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The Newsroom Review: Will of the People?

by at . Comments

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.

Review

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+.

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I have to admit upfront, that I only watched the first 5 minutes of the second show (I watched the pilot 2x). It takes too much energy to follow the dialogue acrobatics. It's fast pace, is not witty and smart, it's just annoying. Does Sorkin get paid by the word? Are the actors rewarded for reciting his dialogue without taking a breath? Thanks, but no thanks.

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What a total mess last night was. Premiere was typically frenetic, insecure and choppy but its energy gave its negatives a pass from me and encouraged a second peek. There won't be a third. Characters are overplayed, cliched and loathesome. Few shows have 'jumped the shark' faster.

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I agree that the women were mostly weak and unlikeable this episode - undoing all the great character building last week - and Sorkin apparently can't write an intelligent conservative argument even when his smart and capable leading man is (apparently) being conservative. I don't know how Newsroom or the fictional News Night will ever show two sides of the story if Sorkin can't or won't take the conservative viewpoint seriously.

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I heard an interview with Aaron Sorkin about his motives and ideas behind this series. The point is exactly to make a newsroom "done right" but more importantly he was focused on dialogue. The banter back and forth between people, the sing song kind of methodic tone of dialogue - think 1930's Cary Grant His Girl Friday. I think Sorkin has succeeded. I had to stop reading this review because it is obvious to me that the critic has no clue what the show is about. "She can't write an email..." seriously how do you get through any movie or tv show if you are picking apart each character piece by piece. The characters are supposed to represent real life people, I don't know about you but the human beings I am surrounded by are flawed, imperfect and completely unpredictable. If you analyze every show as superficially as the above review insinuates then you are simply not grasping the full concept.

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They need to watch Mad Men and learn that less is more with acting. I never liked West Wing, and this show is even worse with the over acting and self important dramatics.

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I liked the West Wing, but this show is complete crap. The dialogue (for just about everybody) sounds like the hysterical ranting of a college student who has zero self-awareness, and the plot devices (Email to all staff by mistake!) and hiding under a (ex-date) state governor's spokesman's bed in college are risible. In fact, it makes the new series of Dallas seem totally grounded in the real world in comparison to this intelligence-insulting piece of pseudo-intellectual nonsense. I'm surprised that any of the actors could keep a straight face while they thrashed about in their carefully-manufactured faux-existential angst and tried to emote meaningfully to each other as quickly and loudly as possible while everybody else looked on in an apalled/shocked manner. No privacy in the newsroom! All personal stuff is out there for everybody, all the time! btw, at least Dallas is honest silly escapism which doesn't make the mistake of taking itself seriously. Rating 0.1/5.0, but the 0.1 is only for the horror and the disbelief that such shoddy, cringeworthy pap provoked in me.

Snakethecritic

con't -- @ Feedback - Completely agree.
The Good Wife is known to mirror big Stories.
I also believe that by giving us history, they've removed potential entertainment. Leaving it mostly on the characters to carry the show. ** again

Snakethecritic

@ Matt R. Great Review . (-_') Last week I too was guilty of a cop out. When I complained about what I didn't see as supposed to what I did. As I couldn't bring myself to dissect the pilot. I figured it was my own fault for knowing A. Sorkin's dialogue so well. This week I'll just agree with the review. Especially on the woman or M&M as they can only be describe as a travesty. Will McAvoy needs to stop shouting it's annoying. I'm not buying him as a leader , thus far. Considering he is the voice we should be listening to, STOP SHOUTING. Hell it's even annoying in caps. Politics - I'm pretty jaded in this subject. As I'm under the belief that--
Democrats Sale the dream that was once free.
Republicans Sale the pharmaceuticals so you don't see the nightmare.
Me To broke to sleep. So the S Palin shots were just bad. What's next Tiger jokes. SNL is terrible and this show should be better. @ Feedback - Completely agree ...
The Good Wife is known to mirror big news stories. I also believe that by giving us history lessons, they removed potential entertainment. Thus leaving it to the characters to carry the show. ** episode

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Now, Matt Richenthal, if only you wrote all the reviews on this website!

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I understand what Sorkin is tryng to do with this show, I just think he's failing at it. He wants to show a Newsroom done right, but by relying on old news stories, he's making it hard for us not to roll our eyes because we all know that hindsight is making it too easy to break these news stories correctly. I think he should have used fake news stories. Some of them could have mirrored the popular ones of last year, but they shouldn't be the exact ones. I think I would have enjoyed the show much more.

The Newsroom Season 1 Episode 2 Quotes

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

Mac

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

Mac