Disclaimer: I am an unapologetic Aaron Sorkin fan. I love all of his shows (yes, even Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). I’ve tried to remain semi-impartial and haven’t read any of the critiques/reviews of Newsroom. Yet. With that being said, I will try to keep all of the Sorkin connections to myself. Now, on with the show.
The show opens in an auditorium at Northwestern University. There are a panel of cable news anchors being asked questions by journalism students. It seems like the pundits that the show opens with have the same fault that befalls my entire family – over-talking. Everyone has to be right, and everyone needs to be heard. Except Jeff Daniels’ character Will McAvoy, who seems content, well, apathetic enough to let this firestorm rage on around him without taking part.
Until this “sorority girl” comes up to the open mic. At this point I have to wonder who is asking these questions? I mean, I’m a college student and I’d like to think that we come up with slightly more intellectual questions than why is America the greatest country on the planet? Then again, that’s probably giving my generation a little too much credit. His answer is kind of daunting, reminding us viewers (in the Sorkin-iest way possible – shoving it down our throats in a torrent of information) that we’re actually mediocre when it comes to test scores, infant mortality, life expectancy, etc. Maybe, he says, America isn’t the greatest country in the world. Not anymore.
Mr. Charlie Skinner (that guy from Law & Order) is a boss. Literally and figuratively. Though he is drunk all the time, he still manages to be totally in charge. He’s the one that decides that Will needs a new Executive Producer since his old one is leaving to work on the 10 o’clock show (Will anchors the 9 o’clock news for ACN). While Will is incommunicado he goes ahead and hires Mackenzie “Mac” MacHale, who clearly has a history with Will. Will is quite displeased with this move.
Mac has just returned from spending 26 months embedded in the Middle East. She starts the episode finagling her coworkers love lives to make her workspace more palatable to her. This is after she proclaims that she maxed out three credit cards when she finally set foot on American soil again, all on clothing. But don’t worry, in the last 30 minutes of this 72 minute episode we finally get to see how she earned her job: she has no qualms about borrowing Will’s balls once a week so that she can produce a successful show.
Mac’s kind of cool though because despite the fact that she sees Will’s assistant Margaret “Maggie” Jordan totally losing it over her jerk of a boyfriend (who happens to be her coworker), she sees some potential in the girl. Maybe it’s an iffy move, not knowing a single thing about Maggie’s credentials, but she promotes her to Assistant Producer after knowing her for all of two minutes.
Oh, right. I forgot to mention that when Will’s old EP, Don (who is consequently Maggie’s boyfriend) decided to move to the 10 o’clock show, he took the majority of the office with him. But none of the main cast, so don’t worry. But don’t worry, Mac’s got a plan. She brought reinforcements in the cute form of Jim Harper. I’m pretty sure I’m into Jim. He seems great, and super-loyal to Mackenzie, which is admirable. And a guy who survived Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is hot.
Will seems to be super into power plays. Which, I get it, he’s a douchebag. But he gave up $1 million per year just so that he could alter Mac’s contract. She was originally supposed to have a 3-year contract. Will kvetched until it was changed to an 156 week contract in which he has the opportunity at the end of each week to decide whether or not he’s firing her or keeping her on staff. Let that sink in, he gave up $3 million so that he could lord her job over her from week to week. Dick move, bro.
Don (remember he’s Maggie’s boyfriend and the old EP) doesn’t seem great. He’s kind of a dick to Maggie; he demeans her and doesn’t seem to respect her loyalty to Will. You now who else Don has no respect for? Jim. Which is already a turn off because a) Jim is auditioning for a place on my list of fictional boyfriends and, b) the BP Deepwater Horizon has just blown a gasket and there is currently a major oil spill taking place in the Gulf of Mexico (Side note: this is probably a good time to say that this episode is taking place on April 20, 2010).
Jim finds a partner in crime with Dev Patel (whom I want to call Anwar because I’m obsessed with Skins) who plays Neal Sampat, not Punjab, as Will thought. Only Jim and Neal seem to understand the gravity of the situation. They seem like a great buddy-system. I hope they pair up a lot on this show. Anyway, Don’s being a douche and doesn’t think the oil spill is a newsworthy story because Jim won’t divulge his sources (one is an old roommate, the other his big sister). Don seems to be married to the news chart that rates stories on a yellow-orange-red scale. The story is yellow.
But don’t worry, this is an idealized TV show about what news agencies should be like, so Jim and Neal’s persistance is paid off. They research the hell out of the story and the broadcast goes flawlessly. Even Maggie gets a chance to shine! It’s sunshine and smiles all around.
As everyone leaves the office, I want to give Will a flick for taking that long to learn that Maggie’s name is not, in fact, Ellen. But it was nice of him to congratulate his control room, even if he opened the wrong door. And I want to kick Don in the nads for being such a shitty boyfriend to Maggie. He clearly likes the power position in the relationship and likes that she has such a small role in the news program. The backstory between Mac and Will seems to be exactly what we’ve expected, they had dated, way back when and everything fell apart.
There are a lot of tidbits about this show that will get critiqued. It’s not an Aaron Sorkin show unless critics tear it to shreds. But, despite that, there were a lot of things that I liked. For the most part I liked the characters. The plot was interesting. It was the fast-paced show that I had expected, with slightly less walking and talking. I sorely missed having either Tommy Schlamme directing or WG Snuffy Walden doing the music, but beggars can’t be choosers.
So, kids, what did you think? Love it? Hate it? Decide it’s just not your cup of tea? Hit the comments and let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts. And was it just me or were the first 3 minutes eerily similar to the Studio 60 intro with the EP of the show ranting and raving about the quality of television?