“The Newsroom” – Season 2, Episode 2

It’s time that I accept that The Newsroom is never going to be what I want it to be, i.e. The West Wing. I want to see these characters do their job well, struggle with ethical issues, and lean on each other for support. I don’t want to see them quibble over issues in their romantic life that could be cleared up by simply telling each other how they feel, and I’m only slightly more interested in Aaron Sorkin’s political perspective, which seems to be the driving force behind most of these episodes. These reviews are turning into hate rants, and I don’t want to do that, so let me start with something that The Newsroom is doing very right.

Operation Genoa. So far, The Newsroom has had little dramatic tension because we know how it all turns out. These are the perils of weaving real-life events into your narrative. Sorry, but The West Wing didn’t do that. Instead, it depicted fictional events that vaguely reminded us of real-life scenarios, and Operation Genoa is kinda like that. As a result, we’re invested in developments surrounding Genoa, but we don’t know how it ends. This is narrative drama 101, and it’s flabbergasting it took Sorkin an entire season to figure it out. Note: it also helps that the actor driving the Genoa storyline is the terrific Hamish Linklater, a smart, compelling screen presence. He’s such a transformative actor that I completely forgot he played Ralph Branca in this year’s 42, which was in itself a memorable performance.

So that’s what’s working in The Newsroom. What isn’t? Nearly everything else. For starters, Sorkin is stuffing way too many current events into each episode. In this one, we had Occupy Wall Street, the execution of Troy Davis, the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, and the Republican primaries, which obviously will be a season-long arc. I was pretty interested in how they would take on the Romney candidacy and the 2012 election, but so far it looks Sorkin is only interested in using it as a vehicle to continue the ongoing relationship drama between Jim, Maggie, Don, and whatsername. With the introduction of the cute, blonde reporter on the campaign bus, the love rectangle threatens to turn into a pentagon.

I say, bring it on. She can’t be worse than Maggie, who seems to be getting stupider with every episode. Forget about the way she has so badly mismanaged her love life. People do that in her twenties. Forget about the way she confused Georgia (the state) with Georgia (the country) last season; happens to the best of us. But I will always remember this episode because it is the one in which Maggie actually speaks these ridiculous words, “Can you think of anything about Africa that is relevant to Americans?”


The premiere episode of The Newsroom made it seem like the show’s emotional throughline would be a coming-of-age story for Maggie. She was promoted to producer too soon, but she would stick it out, learn how a newsroom operates, and maybe grow up a little in the process. Eventually, she would learn to do her job really well. So far, there are no signs of that happening, and it doesn’t seem like Sorkin is even interested in her job. Maybe that will come in Africa, but there were some hints in last week’s season premiere – the hair – that her trip will only lead to more personal drama.

It occurs to me now that the characters I like best in The Newsroom are those who are good at their job: Will, Charlie, Sloane, Don, and now Jerry. There were only one or two moments in this episode in which good work is being done. As such, it just wasn’t very good. In other words, a pretty typical episode of The Newsroom.

Oh, one more thing. Maggie does figure it out eventually. Near the end of the episode, she exclaims to Mac, “I figured out a reason to cover Africa: national security!”

I. Just. Can’t.

13 thoughts on ““The Newsroom” – Season 2, Episode 2

  1. I hope the goal is to set Maggie up to the one that grows the most throughout the series. Because she is the youngest and most inexperienced, she’s having a harder time navigating the dynamics of working at ACN.

    I think she’s going to eventually realize the way’s she’s doing things isn’t working and she’s going to have to grow up. Hopefully she’ll eventually learn to be direct and assertive like her senior colleagues.

  2. You do realize this Genoa story is made up and that Jerry is fired in the end, right? Or did you not watch the first 2 minutes of the first episode.

    • The Genoa story is loosely based on CNN’s coverage of Operation Tailwind (don’t look it up if you don’t want potential spoilers for the season).

  3. Maggie is so obvious a rip-off of the Donna Moss character he even wrote in ‘gather ye rosebuds’ for her in season 1! Donna was, by far, my least favorite WW character so it holds form I would also think Maggie is a terrible character. Hopefully the actor gets seven years to finally realize her progression as a professional adult, because it took Donna six years to figure that out (then she ran back to Josh because she obviously can’t stand up on her own in the end, anyway).

    I also struggle with the reality embedded into the show because it discusses recent events and I find it farcical as they try to play this, “we’re better than the real news’ angle when it’s easy to do that in hindsight. Like Neal jumping on Occupy as “the arab summer in america’ after reading the first press release on reddit. What?? It’s clear that’s going to be a major plot line this season, but Neal being active in one of the first planning meetings is just too rich for me.

  4. I say the Op Genoa to be some sort of corollary to the Dan Rather events known as the Killian documents controversy. In the initial episode of the season, we as viewers see teases of the aftermath and we are left to guess how a well respected, mainstream news source would be fooled into showing sensationalist journalism. I figure the rest of the season will show the details of the series of events that, if any had been different, would have prevented the reporting of Op Genoa. So, we need to know about the relationship details of the younger staff members along with all these various real events like Occupy Wall Street, the execution of Troy Davis, and the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki as they show how the characters worldview is being seriously shaken. Look at Will. He did not want to challenge the Troy Davis prosecution as he wants to believe the system, while imperfect, works well overall but then learns about the killing of an American oversees by presidential order, AKA Anwar al-Awlaki. This shakes his worldview as to now question our institutions. Previously, he was fine when the gov’t said everything was secret for national security reasons, but now that is shattered. I figure in later episodes, these events will allow him to report on Op Genoa when he otherwise would have not.
    So, I suggest not just hating the show based upon an individual episode. This show requires a long attention span so it may be a better show to watch on a later date when all episodes could be watched back-to-back On Demand.
    Oh, expectations lead to resentments so expecting this show to be The West Wing will piss you off. It isn’t the West Wing, it is The Newsroom. There could be a website like this several years from now wondering why some current show isn’t more like The Newsroom (it could happen!)

  5. To be fair, most characters on this show have made unrealistically stupid mistakes or comments… It’s not just Maggie. I think Sorkin does this to humanize his otherwise statistic-spewing, know-it-all characters. Think about Jim and the polar bears (or was it penguins?), Mack’s issues with emailing, etc. There are a lot of, “seriously, how can you be *that* stupid?!” moments. He seems to think that giving otherwise brilliant characters one huge flaw (this is most obvious with Sloan) makes them a bit more down to eath.
    And also to be fair, if you asked the average American why we should care about Africa, most are probably too worldly uneducated to give you a good reason. I hardly see any news on Africa as-is.

  6. “Can you think of anything about Africa that is relevant to Americans?”

    That’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask, a question that most people would have a difficult time answering. Why would your average citizen care about Africa?

    All we hear in the news is about Africa is what government has been toppled in favor of an even worse government, what tribe is at war with another tribe, and how many more million of them have AIDS. Africa is not something most people care about.

    • Yes, I totally agree that it’s a reasonable question, but the answer she came up with – one of many potential answers to that question – should be completely obvious to any reasonable intelligent person, especially one who works in a newsroom.

  7. I think it’s important to note that this isn’t the West Wing. Not everyone is the top of their fields. Sometimes inept and stupid people get to positions they don’t deserve.

    Where Maggie really shines is when she stumbles into being correct. She throws a lot of darts and misses a lot, but when she hits, she hits, and we can resonate with that because we have, all of us, been in the position where we don’t really know what we’re doing, but we’re trying our hardest to just make it.

    But, I agree. I kind of wish Sorkin would leave the love lives alone. The only one he handled half-decently was Josh and Amy Gardner.

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