Before I ever saw an episode of The Newsroom, I had a feeling that I’d hate the fourth episode. Several TV critics I follow had seen the episode, “I’ll Try To Fix You”, and they all had similar things to say. That the episode was the worst of the bunch, that it mostly featured a pompous, self-important Will McAvoy going around and informing women why their world views are incorrect, and that it looked back on an important journalistic event and grave error with perfect 20/20 vision, completely simplifying the issue at hand.
All valid arguments.
I did not like last night’s episode of The Newsroom. I’ve had mixed feelings about the show so far and have written about them in each post, and this episode really did nothing to push me over onto the positive side of the fence. I’ll keep watching, because I still enjoy many parts of this show, but man. Last night’s episode bugged me. Here’s what I’d change:
- Will McAvoy can’t always be right. This week, Will lectured women on the horrors of gossip, tabloids, lies, pseudo-celebrity culture and general frivolity. You silly women! How could you possibly be interested in this drivel? Because, of course, a man would never indulge in such mindless crap, right? WRONG. And I refuse to believe that anyone who does write about celebrity gossip would ever try to compare his or her work to political journalism. No one who mocks the Real Housewives thinks they’re doing the same thing as someone who points of the flaws in the Tea Party’s platform. No one. Oh, and you want to own a gun? Let Will McAvoy tell you why you shouldn’t! But maybe a man can own a gun, because men are stronger and smarter and better. WRONG. Will McAvoy is pompous, yes, and flawed in that he acts like a jerk a lot of the time. But he can’t be the only person making sound arguments on this show.
- Mackenzie and Maggie need to be less flaky. This is pretty closely connected to the first point. Mackenzie and Maggie are two female leads, and they come across as complete train wrecks 90% of the time. It’s annoying enough that Maggie has been breaking up and making up with Don for however many months the show has covered thus far. But must she also be incredibly flighty when it comes to her feelings for Jim? It’s pathetic. Maggie could be an interesting character. She’s smart, she’s young, she struggles with a real anxiety disorder. Why make her such a child, one who embarrasses herself in front of colleagues and superiors? Mackenzie is almost as bad, what with the dopey email errors and the constant worry over what Will thinks of her and what people think of Will.
- Smart, professional women don’t have to be robots. The other side of the coin is Olivia Munn’s character. I actually like Olivia Munn a lot, and I like this role. But while her character, Sloan, isn’t a rambling, unprofessional bozo like her female colleagues are, she’s instead socially inept. Every time someone tries to have a personal conversation with her, she Sheldon Coopers it. Can’t one woman on this show be both professionally and personally successful? Or at the very least, appropriate?
- Those who can do, those who can’t teach, and those who’ve never tried just write a TV show about it. Again, I should say, I do like Aaron Sorkin and his writing style. But The Newsroom seems to be exclusively a way for Sorkin to get up on a podium and pontificate about culture and the state of journalism and it’s getting annoying. It’s easy to say, two years later, how you would handle a particular situation. It’s especially easy to do so when you’ve never been in a similar situation and don’t understand the pressures and demands of the industry. I don’t like how much importance the news industry places on getting the story first. I agree that it’s much more important to be right than to be first – can you remember which outlets were first to break important news stories? But we all remember CNN and Fox News reporting the wrong SCOTUS verdict on healthcare a couple weeks ago. I would be completely open to watching a show address that idea. But not if it’s done from the highest horse possible. On January 8, 2011, Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot during a public event at a supermarket near Tucson, Arizona. Shortly after, NPR incorrectly reported that Giffords had died. They had received the information from two different sources, and there seemed to be disagreement over the trustworthiness of those sources. One was within the local sheriff’s department, another was a congressional source. Other news outlets picked up the story, the veracity was questioned quickly, and the story was retracted. As well all know now, Gabrielle Giffords had been taken into surgery and is making a triumphant recovery. Aaron Sorkin now knows that Gabrielle Giffords survived, that the sources NPR relied on were not accurate, and that reporting her death was a grave error. So Will McAvoy, the knight in shining armor of journalism, got to make the right call.
Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if Will and the rest of the team had made the wrong call? The trouble with Sorkin using real news events is that we all know he’s “reporting” on them with a depth of information and context that was not available to real news outlets at the time of the event. And that diminishes any argument he is trying to make. This episode came across as one long lecture, not an intelligent discussion. It was a finger-wagging, the TV equivalent of me studying an answers key for a math test and then lecturing a mathematician on having gotten an answer wrong. The Coldplay song was just rubbing salt in the wound.
Almost at 1,000 words, and I haven’t even touched on the Big Foot gag yet. Poor Dev Patel. Instead I’ll focus on some positive things. The material on Obama’s lack of gun reform (so simmer down, second amendment fans) and the moronic, incorrect lies being spread about the cost of Obama’s trip to India was good. I still like a lot of the banter. Despite being completely, totally exasperated by Maggie, I still want her to be with Jim.
Alright, you’ve all heard enough from me. What did y’all think of this episode?