Wow. There has been A LOT said and written about this show. I see many critics and fellow bloggers ripping the show a new asshole for the misogynistic theme of the show. And I see many Sorkin devotees screaming at the critics for not bowing to the altar of Sorkin. Wow!! When the word polarizing was created, I think this was the show it was created for.
There has been so much buzz about this show that I can’t believe I didn’t watch it immediately. Actually I haven’t been around the last few Sundays, so it’s been piling up on my DVR. But a few nights this week, my husband and I caught up on The Newsroom. I have to say, I’m going to have a very boring spin on this…I’m in the middle of people’s viewpoints on this show. I can see where people take major issue with the show and I can see where people love it. What I don’t understand is the vitriol or overt praise one way or the other.
Let me start with the positive…I always like to start there. When the show focuses more on the news stories than the personal stories, I like the show better. It’s the strongest, most interesting part of the show. I think if the show can tighten up some of the characters (more on that later) then the personal stories will get better. But I like each of the characters more when they are in “work mode” vs. “personal mode”…especially Mackenzie (played by Emily Mortimer.) I love the fast talking Sorkinese!! I’ve missed it. It was great on Sports Night, it was perfected on The West Wing. I’m always happy to have it back on my TV screen. It makes me feel so smart when I’m watching it and following it…kind of like how I feel when I wear my Harvard sweatshirt…it’s as if my IQ just went up 50 points. The thing I like about Sorkinese is that it’s used in an appropriate setting where that type of fast talk needs to happen…in a sports production room, in the White House, in a news production room. Unlike other shows where people are talking fast just for the sake of it (but I’ll save that for another post later) you can believe these people need to have quick dialogues because they need to make decisions even quicker. The plot of how the news gets reported and comes together for a 1 hour show, is fascinating to me. I know it may seem strange but I love watching the chaos of something behind the scenes come together in what appears to be an effortless 60 minutes of programming, but was anything but effortless to get there. What stories are we reporting? Who are our experts on both sides to debate the issue? What happens if someone cancels? How does the EP assist the anchor in getting to the heart of the story? How much of the broadcast is off the cuff and how much is staged? How does the timing of it all come together? What happens as Breaking News is happening and how is that information disseminated and ultimately broadcast? I love it!
So what don’t I like? First. if you’ve read my blog before, you know I don’t like being preached at. And there have been MANY moments where I feel like the sake of the show has been tossed out the window because Sorkin needs a few minutes on a soap box. I hate that. Whether I agree with the topic or not, I hate it. It’s one thing on a show like this to have people have a slant one way or the other…I’m ok with that. What I’m not ok with is stopping what is happening, slowing the story down, and/or throwing character development off a cliff just so the writer can propogandize (yes I just made up a word…I’m not wearing my Harvard sweatshirt right now) his/her political view-point. When Maggie went on her rant about whether or not it’s proper to call people “illegals,” after she was finished I wanted to tweat Sorkin to say “you happy you got that off your chest? Good. Now can we get back to the show please?”
And since I just set up a perfect Segway to my next beef, I will mention that character development is a BIG problem with me right now. There are some characters that I like, some I really want to like, some I don’t, and some who don’t really have a direction. Sorkin has done a terrible job in this area. And before all the Sorkin fans start yelling at me, since he just fired his entire writing staff and basically said that he writes everything and his team is only responsible for funneling ideas at him and nothing more, all the blame is going at his feet. Especially when it comes to Maggie and Mack. It’s as if Sorkin doesn’t know who he wants them to be. I have more of a problem with Maggie on this than Mack. I can’t tell if Maggie is supposed to be smart but goofy and emotional or really young and inexperienced or an annoying spoiled brat or frail and weak who needs someone to constantly rescue her. Who is she? If he can nail it down better, I think her character would be so much stronger. I see potential in Maggie and Alison Pill is incredibly likable. As soon as Pill showed up on-screen, I instantly liked her. It’s how I felt the first time I saw Meg Ryan in a movie. I’d rather see Maggie as the young up and comer who’s sharp but a little nervous and unsure of herself but incredibly passionate about her work. I don’t like seeing Maggie fly off the handle at Jim, who slept with her roommate, in the middle of the office. Not to mention, he’s her supervisor. And I think I would appreciate the Maggie/Jim tension a bit more if it was more understated than in your face. Because I LOVE the chemistry that the actors have with one another. Plus there seem to be a bunch of inconsistencies. To name one, when we first meet Maggie she was just promoted from intern to McAvoy’s assistant. Then Mack shows up and now she’s an associate producer. Ok. In Episode 5, Maggie and Jim were editing video for a piece on the Wisconsin teacher’s protest and Maggie is running the editing as if she’s been there for years. She and the Senior Producer are in perfect sync. Now. if Maggie had been written as a burgeoning prodigy, this might not have seemed too strange. Since Maggie is written as an intern/assistant/associate producer/emotional wreak, this was a little harder to believe. I don’t know who Maggie is, neither does she, and neither does Sorkin.
