The Newsroom: THE BLACKOUT Part 1: Tragedy Porn Review

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When Will compares News Night to Camelot in the first scene of this week’s episode of The Newsroom, it sets the tone for the rest of the hour that followed. This week’s episode felt arrogant and patronizing. But worse than that, it was unbearably boring.

We get to meet Brian, Mackenzie’s ex-boyfriend who she cheated on Will with. The reason we get to meet him is that a masochistic Will has hired him to write a feature on News Night 2.0. He’s a reporter who’s far out of his prime and is willing to write the story as an attempt to regain some of his former glory. He pops in an out throughout the episode, pokes at Mackenzie, and calls Will out on his intentions with the feature, but all in all we really don’t learn much about his character, who Paul Schneider portrays in a very forgettable performance.

A meeting with Reese Lansing reveals to Charlie, Mackenzie, and Will that due to their refusal to cover the Casey Anthony trial they lost half their viewers in one week. Charlie and Will make the decision to begin covering the trial. The motivation is that News Night wants to cover one of the presidential nominee debates, but the RNC won’t consider them if their ratings continue to plummet. Mackenzie spends the entire episode fluttering between pouting and ranting about having to cover what she considers a mindless news story. This week makes Mackenzie McHale an extremely unlikable character. Her rants are elitist, and are extremely alienating to viewers, both of News Night and of The Newsroom itself. It’s unclear how much of Aaron Sorkin’s personal beliefs come out through his characters’ dialogue, but this week it feels like the writer is full of disdain for anyone who doesn’t share his exact beliefs about television. Mackenzie looks like a snob, and so do the writers. They need to tone it down with the “holier than thou” attitude. It helps to note that mentioning characters’ “disdain for the internet” in this age of technology doesn’t help with this alienation. Neither does the appearance of Don, who has to join the rundown meeting cause apparently the full staff of News Night is so unfamiliar with doing a human interest story that they need tutelage.

In the only enjoyable moment of the episode, Maggie goes on a very coherent tangent about Michelle Bachmann. Allison Pill delivers it beautifully, and it’s the only rant this week worth paying any attention to.

Even Sloan, who’s usually a character I love to watch, lectuing Mackenzie on the debt ceiling debate feels forced and and uninspired this week, despite Olivia Munn’s best efforts.

Charlie meets with Solomon Hancock, the anonymous caller from last week. It turns out that he works for the NSA, and is on a mission to expose the illegal phone and internet hacking the government has been engaging in. If Charlie agrees to cover the story, he’ll give him information about how Reese Lansing has been ordering exactly the same kind of surveillance at ACN. Charlie attempts confront Leona Lansing, but threats fly in both directions, with Charlie’s being much vaguer than Leona’s. Will’s on the verge of being fired. It seems he’s been there since week one, so this whole scenario that should feel very dramatic seriously falls flat.

In another stale scene, Will visits his therapist who tells him he needs to forgive Mackenzie. Riveting stuff.

I never thought I’d miss the Jim/Maggie/Don/Lisa love triangle, I would have thought an episode without it would feel refreshing, but I honestly would have preferred it to this week’s tedious nonsense. This was a filler episode if I’ve ever seen one. The episode ends with a very welcome blackout.

And Mackenzie uttering the phrase, “I need a sign that we didn’t do a big thing badly.” This exact phrase was used repeatedly in an episode of Sports Night. “We did a big thing badly.” It was so memorable, and a very memorable episode of that show (Mary Pat Shelby from season one. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend watching it instead of this episode of The Newsroom), so why Aaron Sorkin would chose to reuse it verbatim is a complete mystery to me. Aaron Sorkin is no doubt a very talented writer; he doesn’t need to fish through old scripts for dialogue. But that’s exactly what he’s doing.

In the end, this episode is a part one that leaves the viewer with absolutely no desire to watch part two. Aaron Sorkin, Mackenzie, News Night…you guys did a big thing badly. To quote Will McAvoy: “Get it the **** together.” (3/10)

3 Responses to The Newsroom: THE BLACKOUT Part 1: Tragedy Porn Review

  1. It wasn’t a great episode, but I don’t think it was that bad either.

    No one is happy. They’re all pissed about the Casey Anthony stuff. And the viewers (us, the NewsRoom viewers) aren’t happy because they’re not doing the show we want them to do. Yes, we want News Night 2.0, if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be watching this.

    Oh, and we’re all pissed at Will for picking the reporter too. Which I think could have worked out better if they’d done it on an already weird episode.

    This idea for news great. It’s more boring, but it’s actually news I might watch (if only I were interested in politics!).

  2. Nathan Slovin says:

    Seems like Newsroom is Sorkin’s recycling center; the recurring therapist, the body guard, the battle between the angels & demons in everyone, a past love interest in an interesting role (remember Lisa Shearborn the writer who interviews Sam), a Presidential debate story, news done right v news done for ratings (you go Dana) and on and on and on. All we need to do is find a place for Mrs. Landingham and Bruno.

    • Meghan Coan says:

      I had forgotten about Lisa interviewing Sam! I think one of my biggest problems with the recycling is that Mackenzie is really a poor man’s Dana…But I have to say, I like Sloan in a similar role to Natalie, she does a good job with it.

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