The Newsroom vs. Political Animals: Character Combat!

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They may be the two most buzzworthy shows of the summer: HBO's The Newsroom and USA's Political Animals.

Both focus on the world of politics and both base many storylines on our very recent history, but each has a unique take on just how to do so. In the end, however, doesn't it always come down to the characters?

Therefore, in the spirit of Olympic competition, let's face journalists against Secretaries of State, anchors against Presidents, and see who takes home the Gold... and who just goes home.

  • Jeff Daniels on The Newsroom
  • Political Animals Premiere Pic

The Woman Running the Show: Elaine Barrish Hammond vs. MacKenzie MacHale
Elaine Barrish Hammond: This Former First Lady is the current Secretary of State and possible future President of the United States.  She keeps her cool while handling handsy foreign dignitaries, condescending white house staff, and nosey reporters. But have Elaine's political aspirations come at the cost of her family's well being and will falling into bed with her philandering ex keep her from winning.

MacKenzie MacHale: She spent four years covering the story in war torn Afghanistan and came home to become the Executive Producer of a prime time news show.  MacKenzie convinced the anchor and powers that be to change the focus of network news to something of which they could all be proud. On the down side MacKenzie is technologically inept as she broadcasts personal e-mails to all of her co-workers, and for some reason gets gum caught in her hair.  Will cheating on her ex, now her boss, yet following him around with a combination of teenaged jealousy and doe-eyed awe hurt her chances in this fight?

 

The Man in Charge: Will McAvoy vs. Bud Hammond
Will - He's a primetime news anchor. An idealist who is protective of those he cares about yet he's also a bit of a jerk.  Will's gone from being the milquetoast Jay Leno of the news to the newsman people respect and fear.  But is he becoming more of a bully than a journalist?  Will's a man with big goals, "First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore."

Fixing the country one newscast at a time is a lofty goal. But those high standards didn't transfer to his personal life where he paraded his dates in front of his ex like a jealous 8th grader.  Does this flawed hero deserve the gold?

Bud - He was the incredibly popular two term President of the United States who just couldn't keep it in his pants.  But despite his need for the spotlight, he occasionally manages to be painfully honest, "You should leave me. I'll cheat again. And, I'll lie again and I'll break your heart again." He even has ex-wife Elaine's back more often than she knows. Does a masterful political mind and a huge heart make up for his huge…ego?

 

Women in the Trenches: Maggie Jordan vs. Susan Berg
Maggie - She is sweet, lovable, and tries desperately hard to get it right.  She was promoted from intern to assistant to associate producer almost over night but Maggie's judgement is questionable.  She mixed up Georgia the state with Georgia the country. She not only got the meaning of LOL wrong but she used it in a professional condolence letter.  Maggie's as determined to be successful at her job as she to make her relationship with her boyfriend work.  but if he's not in it to win it, in the end will all of her determination matter?

Susan - She's a reporter at the top of her game. Susan knows the political scene and is willing to play hardball to get the story.  Winning a Pulitzer for covering the Hammond family scandal also won her the title Bitch of the Beltway. Susan is willing to resort to blackmail to get her story.  Which will hurt her more, her questionable ethics or falling back into bed with her cheating ex and current boss?

 

The Nice Guys: Jim Harper vs. Doug Hammond
Jim - What can we say about Jim?  He's MacKenzie's loyal sidekick, senior producer and all around nice guy. He manages to prop Maggie up while still making fun of her ridiculous quirks and despite their obvious attraction he gives her honest relationship advice when she needs it. “Stop breaking up. Learn how to have a fight.” Sigh, is Jim too nice for his own good.

Doug - He's the dutiful son…or is he.  He ran his mother's campaign and felt the guilt when she lost. He tries desperately to save his twin brother from his addiction. But when mom wants to run for President a second time, Doug goes behind her back to sabotage it.  Is a little back stabbing OK if it's for the good of the family or will it only come back to bite him?

