The Newsroom Review: Will of the People?

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Well, that devolved quickly.

As one of the only critics who enjoyed The Newsroom premiere - focusing on the captivating pace and writing of Aaron Sorkin over the repetitive, sanctimonious message behind it - I was looking forward to "News Night 2.0."

But why must I now join the chorus of those coming down hard on the new HBO drama? For a number of reasons...

Emily Mortimer as MacKenzie

MacKenzie McCrazyPants. So MacKenzie has been on the front lines of Afghanistan for years, she has covered more real news in one day than Will has in a lifetime (by his own admission)... yet she can't figure out how to send an email? She can't give a presentation without falling all over herself? She can't talk to another female without desperately crying out for a friend?

It's plausible for one to be neurotic and competent, but MacKenzie veered far too close to just the former this week. She didn't resemble the strong professional we met on the premiere in any way.

Mac and Will clearly have a complicated relationship and that's worth exploring, but she simply came across as pathetic here, somehow shocked that colleagues consider Will to be an "ass" and Hell bent on proving them wrong. Moreover, why did she apologize at the end? Are you in or are you out? It was a perfectly reasonable question and speech MacKenzie delivered after Will's embarrassing broadcast, yet the show neutered her over and over this week by having her crawl back to Will at every opportunity.

He's a great guy!!! Seriously, people, Will McAvoy is a great guy. We haven't been given many reasons to believe this - until his phone call/request to Neil to conclude this episode - but two different crying women continued to insist on it. First MacKenzie, then Maggie.

Such a marginalization of women is quite a turn off. Both the aforementioned workers existed this week just to break down over men and to build Will up. It's one thing for The Newsroom to preach that a responsible, hard-hitting media can change the world. But it's another to set up a universe where only the (male) reporter at the center of the action can change the world.

MacKenzie and Maggie - and Emily Mortimer and Alison Pill - deserve a lot better than just exiting to cater to Will's needs and ego.

What a Coincidence! So a major scoop was broken last Sunday because Jim's sister works for BP. And here a significant storyline developed because Maggie's ex-boyfriend happens to be the spokesperson for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Combine the fact that Sorkin is writing in hindsight - covering events from 2010 in 2012 - with him relying on so many contrived consequences and you've got a pair of pretty big cop-outs driving a majority of the storytelling so far.

Piling on Palin. Considering the setting of The Newsroom and Sorkin's unabashed political leanings, it's expected that certain conservative targets will crop up. And Palin is clearly an easy one.

I have no interest in turning this into a political debate, but even those who view this former Vice Presidential candidate as deserved of Sorkin's wrath must agree that we don't need three separate instances of bashing her. First, Will dismissed her as a "private citizen" with no reason to appear on his program; then he aired the clip of her bumbling everything about the BP spill; then MacKenzie mocked her for that same bumbling.

In the course/flow of an episode, it's reasonable and realistic to expect commentary of this nature. But this felt like Sorkin just going out of his way to make his feelings on both Palin and the media's treatment of her as clear as possible.

I still love Sorkin, and I'm fine with him climbing on board a high horse because he writes such eloquent, passionate speeches from up there. I get swept up in the dialogue and I appreciate his ability to depict intelligent people in stressful jobs or situations.

But he didn't serve those people very well in this case. MacKenzie was nothing more than a vehicle to prop Will up, Maggie was a blubbering mess, Jim seemed unusually taken by Maggie simply because MacKenzie told him to be. If Sorkin wants us to believe that the media is the key to solving many problems in this country, he needs to paint a better picture of those actually working in media.


Editor Rating: 2.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (253 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


Well, damn, they cheap infants ugg erin Too bad, huh? They shoulda put the sonofabitch out of business! Well, this is further proof that the laws are written to protect the business owners, not regular people like us.


Lisa Edelstein should have played MacKenzie. Mortimer is too bland and "cute" for the role.


The only way Sorkin and his writers are going to get their heads in the right place to create a whole season of watchable television is to swear off "funny" for at least one episode. Only after they get the serious elements of the show down and learn to respect the characters and the setting can they reintroduce humor without looking like idiots.


Just finished watching my DVR'd copy. Hard to sit through. Embarrassing, even. From the minute Maggie started going over the top about being "monitored," to Mac getting all weird with the economics woman to the e-mail to the shouting frenzy to the total fuck-ups with the on-air interviews - I mean, I've seen some ditzy "experts," but I've never seen any who didn't understand that they were on TV and it was time to try to look smart. They all talk snappy but it's chatter, not patter. There wasn't a "water-cooler-worthy" line of dialog in the entire piece. I think Sorkin's drinking his own cool-aid.


Tasha, From the quality of your writing, it seems that this show is just right for you. Real Housewives much?


I think this is a great show, what were you watching?? Or expecting?? I don't think they got it wrong I think you did. Mac apologizes at every turn not for the thing whatever it is but because she cheated on him and she feels she has to make up for it. That's totally plausible, that's real. When she told him in or out she kind of put that guilt on the back burner for a second, but then she went back to the contrite Mac. Maggie screwed up. She should be drunk and crying and she probably should have not reached out to the governor's office if she couldn't hold her tongue. I like Maggie a lot but it is what it is. Also, I'm a woman please stop trying to turn this into they are not representing women correctly, Puhleeze, enough your taking it too far. Like Mac getting flustered and sending the wrong email that's human that happens, don't make it a woman thing. The only thing I don't like is Emily Mortimer, I don't care for her in this role. I'm hoping it grow on me.


agree with sprinkle. Did love the premiere but the second bleccch. Cancelled HBO.


I am equally disappointed in this show, and I so wanted to like it. At the end of the second episode I find I do not believe in any of the characters (except Sam Waterston, of course) and therefore I cannot care about them. I have never thought much of Jeff Daniels' acting ability, and I think even less of it now. The cast of 20-something fumblers is about as charming as a bowl of leftover tapioca, and I want to know much less about their pointless lives. All of the actors are behaving as if the director just said, "Talk faster, and with less feeling!" There us no chemistry on set at all. The show is a snooze fest.


I judged base on how how a movie educated people. In this case: civic duty. This movie speaks for itself:
Will: "We aspired to intelligence. We didn't belittle it. It didn't make us feel inferior."
MacKenzie: "Reclaiming the Fourth Estate. Reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession. A nightly newscast that informs a debate worthy of a great nation. Civility, respect, and a return to what's important. The death of bitchiness, the death of gossip and voyeurism." ..... Speaking truth to stupid.
MacKenzie: "And where does it say that a good news show can't be popular?
Will: "Yes, people choose the news they want now, but-- People choose the facts they want now"
MacKenzie: "That America ... has said over and over and over that we can do better. It's part of our DNA. .... People will want the news if you give it to them with integrity. Not everybody, not even a lot of people-- 5%. And 5% more of anything is what makes the difference in this country. So we can do better. This second series give me technical insight: how tv journalism could produce good news: IIIA (news 2.0) + be the leader, be the moral center, be the integrity. That's why i give this second series 5 stars for such educated movie


Fast paced, entertaining, thought provoking adult entertainment. Best show since "House" Hope they can keep up the witty dialog and excellent writing. Excellent character development of people i care about.

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The Newsroom Season 1 Episode 2 Quotes

Be the moral center of this show, be the integrity!


Will is a man with an extraordinary heart the size of a Range Rover.