history. To be blunt, it's an incredibly easy source of emotion to mine.
To me, that is not quality television. It's not any kind of fictional television. It's simply reminding viewers of a tragedy and then figuratively kicking its feet up while the sentiment washes over them.
Again, it's a complicated subject that is sure to arouse a lot of reaction. So let's have it: What did everyone else think?