 

Fighting to be Seen: Sloan Sabbith vs. Anne Ogami
Sloan - She's an economics genius who hosts her own afternoon TV show and speaks fluent Japanese. But will forgetting the first rule of Journalism, don't print or air facts that you can't back up, and then begging her boss for help, cost her in this competition.

Anne - She's about to marry into a powerhouse political family and manages to keep her head when her small, intimate engagement dinner becomes hijacked for politics. Anne loves Doug but with a history of bulimia and ecstasy use in her background, is she still eligible for a win?

 

The Troublemakers; Don Keefer vs. TJ Hammond
Don - He's Will's former producer who fought tooth and nail against the new format, then quickly moved on to another show.  Don can be uncooperative or completely supportive depending on his mood.  And although he cares about girlfriend Maggie, he's frequently patronizing. Does Don's selfish if inconsistent nature make him likably flawed or simply hard to like?

TJ - He's the black sheep of the Hammond family.  TJ's the first openly gay son of a President and that's certainly put him in the spotlight. Was it all simply more than he could handle?  TJ's a drug addict who has one suicide attempt to his credit.   And as much as he assures himself and everyone else he's got things under control, stealing checks from his grandmother and his continued drug use scream otherwise.  Will his involvement in a night club and his mother's second campaign make this Hammond son the more interesting troublemaker?

 

Women Behind the Scenes: Leona Lansing vs. Margaret Barrish
Leona - She's a powerful woman. The owner of cable news network and involved in many businesses beyond that. But when her lead anchor won't back down from his expose on Congress, the Tea Party and the powerful Koch brothers, she no longer backs the new direction of the show.  Will her admission that "I got where I am by knowing who to fear," win or lose her points in this competition?

Margaret - She's a bawdy former show girl who survived an alcoholic husband and doesn't hesitate to speak her mind. Margaret's the first person to tell her daughter the pitfalls of running for President and readily shares her brand of tough love with addict grandon TJ. "I know your story. I know how it ends" she tells him sadly. Will reluctantly backing her daughter in the upcoming campaign be enough to give Margaret the win?

 

Who Holds the Real Power? Charlie Skinner vs President Paul Garcetti

Charlie - As Will's boss he puts his ass on the line to back Will/MacKenzie's new view of News Night.  Even when Leona threatens everything he's worked for, he comes right back at her. “The newsroom turned into a courtroom when I decided the American people needed a f—ing lawyer.”  But will not sharing the possible consequences of staying the course with Will be his downfall?

Paul - Paul's the President of the United States.  What more can we say? But is Paul more figure head than leader? And does dangling a Supreme Court Justice carrot in front of Elaine to cut off her presidential run against him make more likable for his cunning or less so for his back room tactics?

 

Is there a winner? You tell us: Which show do you prefer?

 

C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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The Newsroom hands down! I watch both and the Jeff Daniels led show is much better. I couldn't even watch the last 2 episodes of Political Animals.

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It's a funny thing. I bitch about The Newsroom but I keep tuning in for more and when both shows are done I think I'll miss it more. I like Political Animals but there is something about the magic of Sorkin's dialogue that has me hooked.

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I don't watch Political Animals so I voted for The Newsroom on all of them except Don vs. TJ. @Dillon No chance. It was a miniseries to begin with, but it could maybe be considered for a second season (a la Downton Abbey) if the ratings weren't down the toilet (Ironically, that's probably because it was a miniseries and no one wanted to make the commitment)

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The characters of Political Animals are WAY more fun and real than The Newsroom. My vote is for the ANIMALS! I'm really praying that we get a full season pickup for Political Animals soon!

Political Animals Quotes

You're asking me to eat shit. Now, I held the highest office in the land. An office only 41 men before me ever held. I don't eat shit. I serve it.

President Hammond

Fan Girl: Why don't you run again?
President Bud Hammond: Would if I could. Would if I could.

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