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.