The Newsroom: The 112th Congress Review

Photo Credit: http://www.esquire.com/the-side/feature/tv-recaps/the-newsroom-episode-3-10469238

Aaron Sorkin did it this week. In the third episode of The Newsroom, he successfully pulls the viewer into his romanticized notion of cable news. In an apology that felt neither forced nor overly preachy, Will McAvoy opens an episode of News Night by promising the American people that the goal of the show will be a well informed electorate rather than high ratings. The line that finally convinced me that yes, a show idealizing cable news can be successful without being too dated was this: “News is only useful in the context of humanity.” Aaron Sorkin writing at its finest.

This episode worked so well because of the set-up, retrospective clips of news shows and rundown preps against a current meeting Charlie was having with corporate. The format was unbelievably effective. In a move that makes him infinitely more likable than in previous episodes, Will’s true passion for politics came to light as he made the decision to vigorously report on Tea Party politics, declaring that people should be afraid of this radical institution infiltrating the Republican Party. As Will berates Tea Party leaders and reports on absurd statements made by the likes of Sharron Angle and Jim Demint, we watch Charlie being given the breakdown on how ratings are slipping. This episode teaches us one thing, honest reporting does not equal a ratings boost. And a defiant Charlie couldn’t care less.

In this week’s B stories, Will goes on a series of dates with women including a NY Jets cheerleader and a stunning brain surgeon, driving Mackenzie mad with jealousy. The way she exudes jealousy and her counter attack bringing her boyfriend of three months on set make her character seem rather one dimensional this week. The relationship between Will and Mackenzie, however, is not the true “will they or won’t they?” relationship of the show. That role is filled by Jim and Maggie. Their dynamic is sweet, in an especially lovely scene Jim talks Maggie down from a serious panic attack, but with the obvious and mindless rivalry between Don and Jim, the hopeful romance between Maggie and Jim could become stale quickly. The budding bromance between Jim and Neal, on the other hand, offers the show a bit of lightness that it needs at times and is delightful to watch.

The climax of the episode comes on election night and in its immediate aftermath. The staff of News Night is pleased with themselves for their straight shooting approach to election coverage. The network executives feel the opposite. Jane Fonda makes her first appearance this week as Leona Lansing, CEO of the network. She was silent for the first 50 minutes of the show, but her presence was powerful. I think she’ll prove to be a great addition to an already strong cast. The role of unlikable antagonist still belongs with Reese, her son, but it’s Leona who threatens Charlie with Will’s firing if he doesn’t back off the Tea Party and try to get their sponsors back.

In The West Wing and Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin was working with topics that were already idealized. Everyone has an unrealistic fanciful notion about the American presidency, and as the main character says in an episode of Sports Night, “How can you not be romantic about sports?” I didn’t think that cable news was going to be an appropriate medium to deliver a passionate view of politics and America as a whole, but this week proved my initial thoughts wrong. It turns out that with Will McAvoy at the wheel, cable news is the perfect venue for idealism. (8/10)

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