As for Mackenzie, she’s another one that I don’t know what to think. I’ve heard people criticize this whole email fiasco and the fact that she’s knocked easels over. Hold on. The email thing I can see a little bit. She seems very inept when it comes to technology which I find hard to believe. But I know I’ve hit the Reply All button when I certainly didn’t want to Reply All with what I said. It was a mistake. I looked at it as she made a mistake and hit the wrong button…what’s the big deal? And as far as her knocking over easels and being clumsy, so what? Does that mean Sorkin is writing her to be an idiot…NO. That came later. But I know very successful smart people who get nervous in new surroundings (which she was in) and sometimes knock stuff over. I think this has been blown WAY out of proportion. And if all the upset people are upset about the lack of “girl power” well then this shouldn’t have been so upsetting. Many high-powered women, excellent in their jobs, can get their stomachs twisted a bit when you step into a male dominated environment and you want to prove yourself. Especially when that environment is run by a blow hard prick like McAvoy. So maybe she was nervous. But when she got into that control room, when she’s in her zone, you can see why she’s considered the best. What upset’s me about how her character has been handled is the fact she is written as someone who let’s her emotions for Will drive what she does…for good and bad. She also, apparently knows nothing about the economy, how it works, and the difference between commercial and industrial banks. And she condescended to Slone twice…once by asking her to go on the air to attract men because of her legs and again by basically asking Slone to explain to her everything she knows about the economy in a few since it can’t be that hard. Slone only has degrees in undergrad, grad, post-grad, and a doctorate in Economics. As Slone is explaining how the economy works to her, all Mack wants to do is cry about Will. WHAT??? Get a hold of yourself woman!!! I’m sorry….what is your problem Aaron Sorkin? Would CJ Craig cry about Danny if Toby Zeigler had to explain to her how the Joint Chiefs of Staff make decisions? Why is he turning her into one of “those” characters. I hate it.
As for the other characters, Jim is probably the most fleshed out character at this point. He’s very good at his job, smart, sharp, and a sweetheart. He’s got a crush on Maggie but won’t make a move as long as she’s with Don. As for Don, I didn’t like him at all at first. But as we peel back more layers of the onion of Don, I’m liking him more and more. I love when that happens and I get surprised! Charlie seems pretty pointless to me. I think he could be a better character but I don’t like the way Sam Waterston is playing him.
Will McAvoy. I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t like him but I haven’t really read or heard anyone that does. It’s one thing to be a tough, hard-nosed, difficult to manage, newsman, but he’s taking it to an extreme. Plus, there is no explanation as to why he’s as nasty as he is. Are we supposed to believe it’s because Mack cheated on him 3 years ago? Because I find that hard to believe. There has to be another reason and I want to know what it is. It’s hard to get into a character (especially one such as his) when there is zero context. I’m not saying everything needs to be revealed now because then there is nothing left to learn about him. But it would be nice if we could learn a little something so we can understand where Will is coming from.
Another element that the show needs to work on….ACN always making the right call. It’s really easy, now that we know how everything played out, to have your fictitious news team make the right decision as to whether or not to broadcast a story. I know what Sorkin is trying to do here and I understand the message but I don’t think it’s right to use these other news stations as the example of “misguided journalism.” I have no problem with the message being that too often people and networks are in such a rush to be the first to break news or report news, that they don’t have all the facts correct (see CNN the day the opinion of the SCOTUS came down on Obama Care.) It should be more important to get the story right vs. first. I agree. However, in this case, the other networks didn’t have the benefit you have, as the writer, to know what played out and therefore, your anchor and news team can make the right call. CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NPR didn’t have that luxury. It doesn’t sit well with me. I actually think it would be more interesting to see the fallout when you don’t make the right decision. If you announced that Gabrielle Giffords had passed away when she hadn’t, what would happen next? What would the fallout be? So I hope moving forward, the self-righteousness of ACN News Night will be more fallible. Not because I want to see news people reporting incorrect news, but they can’t be this perfect.
Even after I said all that, I will still watch The Newsroom every week. I find the topic and premise very interesting. If some the characters can be tightened up and some characters can get some direction, I think this has the potential to be a really good show. But will Sorkin’s ego allow him to make the changes he needs to make to turn this into a great show? Time will tell.